SANTA BARBARA — Buckaroos and back-yard gardeners will mingle here next month at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. For three decades it has been the site of a spectacular horse and flower show.
The theme of the July 15-24 event is "Puttin' on the Ritz," a salute to the show's high-society era. It began in 1919 as a fancy equine-only affair, where socialites in formal dress competed with the horses for attention.
Fifty years ago floral displays were added when the California 19th District Agricultural Assn. took over; agricultural exhibits were required at state-sponsored horse shows.
Even if you can't attend, this city attracts floral fans with its botanical gardens and orchid farms. And sports aficionados can always enjoy the matches at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club.
More than 900 equestrians and mounts from the United States, Canada and Mexico will perform in the show, which ends July 24 with a $25,000 International Grand Prix. That prize goes to the horse and rider who record the fastest time through an obstacle course of fences, walls and water traps.
Other events include the July 21 Puissance, in which horses jump walls seven feet and higher and fences six feet and wider. Audiences also can attend the July 17 Amateur Jumper Grand Prix, with hunters and jumpers competing over a course of obstacles.
A July 16 Western-style barbecue will feature food as well as horses that walk, jog trot and lope.
Thousands of flowers will be displayed in the show grounds' Exhibition Building, where 45-minute lectures will be presented each afternoon.
Roses, orchids, African violets, ferns, bromeliads, fruits and native perennials will be among the topics. Experts also will discuss flower arranging, grafting, pest control, home garden landscape design and wreath making with succulents.
The 69th annual Santa Barbara National Horse and Flower Show will open July 15. Flowers can be viewed from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the horse show at 8 p.m. On weekends the flower and garden displays are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (final Sunday to 3 p.m.), and weekdays from 2 to 10 p.m.
Horse shows are nightly at 7:30 July 16-23, with matinees on weekends at 1:30 p.m.
General admission is $3.50. Children 14 and younger, students and senior citizens pay $2.50. On the final Sunday, everyone pays $4.50 for the grand prix.
With an adult, children 14 and younger are admitted free to the flower show and both Saturday afternoon horse shows. The Western-Day Barbecue costs $10 per person. Parking at the show grounds is $1.
Groups of 15 or more can arrange a patio party for $19 per person. It includes a buffet meal with live entertainment in a garden patio area, reserved promenade seating for the horse show, admission to the flower show and parking. For more information, call (805) 687-0766.
To reach the Earl Warren Showgrounds from Los Angeles, drive U.S. 101 and take the freeway north past downtown Santa Barbara to the Las Positas exit.
For polo matches every Sunday through October, take the exit for Santa Claus Lane beyond Carpinteria, then go left on Via Real to Nidever Road and the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club.
Santa Barbara's club, founded in 1921 by yeast magnate Max Fleishmann, is the third-oldest polo club in the United States.
Trophy matches are played Sundays at 1 and 3 p.m.; admission $5, children younger than 13, free. Practice games are Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Admission free. For more information, call (805) 684-8667 or (805) 684-6683.
Flower lovers should turn off Via Real onto Nidever Road and continue north on Foothill Road. At No. 3376 you'll find Stewart Orchids (formerly Armacost & Royston), an orchid nursery that is open daily to the public.
It's among 10 companies cultivating orchids in the Santa Barbara area, which is the nation's major orchid-growing region. You can visit the greenhouses and buy from the more than 1,000 varieties. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., from noon on weekends.
For more flowers and plants, continue on Foothill Road, or California 192, which changes names a number of times as its skirts the scenic foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Wiggle west along this state route to Mission Canyon Road and turn right to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.
Easy-to-walk nature travels lead you through various botanical areas in this 76-acre preserve that is devoted to California plant life. Pick up a free trail map at the garden shop. The garden is open daily 8 a.m. to sunset. Admission free.
Return south on Mission Canyon Road and Los Olivos Street, then turn left on State Street through downtown to rejoin U.S. 101 back to Los Angeles.
For dining and lodging information, contact the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau at (805) 966-9222.
Round trip from Los Angeles is 220 miles.