SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Old Spanish Days doesn't officially start for some people until they taste a home made taco, torta, or taquito in one of the long awaited mercado booths.
That took place right after 11 a.m. today following a lively ribbon cutting, singing and dancing on the main stage in De la Guerra plaza.
Within minutes people started pouring in looking for something to eat.
The mercado uptown at McKenzie Park also has an array of food booths and entertainment, but it also has a mini carnival with kids rides and a stage for youth performers.
The night time stages feature many of the top bands in Santa Barbara playing rock, blues. soul, R & B, and Latin sounds.
The first food tasters to arrive at the plaza had their eyes set on something special in all directions.
Mitch McBride a downtown worker had a buffet of food. "So these are my favorite things here these are the beef ribs, carnitas tacos, pulled pork," he said.
One line was over 15 minutes long for Maya tacos, the first booth and traditionally one of the most popular. "It is really worth waiting in line here because the food is so good," said Steve Meade who has been to the mercados for over 25 years. He had two tacos, fully loaded and was chowing down immediately.
Maya Villalrando has a local meat market and counter restaurant on De La Vina Street. He prepared the dishes for the Old Spanish Days fundraising booth. They have a big demand for tacos and burritos with chicken, carne asada, rice and beans.
The plaza has added extra shade tables, and other vendors of gifts and novelties.
Radio announcer Ron Herron was looking for something sweet and said jokingly, "and then there is the churro. I am going to take about two or three and smoke those later. Oh it is a dessert....I'm sorry. "
The mercados are open until 11 p.m. each night.