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Dozens of people make lines to purchase food from the various vendors in attendance at the Holtville Farmers Market on Saturday, March 13. | CATHI PHILLIPS LARIOS PHOTO

Holtville Gathers at Farmers Market at Samaha Park

HOLTVILLE — As COVID-related restrictions slowly begin to lift throughout the Imperial Valley, Holtville’s Farmers Market brought a sense of normalcy for many in the city attending on Saturday afternoon, March 13.

“It is a very positive thing for us in Holtville,” Chamber of Commerce executive manager and event organizer Rosie Allegranza said during the market. “This is definitely important to the community, especially right now during the pandemic, everyone needs this to just get out and be a community again.”

Vendors at Pop’s Sweet Spot sold baked goods and other sweet treats at Holtville’s Farmers Market on Saturday, March 13. | CATHI PHILLIPS LARIOS PHOTO

After a little more than a month of planning, the chamber hosted the Farmers Market along with the city of Holtville from at Ralph Samaha Park. A total of 30 vendors signed up with the chamber to sell crafts, clothes, baked goods, produce, kettle corn, and tacos, along with other crafts and food options.

“It’s good to see we have so many vendors,” Allegranza said. “We have like 12 food vendors and the rest are crafts.”

Craft vendors included booths from Lopez Arts and Crafts, Precious Gifts, Sweet P Designs, Boys and Girls Club of Holtville, M.F. Jewelry, Holtville Threads, Jireh Accessories, Smelly Soncho, Sweet Designs, Ruiz Wreaths, ChainsByKen, Maria’s Bows and Crafts, Grupo Artesanal California, JC Jewelz, and Modestly Chic, according to the chamber.

Food vendors at the market included 24 K, Pop’s Sweet Spot, El Rey Del Taco, P.K.’s Kettle Corn, American Legion auxiliary, Holtville’s Verde 4-H, Munch Truck, Cousins Farm, Floured Goods, Holtville FFA, Holtville Firefighters’ Association, Wild West Kettle Korn, and Tacos Alex.

Vending booths were set up along the park’s fence with six feet separating each booth. A 20 feet walkway was also provided for visitors to travel throughout the outdoor event to remain socially distant. 

“We saw the inspector, they said it was a good flow,” Allegranza of the county Public Health inspector, who reviewed the event before it opened at noon. “I think we did it right. With everyone walking around the perimeter, we were able to keep distancing between the booths.”

Allegranza especially wanted to thank Jamie Marlow, Rudy Schaffner of Schaffner Dairy, Linda Anderson, and the city of Holtville for making the event possible.

“This was a group effort and everyone really came through, even at the last minute,” Allegranza said.

Visitors were required to wear face coverings throughout their time in the Farmers Market starting the moment they entered the park from the Holt Avenue entrance.

Members of the Holtville Chamber of Commerce were also set up in a booth near the entrance to inform visitors to follow the arrows set up around the park, which directed all foot traffic to travel one direction to ensure compliance with the county’s health regulations.

“Everyone is wearing masks and we have hand wash stations, plenty of trash bags and everyone walking the same way,” Allegranza said. “It’s definitely safe, but fun.”

Six different hand wash stations were set up along the market’s walkway to provide visitors plenty of opportunities to stay clean. Two portable toilets were also set up on a trailer which required a few stairs before accessing.

“That’s the only setback I have about this, because I’m handicapped, and it was difficult to climb up those steps,” Holtville resident Sharon Burton said. “What if there was an older person who needed to use it, but couldn’t get out of their wheelchair?”

Apart from the lack of handicapped-accessible restrooms at the event, Burton said she was happy that the chamber was holding the market for the community.

“I think it’s great to have the farmers markets here so people can come and get their vegetables,” Burton said.

A produce vendor waves during the Holtville Farmers Market at Samaha Park on Saturday afternoon, March 13. | CATHI PHILLIPS LARIOS PHOTO

Burton was one of seven women from the Holtville American Legion auxiliary Bradley-Keffer Post 138 gathered at the farmers market, four of which were working the auxiliary’s vendor booth by selling baked goods, homemade poppy pencils, and raffle tickets to win different donated gift baskets.

“I think it’s a great way people can come out, get produce and share what they do like we get to share what we do at the American Legion auxiliary,” Karen Gibbs, president of the auxiliary, said. “The community is so great to give us donations to help veterans and their families.”

Holtville Fire Chief Alex Silva also worked a vending booth at the market after leading the “Carrot-Van” parade earlier that morning.

“It’s been awesome out here,” Silva said.

Silva worked alongside other members of the firefighters’ association selling fruit cups and handing out disinfectants and hand sanitizer.

“It’s important to hold events like this to show the community the city cares,” Silva said. “Even though we have to go through the pandemic and restrictions, we still need to have that sense of a community.”

Minnesota native Will Harris shared similar sentiments as Silva, having stopped by the Farmers Market after hearing about the event a week ago while living in Yuma as a snowbird.

“You have to hold events like this because the pandemic has really made people cave in, but you still need to be able to get out,” Harris said. “I think it’s important that even within restrictions you get out and do something because people can’t stay so shut in.” 

Holtville High School agriculture teacher Lindsay Cox was also pleased to see so many people enjoying the afternoon market as she helped the Holtville FFA produce booth.

“I think it turned out really nice. I know people probably did a lot of work to get it to come together at this time, so I appreciate it,” Cox said.

Cox along with some of her local students sold $5 bags of produce that were donated from numerous different companies throughout the Valley. Produce included broccoli, cabbage, radishes, lettuce, and carrots.

The event provided Cox a great opportunity to bring her students together since they’ve rarely had the chance to meet in person since distance learning began.

“We got to get some kids together for the livestock show for the fair, but other than that we haven’t really been able to pull too many kids together, so this is a nice first event for us.”

Holtville resident Ashley Hawk was also motivated to check out the Farmers Market as a way of getting her own kids out of the house and into some fresh air.

“The Farmers Market has been great and it’s a beautiful day to get out with the kids,” Hawk said.

Hawk made sure to stop by the Holtville High School Verde 4-H Club’s vending booth to purchase some local produce with her kids and sister-in-law.

“There’s not a lot of stuff you can do nowadays, so it’s really special to be able to get out and do something,” Hawk said.

With the success of the Farmers Market, the Holtville Chamber of Commerce hopes to bring the community back together for its Easter in the Park event scheduled for April if health conditions related to the pandemic continue to improve.

“At this time, we are not sure if we will be allowed to hold Easter in the Park,” Allegranza said during an earlier interview. “We will know more as the tier levels change for the better, and hopefully by the end of the year, we will be closer to normalcy.”

Several dozen people turned out to Holtville’s Farmers Market on Saturday afternoon, March 13, in Samaha Park. | CATHI PHILLIPS LARIOS PHOTO