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COVID stops Old Spanish Days from holding the downtown Fiesta mercado

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Plans for the De la Guerra Plaza Mercado during the upcoming Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara have been called off. Many other events during Fiesta will still be taking place.

The Old Spanish Days board says it has had growing concern about the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant and health risks to those attending, working in the booths and performing.

The mercado was to have many non-profits selling food and gifts along with a stage for entertainment.

The night time lineup usually draws hundreds of tightly packed people, and that's where one of the most serious concerns came up. There was a fear of the virus spreading due to this type of event.

"We just can not do this because of the health and safety of our community, our families, our friends, our visitors, grandparents, children, we just didn't want to put the city at risk for such a large event," said La Presidente Stephanie Petlow. "I  just think there are so many people coming in there for a longer period of time and very close contact. "

One non-profit ready to keep their fundraising going is La Casa de la Raza with their World Famous Tortas. They will be selling from their headquarters on Calle Cesar Chavez Street.

Eddie Gonzalez with La Casa said, "the pandemic has hurt everybody in many different ways including  for us as well financially so we need to raise some money."

He will enjoy seeing the public come back to support their effort. "It's good to see them coming through the door  and to also see that we are still open  and helping the community." You can pre-order the tortas by calling La Casa de La Raza at 805 965 8581.

Other vendors are also trying to reinvent their fundraising. Petlow said, "during Fiesta week, the four days,  a lot of them make their operating budget for the entire year in those four days."


"For some of the craft and gift vendors that would have been in De la Guerra plaza they have been told they can come down to Cabrillo Boulevard and join the weekend Arts and Crafts festival.   

Petlow says the dancers will also relocate. "The  La Cumbre plaza and Paseo Nuevo mall have set up stages and they have done that every year and they are going to be going on  from Tuesday to Saturday   12 -7  pm.  

More details on alternative plans, that are still being formulated, will be released in the next few days.

Old Spanish Days said in a statement:

As much as we would love to bring the entire Mercado experience to the Santa Barbara community, Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, Inc. recognizes our higher duty to preserve the health and welfare of our community, especially our elders and those that are infirmed. This decision was not an easy one as we deliberated extensively with counsel from the Public Health Agency and experts from within our health care community. A decision has been made to cancel Mercado De La Guerra due to the volume of people who pass through the Mercado on an hourly basis for four days and flow of participants. We are concerned about our families, grandparents, children, and visitors in the community and we want to make sure everyone remains healthy. Mercado is important to all of Santa Barbara as a backbone of fiesta providing memorable moments for our families, visitors, and friends, stages for our dance groups, and a platform for the nonprofits. The Mercados are the heart of Fiesta; however, based on the spike of the COVID-19 Delta Variant cases and based on our extensive review with health officials, it is important that we keep our families, visitors, and community safe. It is extremely hard to make this decision; however, we look forward to the Mercados having a grand return in 2022.

Stephanie Petlow, Old Spanish Days Fiesta Santa Barbara La Presidenta 2021

Coronavirus / Entertainment / Health / Lifestyle / Outdoors / Safety / Santa Barbara - South County / Video
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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