BY WILLIAM ROLLER
Taking pride in their community comes naturally for the Larios family, which is why they dig their fingers so deep into the roots of Holtville civic life.
Cathi and Jose (Pepe) Larios never like to do things alone, typically working as part of a team, so it comes as no surprise they are sharing the 2018 Carrot Festival Citizens of the Year honor.
“We’re the ones usually out front everyone sees because we’re often the organizers,” said Pepe.
Added Cathi, “Between FFA, Little League, Noah’s Ark Pre-School, PTO and the Rib Cook-off there’s a lot of activities, especially through the (Holtville) Athletic Club.”
It was George Morris (city treasurer) who called Cathi about the recognition and she and Pepe were pleased to be honored. Yet Pepe admitted he had to wonder, “Who did that?”
While the nomination clearly was a case of well-deserved nepotism with their children Kaycee and twins Aimee and Joseph submitting the nomination, it was done in keeping with Pepe’s motto, “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”
“These words have stuck with us all through school,” said Kaycee. “It has inspired me to choose a career that allows me to continually make my community a better place to live in. And Cathi is always there for her children and their teachers.”
Even though he has cooked at fast-food restaurants, Pepe does not regard himself as a cook, though he frequently barbecues ribs or tri-tip for his farm crews in Dateland (Arizona), at the athletic club Rib Cook-Off, Christmas, anniversaries or office parties.
“It’s not every weekend,” said Cathi. “but when you see people enjoy your cooking you stand back and smile.”
Cathi also volunteers at the Pine School (Holtville Unified School District) as a teacher’s assistant and works the snack bar for the Holtville High School baseball games.
“I get kids to help because they get community hours (to graduate),” she said. “And at Pine School my girlfriends Joy and Ramona help drive students on field trips. Sometimes we come home wiped out, but when you’re laying there in bed and thinking back on the day–it’s totally worth it.”
It is fun to help others, Cathi and Pepe agree. What helps is that Cathi is a stay-at-home mom so when someone calls for help, she responds promptly. She said it is good to know people can count on her.
Along with cooking, Pepe coached with the Holtville Little League and is now assistant district manager, explaining, “I was very involved coaching my kids’ Little League until I became an administrator. Once you get into administration you want to pass on your knowledge.”
For the 2018 Rib Cook-Off held Jan. 27, Pepe prepared barbecue sauce while Cathi poured lemonade at the Holtville High School FFA booth. Part of the fun for them was sampling what all the competing cooks had to offer.
Coming next is the annual Carrot Festival with a bevy of activities from Feb. 2-11 culminating with a street fair and parade. Across the years, the city’s signature event has become a destination for surrounding counties, former residents living elsewhere and students away at school.
Pepe singles out the Carrot Festival as something set apart from other county events.
“With it being held in town, it’s more intimate,” he said. “You can meet your friends, get kettle corn, funnel cakes, take in all the crafts–and we also like the rides.”