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Loss of Fiesta Mercados is loss of funding for nonprofits

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Losing the traditions of Fiesta this year is a major hit for Santa Barbara and that includes the popular food booths at the mercados.

Those tacos, tortas and tamales don't just satisfy your cravings, they also fuel dozens of local non-profits, year-round and, provide critical funds for local churches, including Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Some liken a visit to the Nopal Street Catholic church as a culinary pilgrimage -- a religious experience, of sorts, during Fiesta.

Not this year.

"It's painful to see," said Father Pedro Lopez, Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Lopez stared out at the church's empty lot. "It's painful because it's not only the loss of income but it's a wonderful opportunity for people to come together and enjoy one another's company."

The Fiesta mercado is the church's biggest fundraiser of the year, bringing in thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of dollars, a third of its annual income. 

"It's going to be really hard to make ends meet and keep the parish open," Lopez said. Blocks away, Michael Baker, CEO of the United Boys & Girls Clubs said the loss of the mercados means a loss of funding for the downtown club. 

"If I can get a message out there, it's really going to impact a lot of organizations. There's a lot of other non profits that rely on the mercado," Baker said. The mercados raise scholarship funds for families that can't afford the program fees.

"For our families, that's a big deal. That means that's a lot of kids that we're able to scholarship that normally would not be able to afford the fees."

Special Olympics, Jaycees, church groups and student clubs are among the dozens of nonprofits that rely on the mercados each year.

The Dons Riders Club at Santa Barbara High School (SBHS) is another impacted club."We usually bring in about $14,000 dollars," said Pedro Menchaca, Intervention Specialist at SBHS. "Most important about this event is them learning customer service, how to prepare our booth, prepare the food."

Dons Riders hoped to raise enough money this year to buy a plasma cutter for their custom bike club.

Meantime, a growing chorus is echoing throughout the community. 

"2021 is going to be a great year!" Baker exclaimed. 

"I think next year, it's going to be better!" Menchaca said with a smile.

"We'll do the best we can to make it the best Fiesta ever!" Lopez said with a laugh.

Coronavirus / Economy / Events / Holidays / Latino / Latino Local / Lifestyle / Santa Barbara- S County

Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3.