Photographs and story by Nell Campbell
Cascarónes—eggshells filled with confetti and painted in a decorative fashion—are nearly as ubiquitous during Fiesta in Santa Barbara as Mardi Gras beads are during carnival season in New Orleans. Confetti from cascarónes (Spanish for “eggshells”) colors the streets of Santa Barbara in August just as beads thrown from Mardi Gras floats sparkle when caught in the live oak trees lining St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans.
Cascarónes are made to be broken—especially on an unsuspecting friend’s head—in a celebratory ritual that usually results in laughter and hair sprinkled with confetti.
The manufacture of cascarónes is a cottage industry culminating in the sale of thousands and thousands of confetti eggs on the streets of Santa Barbara. Volunteers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church make 10,000 cascarónes to sell at their Fiesta celebration. Cascaróne vendors include individuals; grandmothers selling eggs from baskets; families, small and large, who set up large displays year after year at the same sidewalk locations; and small groups of youngsters who roam the parade routes carrying trays of cascarónes for sale.
Cascaróne vendors spend most of the year preparing for the five days of Fiesta. Some families even have arrangements with restaurants to obtain their eggshells. The shells have to be washed, dried, stored, filled with confetti and decorated. The decorative styles for cascarónes range from simple, single-colored, Easter egg style to complicated designs with accessories such as sombreros or duck’s feet. Motifs range from traditional floral designs to topical subjects like Michael Jackson, who was a popular Cascaróne meme after his death in 2009, a memorial of sorts. Cartoon characters such as Angry Birds have been popular in the last few years. Pictured below are Minerva Roldan and Stephanie Dominguez Roldan holding a carton of cascarónes depicting an evil minion from the movie Despicable Me 2.
For a cottage industry that is labor intensive and time consuming, cascaróne prices are modest. Most cascarónes are priced at 25 cents, so vendors depend on volume sales to make a profit, which is all the more reason to support this local tradition. Viva Los Cascarones!!
Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.