Picnic baskets and pupusas were plentiful Saturday evening as hundreds of Goleta residents gathered for the “best dam dinner” at the Lake Los Carneros Dam.
The Goleta Dam Dinner free community event overlooking the lake hasn’t occurred since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the dinner was back in full force Saturday, with several community members in attendance, including City Council members, Santa Barbara County supervisors and others.
People were invited to bring picnic dinners or purchase food from the Elubia’s Kitchen food truck, which served pupusas, tamales, taquitos and lemonade. Many attendees also brought homemade desserts to share with others.
“It’s really special, and I’m really glad that people came back,” Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said about the dinner. “There’s no agenda. It’s just breaking bread with neighbors and family and friends.”
Perotte said the first dam dinner was in 2012, after Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places,” spoke to the community and the City Council, and several community members brainstormed community event ideas.
“He called it a love affair with their community — [people] need to have an emotional connection,” Perotte said. “When you have that emotional connection with the community, it gets things done, but also it makes people want to come and be in that community and be part of it.”
“We’re excited just to be here,” said Maxwell O’Kieffe, owner of Kona Ice of Santa Barbara. “Goleta’s one of my favorite cities, and I started [Kona Ice] here.”
O’Kieffe said he served upwards of about 200 shaved ice cups during Saturday’s event.
For some people, it was their first Goleta Dam Dinner, while others have been attending the annual event each year since the first dinner, such as Pete Wolf, who has been helping put on the event since the second year.
Wolf said he grew up near the lake and has done catch-and-release bass fishing, as well as birding, at Lake Los Carneros for years.
Goleta community relations manager Kelly Hoover said Wolf has been at every planning meeting for the event and was out setting up all day leading up to the event.
Wolf added that he loves the city of Goleta, so it’s the perfect opportunity to spend a couple of days helping out.
“[The Goleta Dam Dinner] is super low-key and just very organic. … They say once you come here, you can’t miss out,” Hoover said. “It’s a very simple but magical event.”