The Laying Down of Blankets: Where Santa Barbara Civility Goes to Die

Some of the more civilized blanket layers with plenty of space

By Lauren Bray, edhat staff

Concerts in the Park is a summer staple in Santa Barbara, but reserving blanket space feels like running with the bulls.

Tonight is the final concert at Chase Palm Park as part of the annual summer series hosted by the Parks & Recreation Department. It’s a free event where locals and visitors are welcome to bring a picnic, enjoy music, and dance to their heart’s content. 

Due to its massive popularity, Parks & Rec decided a while back to prevent people from claiming blanket space until noon on the event day. I’m assuming this was due to the aggressive space claiming that we’re all used to during State Street parades.

I’ve attended these concerts numerous times, but normally I’m happy with showing up when the event starts and enjoying from afar. Today, I organized a group to meet and figured I should try to reserve some space for all of us to be comfortable.

Half of the crowd standing shoulder to shoulder to claim space

I arrived at Chase Palm Park around 11:40 a.m. and there were already more than 50 people standing at the perimeter of the grass. They were clutching their beach chairs and blankets standing shoulder to shoulder like gladiators entering the Colosseum. Two Parks & Rec officials were holding the crowd at bay as I heard middle-aged adults laugh and joke about tripping and shoving others when the whistle blows.

Scanning the park, I had no idea which spaces were most desirable and which were not. It’s a large open grassy field and plenty of space for everyone. I stood behind a few people and scrolled through my phone for 15 minutes until a middle-aged white man shoved through me to get to the front of the line. No apology. 

With 5 minutes until noon, a section of people starting to run, immediately being called back by officials. These false starts happened about 3 times before the officials gave up and everyone started sprinting across the grass. Blankets went flying and chairs were being thrown ahead to apparently guard a piece of grass. I saw an elderly man nearly trip a young woman, a middle-aged woman swan dove onto a blanket, and a child froze in place looking terrified.

I stood in the back then walked very slowly when a middle-aged man shoved through me and a woman man boxed me out with her elbows. Again, no apologies. Through it all, I was still able to politely lay my blanket down towards the front of the stage.

I looked around and wondered what was so important that people would throw their civility out the window to have their blanket on a piece of grass? Specifically, a piece of grass that they would be sitting on all evening next to someone they just argued and fought with hours earlier.

For some reason, the center aisle appeared to be highly coveted as I heard a middle-aged man wearing cycling gear yell, “Who’s in charge here?! This woman is stealing my blanket space!” Yep. Just as toddlers fight over a precious toy, these two adults were fighting over where their blanket line was. The man was yelling for an official while the woman laid her entire body across the blanket to protect him from moving it.

I captured the very end of the argument on video because that’s the world we live in now, and it was that ridiculous. Eventually, the woman agreed to get off the blanket and space was made.

While I was pleased with the space I claimed, I’m left wondering, why is any of this necessary? And when did Santa Barbarans become so entitled that arguing over blankets being too close is acceptable behavior? For an event that promotes community friendliness, it was disheartening to watch. 

For those who enjoy a more civilized environment, come with your blanket before 6:00 p.m. and find any space to sit and enjoy the music. Tonight’s entertainment is “The Blue Breeze Band” featuring the best of Motown and R&B.

Lauren is a member of the edhat staff who enjoys Motown classics and prefers love, not blanket war. 


Written by lauren

Lauren is the Publisher of She enjoys short walks on the beach, interesting facts about bees, and any kind of homemade cookie.

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  1. There is a reason I no longer attend the Easter egg hunt at Girsch Park. Adults pulling their toddlers along by the arm shoving in front of each other trying to put a few plastic trinkets in their kids Easter egg baskets to show their kids the Easter spirit. Truly unbelievable. Entitlement and Idiocracy rears its ugly head.

  2. This is what happens when there are too many people for a precious resource, and they all think that they deserve the best spot, the best wave, the best view, the best table. Inevitably conflicts arise and then the most aggressive and nastiest people start to win. Wait until there is an actual brawl and then Parks n Rec cancels the who concert series. But that is our society. Competition and winning is what it is all about. Just be thankful that the majority of people remember the golden rule from kindergarten and do try to get along.

  3. I’m not surprised. What does surprise me is no one called 911 to have an undesirable removed by the police from a particularly prime spot. An interesting note in your essay, Lauren, is how you noted it was mostly seniors or middle aged individuals who were the most brusque. #MAGA, baby.

  4. Thanks for sharing this post. Unfortunately, in reality this is how people are in this community. It took me years to realize, no matter how inclusive and spiritual and progressive people want to seem here, there’s a true reality to it that people are just out for themselves and the whole Santa Barbara yoga healer etc vibe is just a fashion front façade. It took a long time to understand that it was all false. This is truly unfortunate, because for people that are truly laid-back and easy going, we’re not gonna deal with this kind of stuff. Nobody should be allowed to put anything out before any type of event whatsoever, people should show up when they are ready to stay. The Fourth of July is a another completely ridiculous event down on the beach, where the hogs get down there as soon as they can and cordon off the biggest space they can, for them. Thank you for highlighting this and video, you got some great shots. This truly shows how many people in this town, no matter how they want to be perceived, truly have no consideration and respect for others when it comes to getting the best spot for themselves.

  5. Evidence of what the sharing society and elimination of private property rights will actually look like. People remain tribal and territorial, regardless of decades of social engineering indoctrination to the contrary.

  6. Put on my Birkenstocks, got in my Subaru (you know the one, with all the Namaste, Coexist, Bark less Wag more stickers on the back window) , parked on the wrong side of De La Vina so I could run in to TJ’s real quick, then sped down to the park (ya, I didn’t use my blinkers and almost ran over a couple in a crosswalk but you know; Namaste my friend), finally made it down to East Beach, screeched into the parking lot, ran across Cabrillo and elbowed my way to a killer spot. It’s good to be me, now, here in Santa Barbara
    Bless this Paradise

  7. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . . So now you can go up on La Cumbre Peak and look to the ocean, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

  8. My thoughts exactly. The overwhelming majority in the “laid back”, “yogi”, and “progressive”, crowd here are just into that vibe because they think it is cool. They have no idea what it is to truly be any of those things. We see it all the time – people here continually act with absolutely zero consideration and respect for one another. At least the people on the other side of the spectrum are honest with themselves and others about how they act!!

  9. They should stop allowing people to set up and claim space more than a couple of hours prior to the concert. That goes for all of the parades and other events around town. Any large group can always find one person who has nothing to do on a given day and that one person can unjustly claim space large enough to accommodate 30+ people while locking out the average person that goes there with one person to quietly enjoy an event.

  10. What a bunch of miserable people. It’s been like this my whole life here. As kids we used to laugh at buffoons like Mr. Cycle-pants, in their faces too. Boy would they get mad! People like this make Santa Barbara unfriendly and ridiculous.

  11. I fly often and this is exactly the same vibe when queuing for a flight en route to SBA. It doesn’t matter if it’s Alaska from PDX, United from SFO, or American from PHX. The SBA crowd is unique and I can spot our “special neighbors” halfway down the terminal. Yuck.

  12. great writeup, sad situation though. this is the main reason I dont attend any events in SB anymore, no solstice, no chalk painting at the mission, not even fireworks.
    cause no one cares that there are other people in the world around them, that might like to enjoy the same event.

  13. Lauren-
    This truly was hilarious, and a great post. One of the best of all times. It would be great to start to go to all of these events and do some sort of reporting like this you would enlighten the community greatly. It can be called blanket shaming. I hope these people are basking in the glory right now, drinking their chilled wine and just having the best time ever.

  14. curious: the race of the man who shoved you. why mention it? everyone already knows that people of all races has their fair share of jerks.
    I miss the days of describing people as “that skinny guy with the snaggletooth and messy hair” or “that fat guy with the mole” or “that woman over there that’s taller than her bf/husband”.

  15. I have to agree with Lauren. If you look at the SIZE of the blanket that woman brought it was ridiculous. It left no room for the cyclist’s blanket. Unless she had 8 people coming with her that was too much! It’s the same thing at movie night at the court house. So discouraging. Worse when you show up and someone has actually moved your blanket and put their own in place. Has happened to me several times.

  16. Actually it was pretty mellow at the park today at noon, and lots of space. Don’t know why anyone was hassled. The crowd and band tonight was great, folks of all ages dancing and enjoying “Blue Breeze” R and B band with a nice ocean breeze and the full moon rising over the ocean. Thank you Parks and Rec Dept.

  17. Am I the only one who finds it ironic that in an article about Santa Barbarians not getting along and/or treating their neighbor as a person worthy of respect and understanding their pov, that literally 26 of the 32 comments have been relegated to deletion due to the night crowd (possibly people with no obligations come the morning) comes out and downvotes everything to oblivion? Come on, people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another, right now.

  18. The City should change the rules for next year – no one is allowed to reserve a spot until 1 hour before the start of the concert. And to reserve a spot, each person first has to drink at least 2 margaritas. Then blow the whistle and let the games begin – for us that care less about getting the best seats, it would be fun to watch the blanket warriors go at it.

  19. Too many people, and yet we all coo over newborn babies, don’t we? For us here in the USA it is a big wake up call to become “a number.” In Asia and Africa and many parts of Europe and South America people grew up with overpopulation. They don’t have the “don’t stand so close to me” anxiety that we all have. This ridiculous battle of the blankets and the even more ludicrous staking out a claim at parades, 4th of July, Fiesta Shows and Courthouse events is all a result of too many people. Our poor, poor planet.

  20. The number of deleted comments is a testament in and of itself, to the complete lack of civility among so many in this town. They should be forced to live in NYC for awhile – where people aren’t afraid to get in your face and tell you off for rude and bad behavior. That might humble them, shake them up and get them in line.

  21. As a former yoga teacher (had to stop due to back issues) and having spent time in India among real yogis, I knew right away that the “yogis” and “healers” here for the most part are fake. They do it for selfish reasons – to show off and seem cool and make themselves feel better about themselves.

  22. Great article, Lauren! What’s equally offensive, I think, are the folks who put their blankets and chairs down for parade sites on State Street way ahead of time. I can’t recall the city rules on this, but from my past recollection, they aren’t enforced.
    This type of behavior ruins what should be a fun community event. Thanks for your insights and candor. Blanket Bullies beware- videos of offensive behavior posted on Edhat and elsewhere may be a way to encourage public shaming!

  23. As noted before by myself and others, this event is for tourism and business at the tourist traps. Get people where the stores are–like Universal Walk. It is not really for ‘locals.’ The casual Sunday afternoon in the park downtown were very much for the locals. We really enjoyed them and felt it was a community event, not a calculated dip into the pocketbook. Oh well, no surprise when people behave badly at night rather than at a Sunday afternoon event.

  24. These have turned in events for Santa Barbara’s elite. Drive your hundred thousand dollar luxury car to the beach in the middle of the day, when normal families are working, to get a prime spot. By the time the event starts there is no place to sit and no parking. Security is good when there is a concert in the park – the rest of the week when families want to enjoy the area it seems unsafe due to the army of homeless. Not a locals event anymore.

  25. This used to be a fun place to sit on a blanket, listen to music, eat, and chat with friends. Let the kids run. Then you had to worry about the pot smokers and the homeless off on the side. Then the kids got to be the age that they’d run off, so you’d spend the entire time at the playground, watching them like a hawk. Then they get old enough not to wander off but they’d get run over by the teenagers at the playground. Then they become teenagers “too cool” for concerts anyway.
    It’s nice that SB has a bunch of free entertainment for the locals, but I guess when you have so many locals, it gets crowded. I haven’t managed any kind of parade in quite some years for the same reason. If you just show up, you have people pushing and shoving to see…that’s no place I want my 5 year old.

  26. Geewiz Lauren, did you not notice the crazy lady was maybe there before bicycle guy and trying to keep loud man from moving her blanket while claiming he had 15 people coming and needed that space? Oh, and notice bicycle mad toss evil woman’s blanket out of his way when her back is turned. Guess what! Bicycle mans guest knew evil woman’s friends on her blanket at the show. So maybe the system needs some adjustments. Lottery system? Anyway, The music was GREAT!

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