With the annual Fiesta celebration only a couple of weeks away, parade organizers at Old Spanish Days were put on notice last week that they needed to up their game when it came to cleaning the avalanche of cascaron confetti festooning downtown streets and sidewalks afterward. Instigated by complaints from groups like Heal the Ocean, Channelkeeper, and Downtown Santa Barbara, City Hall launched a “Confetti is litter” campaign on June 21, right before the Summer Solstice Parade.
Barbara Carroll of Old Spanish Days said she was told the old ways of cleaning up — rakes, brooms, blowers, and power washing — no longer sufficed and that new vacuuming equipment needed to be deployed. Carroll said she found out indirectly and only last week. “It was very, very late notice,” she said. Carroll said Old Spanish Days doesn’t sell cascarones or authorize their sale.
City creeks czar Cameron Benson said the volume of confetti sold during outdoor festivities has grown significantly over the past 10 years, and that even with covered storm drains, debris still finds its way into city creeks. Three days after Solstice, he noted, confetti deposits lay thick and deep in State Street gutters. Any that gets into waterways leading to the ocean constitutes a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
The growing popularity of the plastic-based Mylar filling, he said, is of particular environmental concern. “Cracking a cascaron egg over someone’s head is one thing,” he said, “but dumping a bag of confetti on someone’s head is something else. It’s gotten to the point of overkill. We need to dial it back a bit.” How exactly this works out has yet to be seen.
Last year, cascaron vendors had been targeted by state tax collectors for operating without a license. City police spokesperson Anthony Wagner loudly decried the intrusion then — as did State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson — and said the department was loath to play the role of enforcer now. “The last thing we want to do is crack down on 92-year-old Latino grandmothers selling eggs,” he said.
Benson stressed that the problem was confetti not the decorated eggs. “I don’t view this as an attack on cascaron vendors any more than the ‘don’t drink and drive’ campaign should be seen an attack on bar owners,” he said. City officials will meet with Old Spanish Days later this week to hammer out the details.