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Members of the 2020 Carrot Festival Royalty Court will retain their titles and crowns through 2021, the Holtville Chamber of Commerce announced this week, due to a lack of participation in the annual competition as a result of the pandemic. The logo designed for what has since been the cancelled 2021 Carrot Festival will also likely be kept for the coming year. | FILE IMAGES

Carrot Fest Royalty Court to Retain Crowns For 2021

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HOLTVILLE  — The Carrot Festival Royalty Court will maintain their crowns for the duration of 2021, after attempts to drum up additional interest in this year’s royalty competition failed to draw enough participants.

The extended tenure comes as something of a consolation for the trio, which includes Queen Alexis Piper, Princess Lexee Roeseler, and Junior Princess Brytni Valenzuela.

They were largely restricted from participating in any of their scheduled community appearances this year because of COVID-19. Those cancelled activities are typically how the royalty court was able to hone their public speaking skills, build confidence and self-awareness, and promote the annual festival.

“They felt like they were robbed,” said Rosie Allegranza, Holtville Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer. “They were very disappointed.”

The chamber’s board had decided to extend the royalty court’s tenure during the board’s Jan. 13 meeting. Previously it had decided to extend the deadline for the royalty court competition to Jan. 29 in the hopes of attracting more competitors.

The chamber is also holding out hope that nominations for the annual festival’s Citizen of the Year will materialize in the coming days, as well.

So far, it has yet to receive any such nominations and is considering extending the tenure of the current Citizen of the Year, Holtville Fire Chief Alex Silva, into 2021 as well, Allegranza said. If a new Citizen of the Year is selected, the chamber will announce the winning candidate in a virtual setting in the coming weeks, she said.

As a result of the state and county’s COVID-related restrictions on public gatherings, the chamber had previously cancelled the festival parade, and more recently, shelved its plans to host a pair of farmers markets on Feb. 13 and 14, the weekend of the typical weeklong festival’s closing.

While the inability to host any of the activities associated with the annual festival was not much of a surprise for the chamber board, the events’ cancellations still proved discomforting for its members.

“We kind of already knew this (outcome was coming) but saying it out loud was hard,” Allegranza said. “But we’re a pretty optimistic group, and we know it’s for the right reasons to keep people safe.”

The cancellation of the annual festival and related events also brings with it added financial concerns for the chamber.

Much of its operations are funded by the proceeds that are generated by the royalty competition’s raffle tickets sales, community and business sponsorships, and presale tickets for the carnival.

“We are taking a big hit here,” Allegranza said. “This is what our chamber relies on to remain viable.”

In the absence of those proceeds, the chamber has plans to reach out to past sponsors to solicit funds, as well as other parties that Allegranza said might be willing to provide support to help keep the chamber afloat.

The 74th anniversary festival’s cancellation appears to be the first of its kind throughout its history, she said. Despite its cancellation, next year’s anticipated festival will still be billed as the 75th anniversary event.

“We want to come back bigger and better next year,” Allegranza said.

Next year may also see the return of the festival artwork created especially this year’s theme honoring healthcare workers for their efforts amid the ongoing pandemic.

The artwork depicts two human-like carrots donned in a smock and scrubs and wearing superhero capes.

“It would’ve been perfect for what’s going on right now,” Allegranza said. “But we can still honor them next year.”

The artwork was created by Caliber Screenprinting in El Centro, which has produced the annual festival’s artwork for some time for free.

“They’ve done it as a courtesy for us every year,” she said.