CALIPATRIA — It's that time of year where families and friends come together to celebrate the holidays. They come from all different walks of life and different parts of the country. But here in the Imperial Valley, one community has prided themselves on bringing that small town feel to all its visitors.
After a four-year hiatus, Calipatria once again celebrated its annual Christmas in the Dark Festival and Parade. Once a staple in the community, Christmas in the Dark has been on the back burner due to financial restraints from the city. But with the implementation of the newly installed chamber of commerce, Calipatria is once again in business.
"It's truly a shame that we haven't been able to celebrate [Christmas in the Dark] in the past few years," said Calipatria Chamber of Commerce President George Prieto. "It all starts with the community. People from out of town see us as sort of a sleepy town. We want to show them what we can do because people throughout the Valley want to come out here, they want to support our community, but it starts with us."
Throughout the day, attendees from around the Valley and visitors from outside the state were treated to a multitude of vendors selling everything, from food and beer, to clothing and antiques. However, sitting at the corner of Rademacher park, Joe and Juanita Lopez’s booth stood out from the rest.
The Lopez's have been staples in the Calipatria community, having both worked in the Calipatria Unified School District for over six decades. Now retired, they enjoy supporting the small community that has given so much to them.
"It's really great to see all the people who come out and want to have a good time," said Juanita Lopez. "You know, in a community as small as this one, it's important for people to come out and support one another."
She said the absence of events like Christmas in the Dark made Calipatria feel isolated compared to the rest of the Valley.
"It was really sad when they stopped having [Christmas in the Dark]," said Lopez. "I hope that the chamber can keep this event going for many years."
Aside from the vendors, entertainment was provided in the form of dancing and karaoke throughout the evening. A tamale contest was held, won by Calipatria native Maria Islas, as well as a pie eating contest.
"We want to show that we have a lot to offer here in our small community," said Prieto.
Prieto says that events like this one cannot be held without the city's and community's involvement, which is something that the chamber wants to emphasize next year.
"Community engagement is key for us," said Prieto. "We want to show that we are growing, and that people want to come support Calipatria."