SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - We’re wrapping up day two of Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara and it wouldn’t be Fiesta without the delicious food.
Many people travel near and far for the city’s worst, best-kept secret, which opens Friday. There’s also a system in place to keep the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado, you, and the over 50 Fiesta booths safe.
Before we dig into all the tamales, enchiladas and flautas that we love and look forward to every year, each Fiesta Vendor has to have a Temporary Food Facility permit before they even open or start preparing food.
Similar to an inspection given to a restaurant, the permits are issued by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s Environmental Health Services division.
“They check to make sure, hot water still working, great. Do you still have sanitizer? Fantastic. How’s the refrigeration holding up,” said Kendra Wise, Kendra Wise. Environmental Health Specialist.
The permits are issued the day the booths opens with spot checks throughout the weekend. Wise makes up a team of five people that approve and oversee hundreds of these permits for county events each year.
Wise says they're looking at proper food handling with no cross-contamination, keeping hot food hot and cold food cold, hand washing, and proper sanitation.
“We’re all about preventing illness, protecting public health and we know that’s their goal too so because we have this aligned goal, we’re able to work together to make sure their booths are a success,” said Wise.
It’s the culmination of weeks, sometimes months of diligent planning between Old Spanish Days, the booth operators and the county.
“Some of those relationships go back for years and years and years because they’ve been doing this for years and years and years. So it’s really neat to have that ongoing relationship in the community,” said Wise.
A relationship that’s stood the test of time, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado.
“I’ve been personally volunteering since I was eight and I’m 38 right now, so I’m talking about 30 years of volunteer work. It was nice to see when Old Spanish Days actually recognized us as a Mercado so that was great and to now know that a lot of people know about us and know this is where they want to be, I mean what else could we want,” said Bianca Rodriguez, volunteer and Parish Secretary.
Thursday evening is like Santa’s workshop on Christmas eve at the east-side parish, so that means before all those tamales can be made, a permit will be issued Friday morning and before all that, the Blessing of the Hands.
At Thursday’s mass, the priest blessed all the volunteers working this weekend with sacred oil.
“A lot of dedication, parishioners that just do it for the success of our church because without it, our church would not be to open or remain open for the year,” said Rodriguez.
The Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado opens Friday at 11:00 a.m. and will be the only Mercado open Sunday of Fiesta weekend.
Wise and her team will also be working with Santa Barbara Police to keep an eye out for unpermitted street vendors along the parade route.