HOLTVILLE — Carrot Festival parade fans lined up on both sides of 5th Street from Maple to Cedar avenues in a stretch of about half-a-mile as the flag at Holt Plaza waved furiously in the wind. Even if the clouds looked gray, at least it didn’t rain.
Children were bundled up in winter clothing as families sat in their pick-up beds for an elevated view, and grandparents wrapped themselves in blankets as they sat in folding chairs or wheelchairs. The crowd grew in number as children who had just finished the parade ran back to join in watching the remaining parade participants who were behind them on the route.
Often, a section of the crowd would cheer at familiar faces in the marching bands, or dancing lady carrots or children riding on floats. Children wearing bunny rabbit ears and pretending to eat carrots, were encouraged to wave at the crowd.
The theme for this year’s carrot festival was “We Dig Carrots!” A list provided by the Holtville Chamber of Commerce showed 80 participating groups divided into eight divisions marching in the parade.
Leading the parade was the honor guard from the Naval Air Facility El Centro with the Holtville Chamber of Commerce board of directors and their office staff following. Next came the Grand Marshals Dave Garcia and Ruben Najera. The Holtville Viking band of Pride preceded the Carrot Festival Royalty of Queen Sadie Allegranza, Princess Anne Britschgi, and Junior Princess Mayah Taylor.
The rest of the parade was filled out with floats and cars representing different businesses, school bands, car clubs, city employees and firefighters.
Bundled up for the cold weather, 90-year-old Carmen Gutierrez sat with her daughter next to a brick building.
“I’m always happy being here to watch the parade,” said Gutierrez.
According to Gutierrez, she has watched the Carrot Festival parade since it started many years ago. She was born in Arizona in 1926, but her family moved to Holtville in 1940 and has resided here until a few years ago. In 2015, Gutierrez moved in with her daughter, Mary Elizabeth Guzman, who lives in Calexico.
“My favorite is the music. I like the charros (Mexican horseman), those cowboys. Well, I like everything. I miss Holtville,” Gutierrez said.
Her daughter, Mary Elizabeth Guzman, helped fill-in during the interview and recalled the times when her mother brought her and her three other siblings to the Carrot Festival parade through the years.
“Now it’s my turn to bring her to the parade,” Guzman said. “We get to see a lot of people that have moved away.This is like an annual reunion. We see people that we haven’t seen in a long time, who moved out and came back. Yes, we are enjoying the parade.”
About a street block away, west of where Gutierrez and Guzman were seated, was Holtville resident Minnie Sandoval, 75. She was seated on a folding chair among the crowd huddling under the eaves of a store.
Sandoval said, “I’ve watched about 60 parades. Maybe I missed a few, but not much. I used to work for Joe Maggio, the first carrot company that started all these (parades).”
Sandoval’s favorite part of the parade was seeing her granddaughters, nieces, and nephews marching with the different bands. “I used to be in the parade, too,” she said.
After the parade, the emcee announced and encouraged parade fans to proceed to the gazebo at Holt Park for entertainment. Surrounding the gazebo were service, craft and food booths. A student art show was available for viewing in the civic center. In the gazebo, Tim Hurley and Coastal Country, and the Kaliloa O’ Kaleo’onalani Polynesian Group provided music and entertainment.
Further south of the gazebo were the carnival rides. Children, accompanied by their parents, lined up for the various rides including the Starship 3000, Zipper, Motorcycle Jump, Dizzy Dragon, Dragon Wagon, and Crazy Train.