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Holtville California - The Carrot Capital of the World

Carrot Festival 2007 - Road Warriors Hit Town

Holtville California calls itself "Carrot Capital of the World", with some justification!

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 Carrots as the specialty. Holtville has gained fame as “Carrot Capital of the World” and celebrates 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!

John had the privilege and honour of visiting the 60th Annual Carrot Festival in Holtville California in February 2007.  Meeting up with fellow carrot collectors Jeff and Zizi, we were dubbed the Carrot Road Warriors and were the stars of the main street parade.   The float was festooned with beautiful posters handsomely crafted by Quentin and Ellen Burke our local hosts, who treated us like royalty.  Jeff managed to include some of his rare carrot bags on the vehicle, and the crowds were treated to the full display of Zizi's tattoos depicting 31 carrots in total.  The parade also featured marching groups,  bands and a myriad of floats and some mounted entries.

Great fun was had by all as we sampled the winning entries in the carrot cook off competition. Prior to the announcement of the winners, John was invited to draw the raffle tickets. Each Carrot Road Warrior gave a short talk on their collections and activities in the carrot world. Our thanks to Soroptimist President Margaret Riddle, and her cohorts Margie Stacey and Sylvia Nelson and the other volunteers who stage he contest and who made us so welcome.

After the main events we also got to visit local carrot growing areas, see the geothermal power plant, have a dip in a natural hot spring and view the glorious sand dunes nearby.

Earlier in the week that had been a mighty rib cook off, where 16000 pounds of pork ribs had been cooked and consumed in the day!  We were treated to samples of the prize winners, which Quentin had specially saved for our arrival. On hand for us to have with the ribs was the winning sauce from the contest: Hosa-Bs Original Recipe, which combined honey, strawberries, tabasco and other "secret" ingredients. Yummy! Thank you, Don and Skip Williams of Modesto!

There was a fun fair in the town park and a multi coloured craft and gift fair, where the Carrot people jostled cheek by jowl for carrot goodies.

There was a welcome to the Warriors from Grimmway Farms out in the carrot field. Holding a sign from our float was field foreman Medrano Pastor of Bakersfield. Grimmway carrots are shipped all over North America

Full press reports of the events can be read hereMore photos of the float and the harvest here.

Holtville Chamber of Commerce here.

Left: the Carrot Road Warriors about to experience the Parade.

Right: Jeff and John are convinced by Zizi to have temporary tattoos!!

Jeff also sporting his carrot shorts.

 

 

The Carrot Gang in the field pulling real carrots


Jeff, Quentin, Ellen and Zizi inspecting a carrot patch - notice the bandana which Michele found in the Festival market. The Carrot Road Warriors leaving town, via the Sand Dunes

 

Samples of the winning dishes from the Carrot Cook Off


Mark Garewal cooks a pig on a rotisserie Sunday during the second annual Dia De Familia cook-off, which concluded the 60th annual Holtville Carrot Festival.

The 60th annual Holtville Carrot Festival Parade with entries of all types rolling down Fifth Street. The big winner of the day was Rusty Payne and his Highline Cooling float, which won the commercial float, best use of theme and sweepstakes trophies.

Holtville Rib Cook Off Holtville Carrot Festival Parade Float

More photos of the float and the harvest here.

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