California’s Imperial Valley Celebrates at the Holtville Carrot Festival
The Holtville Carrot Festival, held every February in California’s Imperial Valley, celebrates the area’s farm traditions.
A rainbow of produce – complete with waterfalls running through a "field of dreams" – opened the 2010 Holtville Carrot Festival.
Photo by James Predmore, Holtville Tribune
More than 103 years ago, a hardy group of pioneers found their way to the desert of California’s Imperial Valley where they helped settle a new imperial irrigation district off the Colorado River. From the sand and silt of the desert they coaxed fields of broccoli, carrots, lettuce and onions.
A century later that tradition endures. With four growing seasons a year, we can harvest two vegetable crops in the mild winter and turn around for a quick season of wheat or two swaths of alfalfa in the same year. Carrots are our specialty. Holtville has gained fame as “Carrot Capital of the World” and we celebrate that heritage annually at the Holtville Carrot Festival and Parade.
It’s an exciting time of the year when everyone gets out their best antiques to celebrate. A 95-year-old John Deere gas engine provides power to crank an ice cream freezer. Decades-old horse-drawn farm wagons alternate with parade floats and antique cars. In between are tractors of every vintage. School bands practice in the line-up as horses and riders wait nearby.
A large forklift bearing two enormous pallets leads the procession. On the pallets is an artful arrangement showcasing the valley’s bounty: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. A school band, the honor guard and a few floats pass, followed by the businesslike beat of a 2-cylinder John Deere tractor representing the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources Desert Research and Extension Center, El Centro. The 1936 John Deere Model D, a parade regular since its restoration in 1990, is at the head of the antique tractor contingent. Since much of our farming is done by International Harvester and Farmall tractors, most local John Deere collectors have to “import” collectibles!
Family shares hobby
A 1953 Massey-Harris Model 44 pulls the UC “Farm Smart” float alongside the Johnny Popper. Both tractors are owned by Nancy Caywood, extension educational outreach coordinator. She and her family restored the Massey-Harris tractor as a family project.
It began when her father saw the tractor advertised for sale a couple of years ago. Since Nancy was born in 1953, and she loves tractors, he asked if she wanted to look at this particular tractor. All it needed was a new carburetor, some rewiring and a few cosmetic touch-ups.
The answer was a resounding “yes,” followed by two months of work. Nancy and her mother scraped off old paint. Her husband and son helped repaint the relic. Her dad made mechanical repairs and tracked down replacement parts. Even the grandkids got involved, making repairs of their own.
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