Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Maybe They Should Call It, "Old Tombstone Days"

You may find this hard to believe but Barney Brantingham of The Independent, Travis Armstrong of the News-Press and I, all agree on something. It's time to take the fiasco out of Fiesta.

The shooting by Santa Barbara police of an Oxnard man who pulled a gun during a street brawl on Fiesta Friday should be a shake up call to all of us.

No longer can it honestly be said that more people have died riding as a passenger in Ted Kennedy's car than at any Fiesta.

Who would have thought that the newest attraction at El Mercado would be a shooting gallery? The only thing livelier than the dancing this year was the ammo.

Why do I like the Film Festival better than Fiesta? No need to pack your heater when attending the film fest.

Why do I like Solstice better than Fiesta? No need, as Tommy "High Heel Sneakers" Tucker once sang, to wear your boxing gloves "in case some fool might want to fight."

And sadly, some of the fools who have been showing up to Fiesta in recent years seem to be spoiling to fight. Funny, I wasn't aware that dueling was one of those Old Spanish Days traditions.

I miss the old Fiestas where the only Colt .45's people were carrying was a can of malt liquor, not a pistola.

I thought you packed a pistol when you headed to Compton, not to Santa Barbara.

When did El Fandango turn into El Shoot-em-up?

When did "Fiesta attire suggested" become "pack your piece, at least?"

Fiesta always draws a crowd but what is it about Fiesta that draws the wrong crowd? How do we tell the Fiesta revelers to leave their "situations" outside the door, as well as their side arms and their knives?

I have no illusions that Fiesta as we know it is going away. For too many bars and restaurants, the annual Fiesta is the difference between making it and not making it each year. It's a major fundraiser for many of the local non-profits who operate food booths at the Mercados. And have you ever tried to get a hotel room during Fiesta? Streets littered with cascarones means that the lodging industry is cleaning up.

Still something has to be done to change the situation. Fiesta has gradually evolved into something it was never intended to be.

Are the bars the problem? Perhaps. But an awful lot of drinking goes on at Solstice as well yet it doesn't seem to attract the troublemakers that have come to be associated with Fiesta. Of course Solstice only lasts a day. Maybe the answer is to shorten Fiesta.

It's not going to be an easy problem to solve and it my not be solvable at all. But we shouldn't be resigned to a Santa Barbara that during the first week of August resembles old Dodge City, Kansas or Tombstone, Arizona more than it resembles Old Spanish California.

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