Sea’ing families and friends at the festival
Families, couples, friends and singletons flocked in thousands to Saturday’s Harbor and Seafood festival down by the docks. Feeding the hungry festival goers took more than 20 food vendors, all buzzing to dish out tantalizing orders of fried gator, live sea urchins, oysters and lobsters. Among the vendors, one family came together to supply paella, a Valencian rice dish made with spices, seafood and lots and lots of patience.
Goleta resident Gloria Lopez was the matriarch of this family, and tourists and locals alike were impressed with her paella pan, which measured about nine feet in circumference. Like an arborist planting seeds into the ground, Ms. Lopez planted the mussels into the paella, which was simmering above the firewood. And just as growing a tree takes time, so does cooking delicious paella. Ms. Lopez told the news-Press that preparation to cook paella for the seafood festival took about a week. But it’s all worth it for Ms. Lopez and her family, who have been cooking paella for more than a decade.
The magic started in Ms. Lopez’s own kitchen, where her first husband, a Spaniard, taught her to cook paella. When he passed away six years ago, Ms. Lopez decided to continue making paella as he taught her. It’s safe to say, Saturday’s festival goers, who formed one of the longest lines at the festival for her paella, are glad that she decided to do so. Through the success, Ms. Lopez pays homage to her late husband by wearing something that belonged to him.
“This jersey right here was his,” Ms. Lopez told the News-Press, pointing to the Spanish soccer jersey she was wearing. Donning the jersey and holding a giant spatula, Ms. Lopez stirred the paella with the force of a woman whose strength radiated without her having to say a word.
At Saturday’s festival, her daughter Edith Orzco worked at the cashier, handling the $15 customers happily paid for the heaping bowl of paella. Ms. Lopez’s second husband, Martin Castro, was at the paella pan with her and another family member. More family members joined them, including little children. It was a family outing and business venture intertwined into one.
Across from Ms. Lopez and her family, another family was celebrating in their own way with seafood. Tracy Scott, who has been attending the seafood festival annually for the past five years, decided to bring her family along from Los Angeles this year. It was, after all, a special occasion. Nicki Carlos, Ms. Scott’s sister, was celebrating her 54th birthday, and she glowed with carefreeness that most 24-year-olds would envy.
“I feel so special,” Ms. Carlos said to the News-Press. She had on a shirt that said “Birthday & Boujee Birthday Queen,” while her husband and her brother-in-law sported the shirts that said “Birthday Squad Security.”
The family brought tablecloths and centerpieces, not sparing any extravagance for the Santa Barbara seafood experience. What brought the family from LA?
“The lobster!” said both Ms. Carlos and Ms. Scott.
“It is so good, and they make it right here,” said Ms. Scott.
Apart from the food, there were other attractions the festival lured attendees with. Folks could shop clothes, jewelry and other trinkets at the artisanal booths that were peppered throughout the zone. Those who were feeling more adventurous also went on Spirit of Dana Point, a traditionally built replica of a 1770s privateer schooner that was used for smuggling centuries ago. Some passengers even got to steer the ancient-looking ship.
All the passengers were under the care of first mate Kristin McGowan, who oversaw the process of bringing the ship out to sea.
As the ship was leaving the harbor, Ms. McGowan hoisted herself up high to have a vantage point of view. Then she started surveying the waters. As kayakers and other boats approached the ship, Ms. McGowan confidently bellowed to the captain of the oncomers. At one point, there was a paddle boarder who did not notice the 18th century-styled vessel approaching him, until at about 50 feet.
“He sees us now,” Ms. McGowan yelled, and the passengers burst out in laughter. “He’s turning. Woohoo!”
One may even think that the paddle boarder has had too much delicious seafood before entering the water and was in need of a post-meal nap.