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Santa Barbara police will upstaff for Old Spanish Days but downplay physical gathering

Special lights for Fiesta
John Palminteri
Special lights have been brought in to illuminate darkened areas during Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara. (Photo: John Palminteri)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Even with all major events cancelled and strict mask enforcement underway, those out to party in large crowds will be watched closely during the 2020 Old Spanish Days.

Santa Barbara Police Department Public Engagement Manager Anthony Wagner says officers will be out in areas where traditionally they have had large calls for service, including the core downtown area.

Some parking lots have portable spotlights ready to go on after dark to illuminate darkened areas.

This year there will be no downtown or upper State Street Mercados, stages, live music venues, parade locations or approved vendors.

The city is aware there may be cascarones for sale along with street sellers with souvenirs.

Old Spanish Days has always had a component of lively celebrations that bring out big crowds day and night. In this year with COVID-19 rules, the organized events are not being held. It is still to be seen if bar, restaurant and other gatherings will still occur on a bigger scale.

"From a police department perspective, it is not wise to associate yourself with people outside of your cohort in groups of ten or greater so there is a risk to the public,"  said Santa Barbara Police Department Public Engagement Manager Anthony Wagner.

Santa Barbara Police say they will be adding staff through the weekend to respond to the possibility of additional calls.

"It is the duty of the Santa Barbara police department  to educate the public whenever possible with regard to both their public safety and their health safety," said Wagner.

Around town there have been some decorations on homes and businesses to bring the festive look to Santa Barbara.

The message has been to celebrate closer to home with people you have been sharing time with during the coronavirus crisis and not mix with large groups of others where you could get the active virus. Parking lot security is going to be enhanced during Old Spanish Days.  Large portable lights will be cranked up to add more illumination to darkened areas.

"Old Spanish Days has done a phenomenal job of putting all of that on line to ensure the public can remain safe," said Wagner who advises against being  exposed to others during the crisis.

Police will also be working in public areas with the health department to make sure the required masks are worn.

Last weekend, officers say their requests for mask and bike safety were, for the most part, followed with only a few incidents of people who did not want to cooperate.

Wagner said, "the Santa Barbara Police department has had a warm reception from the Santa Barbara community to the police trying to police with the community."

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.