SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Organizers for Old Spanish Days have announced major changes to this year's Fiesta.
This Wednesday's La Fiesta Pequeña will now be closed to the general public. The show will also no longer be broadcast live on NewsChannel 3.
The decision comes amid rising coronavirus cases in Santa Barbara County linked to the highly-transmissible Delta variant.
Fiesta Pequeña, thought of as the crown jewel of Fiesta and the unofficial kickoff to the season, was set to take place at the Santa Barbara Mission Wednesday night.
The decision to modify Pequeña comes only hours after Fiesta organizers announced they would be taking extra precautions during Old Spanish Days.
Tuesday morning, Fiesta organizers held a news conference to discuss safety guidelines ahead of Pequeña. Stephanie Petlow, 2021 la presidenta, told those who felt uncomfortable watching the show in person, opt for staying home and watching the event on television. That live show has now been scrapped.
The decision to cancel the live broadcast was made by NewsChannel 3-12 management.
In a note sent out to newsroom staff Tuesday afternoon, general manager Mark Danielson said the decision to cancel the live broadcast was made in order to keep employees safe. NewsChannel 3-12 had planned a full staff for the live broadcast.
"The decision was not easy, but as I have continued to remind you – my top priority is to keep each of you safe," Danielson said in the newsroom note. "I hope you understand the decision and why having a large outdoor public event in light of growing cases of COVID-19 in our area, I am unable to support the live event this year."
NewsChannel 3-12 plans to broadcast a replay of La Fiesta Pequeña at a later date.
Organizers for Fiesta said the grass on Mission Property will be closed to the public and only Pequeña cast and crew will be permitted at the Mission.
In addition to changes to La Fiesta Pequeña, organizers announced Tuesday evening that Las Noches de Ronda would be canceled entirely for Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. The free event is held at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens and features dancers and musicians.
The Fiesta rodeo at the Earl Warren Showgrounds is still tentatively planned to take place. Celebración de los Dignatarios (a.k.a. DIGS) which is held at the Santa Barbara Zoo is scheduled to continue on as planned. That event is a fundraiser for Old Spanish Days.
Organizers canceled the Mercado at De La Guerra Plaza last week, due to growing concern about the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has made no comment regarding the changes to Fiesta Pequeña. County public health officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said the health department is strongly advising all those attending fiesta activities to wear masks in indoors and outdoor settings. Those with underlying health conditions should avoid all public festivities, Ansorg said.
Following these changes to Fiesta, Santa Barbara County announced a new indoor mask mandate will go into effect Friday.
It's unclear if more events will face cancellations. The famous Mercado at Our Lady of Guadalupe appears to still be ramping up to open as scheduled. We have reached out to the organizers of this event to hear their plans, but we are waiting to hear back.