By Luke Phillips
DSC_0144The holiday season is kicking off with a bang this weekend as El Centro plays host to a slew of cheer-inducing events.
The fun starts off with the 64th Annual Los Vigilantes/El Centro Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau Christmas Parade. This year’s parade will begin at 12 noon at the corner of 12th Street and Main Street in El Centro. The parade was moved back from it’s traditional start time of 10 a.m. in an effort to better coordinate with other events planned for the day.
“It’s kind of an experiment,” said El Centro Chamber of Commerce Program Manager Sara Griffen, “We’ll see how successful it is and then plan accordingly for next year.”
The theme for this year’s parade is ‘Home for the Holidays’ and as a special part of that theme the El Centro Chamber of Commerce is recruiting Active Duty soldiers who are home for the holidays to serve as honorary grand marshals. “We’re working with a recruiter in El Centro,” said Griffen, “We have two or three lined up to ride in cars.” She says there will also be two groups of veterans marching in the parade alongside a Humvee and possibly other military vehicles.
This year’s parade will also be held in conjunction with the Imperial Valley Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk ’09. The Memory Walk is part of a nation-wide event that raised $350,000 for alzheimer’s research last year. Local Memory Walkers will be marching as an entry in the parade.
This year’s parade will also be bigger. There are 105 entries registered, up from 91 entries last year.
Part of the downtown area along Main Street will be cordoned off for the event, but according to Griffen, there will be plenty of parking along Main from 8th Street to 4th Street and at Bucklin Park where the parade route ends.
In another effort to better coordinate events, this year’s 8th Annual Tamale Fiesta is being held at the El Centro Police Department instead of Bucklin Park. Griffen said this move was made in order to place the celebration closer to the city’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony which will take place at 5 p.m.
The Tamale Fiesta will include games and fun for kids as well as entertainment provided by Mariachi Mixpeca, the Jugless Jugband and others. And of course there will be lots and lots of tamales and other Mexican food.
Tamale judges for the event include El Centro Mayor Sheryl Walker, Imperial County Sheriff Raymond Loera, El Centro Police Chief Jim McGinley, El Centro Fire Chief Chris Petree and the Consulate General from the Mexican Consulate in Calexico.
Santa is expected to drop by the fiesta at 3:30 p.m. to visit with the children and hear Christmas wish lists in person.
For those looking for something to do later in the evening, you will have a couple of options.
Dancin’ Feet will be performing ‘The Nutcracker’ at Southwest Performing Arts Theatre Saturday at 7 p.m. The theater is located at 2001 Ocotillo Dr. in El Centro. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under and are available at Clark Baker Music in El Centro.
Also Saturday, Pioneers Museum & Cultural Center, located at 373 Aten Rd. across from Imperial Valley College, will be hosting it’s 18th Annual Holiday Tour Around the World at 6 p.m.
The museum’s galleries – each representing a different ethnic group – will share traditional holiday performances, attire and cuisine and will decorate their gallery to reflect the influence they’ve had in the Imperial Valley.
Museum Director of Operations Lynn Housouer says the event is about “acceptance and teaching.”
“This is education for the old and the young alike,” she said, “It helps teach the history of how different ethnic groups celebrate the holidays. After all, we’re not all just Christians here. The Imperial Valley is such a melting pot.”
Admission to the Holiday Tour Around the World is $7 for adults and $3 for children ages eight and under.

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