A tractor full of beautifully arranged fresh produce, created by the team at Highline Cooling, makes its way down the parade route during a past Holtville Carrot Parade in this Holtville Tribune file photo. The unique float will once again be featured during this year’s smaller-scale event. | LUKE PHILLIPS PHOTO
HOLTVILLE — The annual Holtville Carrot Festival celebration was very nearly canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when the governor’s stay-at-home order was lifted on Jan. 25, officials with the Holtville Chamber of Commerce and the city of Holtville came up with a plan to keep the celebration alive on a smaller scale.
“We had pretty much settled that we weren’t going to do anything, but then, two weeks ago, when the restrictions lifted, people started asking, so we decided that we needed to do something,” Holtville Chamber of Commerce Executive Manager Rosie Allegranza said.
Large outdoor gatherings are still prohibited if Imperial County remains in the Purple Tier of California’s color-coded, four-tier system for COVID-19 precautions, but farmers markets have been deemed as essential and can operate, so this year’s Carrot Festival celebration, renamed Mini Fest and set for Saturday, March 13, will take place in conjunction with the regular Holtville Farmers Market. Added to the usual lineup of fruit and vegetable vendors will be around 30 craft and food vendors.
“There’s a lot of restrictions even with that, but we’re hoping that doesn’t deter people from coming, because this is something that we can do and we want to show our community that we are able to do something through this pandemic,” Allegranza said. “We can still do certain things.”
Vendors at the farmers market will be arranged on the field at Samaha Park (formerly Babe Ruth Park) with one entrance on Holt Avenue and one exit on Fern Avenue. There will be directional arrows on the ground to keep foot traffic flowing in one direction so that attendees are able to maintain social distancing, and AmeriCorps members will be on hand to help with crowd control and making sure people are wearing masks.
There will also be hand-washing stations and masks for sale in case anybody forgets theirs at home.
Craft vendors will be arranged near the entrance and food vendors will be arranged near the exit, selling food in to-go containers so that people can take it home to eat. The farmers market will open at noon.
“We chose the ballpark because of the perimeter fence,” Allegranza said. “It’s going to be so much easier to follow guidelines and have crowd control.”
Under the current restrictions, seating areas will not be allowed at the event, but, “if through some miracle or something, we go up to the Red Tier, then we might be able to maybe have a seating area,” Allegranza said. “The county has been really good with guiding us. They’ve been so helpful in this whole planning process. They’re easy to work with. We just let them know what we want to do, and they guide us on how we can make that work.”
Highline Cooling will be assembling its famous veggie tractor float, as seen in many past Carrot Parades, and parking it near the farmers market, where local FFA members will sell the produce to raise funds for their organization. Local 4-H members will also be selling fresh vegetables donated by Vessey & Co.
Before the farmers market, there will be “carrot-van” parade of vehicles and floats from local organizations including the city of Holtville, the Holtville Fire Department, the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department, Holtville FFA, and 4-H clubs, along with the Carrot Queen, Carrot Princess and Junior Princess.
The caravan will begin at Holtville Middle School at 10 a.m. and will head west on Ninth Street before parading up and down every east-west street in the town. Holtville residents are encouraged to watch the caravan from their homes or in their front yards rather than gathering in groups on the sidewalk.
“We kind of have to keep it to Holtville residents,” Allegranza said. “Sorry to have to say that; I would love for everybody to enjoy it, but we have to be careful about social distancing. People can just wave from their front yards.”
Allegranza said that the caravan will be limited to 20 entries, but there are still spots available.
Anybody interested in participating should contact the Holtville Chamber of Commerce at 760-356-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Vendor spots are also still available. Vendor applications are available at the Holtville Chamber of Commerce, 101 W. 5th St., and are due by March 1.