There was no shortage of amusement rides, games, cotton candy and smiling faces in downtown Solvang Sunday, as the carnival-themed Solvang Fall Festival concluded its inaugural 3-day music and big top jubilee.

Thousands of attendees flocked to downtown for the festival weekend – with some visiting from as far away as Monterey, according to Andres Nuño, owner of event producers En Fuego Events.

"We had 15,000 people, over the course of three days, attend. That's based on the number of ride tickets sold, food truck sales, and amount of beer sold," Nuño reported.

Both locals and out-of-towners attracted in part by the widely-shared social media photos of a Ferris wheel being set up on Copenhagen Drive days before the Friday kick-off, arrived throughout the warm fall weekend to enjoy the festivities.

On Saturday evening local band Mad Caddies, known for serving up a fusion of musical harmonics, drew a large crowd of spectators to the group's free community concert put on in Solvang Park.

"It was just crazy! It was amazing," Nuño said of the Mad Caddies' performance. "[The band] told me, 'we don't get to play at home a lot, and having this was so much fun.'"

Both daytime and evening eventgoers of all ages danced in the park and enjoyed over 20 retail vendors and onsite food trucks, while wide-eyed children participated in their first Santa Ynez Valley-based carnival, complete with traditional prize-winning carnival games and whirling, upside-down, free-flipping action rides.

Copenhagen Stage came alive all day Saturday and Sunday, featuring over 25 bands from around Santa Barbara County. Two stages lit up for a healthy dose of musical competition, with the festival's inaugural "Battle of the Bands," which spotlighted six local teenage bands all under the age of 19.

First place winner "Jump Start," a band from Santa Barbara consisting of 16-year-olds, walked away with the Fall Fest winner's title and a check for $500.

"They were really excited," Nuño said, noting that local band "Sweater Vest" came in a close second place.

"Let Flo Glo," a Santa Barbara group consisting of two sisters and a brother, won third place bragging rights.

"We decided the three finalists will be the opening acts for next year's Fall Fest," explained Nuño, adding that a pitch for a 2020 event still needs to be approved by the city council.

Toward the end of the event, nonprofit partners "SAM," Solvang Arts and Music Foundation, an organization that brings music and arts education programs to Solvang Elementary's K-8 students, was presented with a check for $2,000.

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Gavin, 6, of Burbank, left, Kennedy, 6, of the San Fernando Valley, and Zoe, 10, of Burbank display a variety of facial expressions while they ride the Tilt O Whirl at the Solvang Fall Festival Saturday.

Nuño said the event was born out of an idea pitched by Steve Renfrow, co-owner of Solvang Brewing Company.

"I'm glad Steve reached out to us," Nuño said. "It was his idea to reach out to local vendors and give them free spaces, and to choose the nonprofit organization, SAM."

It was only 2½ months ago that the Solvang City Council agreed to put $50,000 in seed money toward the inaugural event, with half of that to be repaid after the event, Nuño said.

Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News. 

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