Carrot Festival a homecoming for some yet a thanksgiving for all who thrive on Valley bounty
Posted: Sunday, February 7, 2016 12:40 am | Updated: 4:34 pm, Mon Feb 8, 2016.
By WILLIAM ROLLER, Staff Writer |
- Posted on Feb 7, 2016
HOLTVILLE — It is still a picturesque Norman Rockwell town here but it has a big heart and a growing renown reaching far beyond the county thanks to its yearly festivities every February.
“Let carrots rock your world” was the theme of the 69th annual Carrot Festival Parade. The weather was as inspiring as the chock-a-block activities jamming the town center. For many of the young people anticipation was as irresistible as Christmas Eve.
“The kids really look forward to it every year and they like showing off,” said Julie Velasco, 2015 Citizen of the Year. “I have fun watching the kids have fun.”
But some students take their fun with a dash of seriousness. Bryanna Garcia, a Southwest High School Tall Flags team marcher, said it was the team’s first festival and it wanted to perform at its best. Captain of the Tall Flags, Nyssa Apodaca, confirmed her teammate’s sentiment, “We worked really hard for this. We’ve spent two weeks in rehearsal.”
Marching in the parade as a carrot many years ago in kindergarten, awards judge Alicia Salgado recalled her fondness for the event. “There’s a feeling about this parade, it’s small (78 marching entries) but I like it because it’s more family-oriented,” she said. “One of the highlights was the Vessey float. A lot of work went into that.”
And like the swallows retuning to San Juan Capistrano many former residents feel the siren call pulling them back to the nest. Cheryl Omlin moved to Oklahoma at 27 but frequently returns because it is the only time she gets to see everybody. “I enjoyed the parade and Annie Britschgi (festival princess) is my granddaughter so I had to come out and support her,” she said.
Hometown celebrity novelist Johnny Shaw, now residing in Portland, Oregon, regularly returns to catch up with former high school friends. He said he was honored to be selected as parade Grand Marshall. And since all but his latest book take place in the Valley he feels he gets to share as a kind of ambassador the attractions here, through his books, with the rest of the world. “It’s a great turnout and parade with everyone involved and you don’t see that much in a small town anymore.”
Even veteran festival attendees feel almost a Pied Piper of Hamelin-like pull every year. Ellen Underwood, a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Holtville, has been to 50 festivals. She has been an Adult Chefs sweepstakes winner three times, most recently in 2012. Underwood was selling carrot-cake for her church. Even though she did not prepare this one it is the festival that drives her to her best.
“The carrot cake I made was my mom’s recipe but I’d altered it a little each time,” she recalled. “It’s got a really good orange filling and whip cream covering the outside. Everybody loved it.”
Maritza Morales, Holtville High School class of 1995 living now in San Diego, found her way to the student art show at the Civic Center. She noted the artwork was really impressive and how talented the students were. “What a great job their teacher must have done to develop his student’s talent and nurture them to maturity,” Morales said.
But even for locals the festival can still spring surprises. Vanessa Munoz, an art student at Holtville High School under the tutelage of Alfredo Guzman, was not even aware her work was on display. It was a self-portrait in charcoal based on a “selfie.”
“I’m happy to see the people at the fair like my art,” Munoz said. “I didn’t even know it was here until I walked in.”
Commercial Division Vessey & Company
Community Service Division ARC
Miscellaneous Division Friends of Holtville
Youth Organization Division Finley School ASES program
Color Guard U.S. Border Patrol
High School division Calexico High School
Junior High School division None
Elementary School division Finley School
High school division Brawley Union High School/ Barbara Worth combination, first place
Calexico High School, second place
Junior High School division Holtville Middle School, first place
William Moreno School, second place
Elementary School division Meadows Union Elementary School, first place
McCabe Elementary School, second place
Car Club Ornelas Family
Miscellaneous Peddle Power
Equestrian Victorian Roses
Best Use of Theme Highline Cooling