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‘Our Common Table’ in the street brings community members together after winter disasters

A balmy night was the setting for an outside dinner that stretched out a full city block in Santa Barbara this evening at what was called “Our Common Table.”

It’s the second in a spontaneous series of community building meals after the devastating impacts following two winter disasters.

The idea comes from the Lois and Walter Capps project, a local non-profit. It was coordinated with the City of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization.

The entire 1200 block of State Street was closed down to cars for the event.

Tables were lined end to end, chairs were set up and flowers were coloring the centerpieces.

Abbey Fragosa who lives in the Milpas area came down with her friends and said, “I’ve met people here I would have never met before.” She was sharing conversations about their interests and some of the food items. There were many smiles and a lot of laughing. Fragosa was hoping to see a similar event someday where she lives, and have some downtown residents come over to attend.

It was an event that had a simple message of neighborly time together without speeches or politics.

There was talk of trying the same concept on the Eastside of Santa Barbara, in Isla Vista and in Carpinteria soon.

Union 76 station owner Don Risdon was in town from Carpinteria and joined Alison Hardey from Jeannine’s Bakery for a connection over some of her cookies made in her nearby restaurant kitchen. Both interact with the public heavily and have a strong gauge on community emotions day in and day out.

“I can’t believe how many people came out,” said Hardey. “We need each other. Food brings us out. And we discovered we love our neighbors and we haven’t seen them in awhile.”

Todd Capps, an organizer said he was just “letting it happen” once the event was set up. An organic flow occurs with the people moving the event along and bringing the different groups together. He says often people hear messages that they are polarized with others, which is believes is not true. “Sitting down and having a meal together is one of the most fundamental ways to bridge communities,” he said. Todd’s mother former Congresswoman Lois Capps was meeting and greeting many of the people arriving along with former Santa Barbara Mayor Hal Conklin.

With them were many first responders including police officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters.

Menu items brought down by those attending included pizza, pasta, salad, burritos, taquitos, chicken, salads, chips, salsa, beverages and a variety of desserts. Some items were brought in large serving dished from local restaurants for the community to graze through, sample and get a taste of the town.

Restaurants on the street were providing to go boxes and at the same time, their tables were full too.

Jazz music was provided by the duo of John Schnackenberg and Cougar Estrada who perform frequently nearby at the Pickle Room bar.

The setting was right in front of the landmark Granada Theatre.

Hardey moved generously through the crowd as the event unfolded, passing out her desserts saying “We have a lot more in common that we realize sometimes.”

The two hour event ended at 7 p.m.

For more information about “Our Common Table” and the Lois and Walter Capps project go to:

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