By Luke Phillips
The 65th Annual Holtville Carrot Festival kicked off Friday with the traditional Holtville Chamber of Commerce Banquet at Barbara Worth Resort.
This year’s event began on a somber note, with Chamber of Commerce President Laura Goodsell asking for a moment of silence for two young Holtville residents who passed away in the week before the banquet, Clint Snyder and Philip Vessey.
“We are a hugely tight-knit community and it’s like we’ve all lost a member of our family,” Goodsell said before moving on with the ceremony.
“Tonight we’re here to celebrate what’s great about our community,” she said. “There truly is no place like home and each one of you is a testament to that.”
Goodsell also recognized several local dignitaries in attendance including the 2011 Carrot Queen and her court, Mayor Jerry Brittsan, City Council member David Bradshaw, City Manager Alex Meyerhoff, City Attorney Steve Walker, Planning Commissioner Jim Predmore, Police Chief Gordon Johnson, Fire Chief Alex Silva, District 5 Supervisor Ray Castillo and El Centro City Council member Cheryl Walker.
Goodsell also lauded the efforts of Chamber of Commerce employees Dana Gularte and Mary Hellen Dollente.
“They’re the ones who make all of this possible,” she said.
This year’s Carrot Festival Grand Marshall Marv Wood was introduced and told the crowd that it was “a privilege to be among such fine residents.”
“I’m very grateful to have the distinction of representing the city,” Wood said.
Wood said that he was especially proud to serve as the Grand Marshall for the 65th Carrot Festival because he first moved to Holtville with his mother in 1947, the year of the very first Carrot Fest.
“The theme also seems very fitting,” Wood said in reference to this year’s festival theme ‘There’s No Place Like Home’. “I graduated Holtville High School in 1958 and began a journey that would ultimately bring me back to Holtville. This is where my hopes and dreams were formed and I’m happy to be giving something back to the school and the community that supported that. Taking pride in our community is something that we don’t ever want to take for granted or take lightly.”
Ron and Joan Thornburg were then presented as the 2011 Holtville Citizens of the Year, with judges citing their extensive involvement in the local education system and community organizations. The Thornburgs spent many years as educators in the Holtville school system, collective working at every school site in the district. Joan also served on the school district Board of Trustees after her retirement from teaching as well as serving as president of the Holtville Women’s Club for the past four years and singing with the Imperial Valley Master Choral. The Thornburgs are also know for opening their home and swimming pool to local youngsters for use during end-of-the-year parties.
Several girls competed for three different crowns in the Carrot Festival Royal Court. Michaela Hernandez, the granddaughter of District 5 County Supervisor Ray Castillo, won out over Holtville newcomer Sarah Shellabarger who recently moved to town from Imperial.
Seventh grader Emily Acosta beat out five other contenders to take home the Carrot Princess crown including runners up Alyssa Moreno, Jelisa Vargas, Haley Toth, Yvette Margarita Rios and Jennifer Schwer.
Brooke Butler Took the title of Junior Princess, beating out Macy Birdsall, Ruby Castro and McKenzie Toth.
Each title was awarded based on the amount of raffle tickets each girl sold to members of the community.