Time-honored traditions spiced up with some new twists for the 71st Annual Holtville Carrot Festival have organizers anxious with anticipation, and they're hoping its infectious.
"We are super-excited this year because our team and I have been working really hard. The Carrot Festival is like our baby, so we want everything to go well and smoothly," said Anita Martinez, chief executive officer of the Holtville Chamber of Commerce. "We want people to come out here and have a good time. We want to make sure the citizens' needs are met and that the vendors are being taken care of."
The weekend's action launches into high gear with the Carrot Festival Midway Carnival starting Thurs., Feb. 8 from 6-10 p.m. at Sixth Street and Pine Avenue. The midway will also be open from 6-10 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
On Fri., Feb. 9, the chamber will host a new event, the "Old Fashioned Hoedown" at 7 p.m. at Fifth Street and Holt with local band "Big Bad Wolf" providing the entertainment. Attendees can enjoy delicious tacos and try a variety of beers in the beer garden and rest their feet on hay bales.
"The idea is so people can have a soft opening while their children are at the Midway Carnival enjoying the rides that Butler Amusement provides," Martinez explained.
Opening the festivities on Sat. Feb. 10 will be the Carrot Festival mile and 5k races starting on Fifth St. at 7 a.m. The races are hosted by the Holtville High School Cross Country team. Race applications are available at the chamber office at 101 W. Fifth St.
Following the races, the big event - the Carrot Festival Parade - will take place on Fifth St. from Maple to Cedar avenues starting at 10 a.m. It will feature school children, bands, floats, antique cars, equestrians, the 2018 Festival Queen and more. A drumline competition at Sixth and Holt will follow the parade and awards.
The Street Festival and Fair on Holt Avenue starts Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday, Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. More than 80 vendors are expected, almost double the 2017 turnout. Many people from outside the Imperial Valley will be on hand to sell a variety of foods, art, wood crafts, mouth-watering goodies and more. One of the vendors will be coming from Riverside to sell Jamaican ribs and wings.
Other foods include steak fries, carne asada, hamburgers and Salvadorian vegan pupusas. There will also be the traditional vendors selling tacos, corn, mariscos, and pollo al disco.
At 1 p.m. Sunday, Desert Pro Wrestling will host the Carrot Mania Professional Wrestling entertainment at the tennis courts adjacent to Samaha Park. There will be a beer garden and a snack bar. Tickets will be $5 at the door.
On Saturday and Sunday, the community will have the opportunity to ride a helicopter taking off from Samaha.
"It's a great deal because it is $20 for a ride around Holtville for a couple of minutes. The people can experience the excitement and thrill of being in a helicopter with up to three people," Martinez said.
Visitors to Samaha on Saturday and Sunday can also enjoy a Jurassic Park-themed inflatable maze, mountain climbing, and battle balls where you jump in by being in an inflatable bubble.
"We are hoping that more of the Valley comes to Holtville for this event. We love our snowbirds and our residents, but we want to open it up to the rest of the community, like Calexico, Heber, Imperial and so forth. This is already bigger than it was last year and we hope the momentum builds," Martinez concluded.