The moment thousands of VC residents have been waiting for has arrived.
Valley Center’s biggest week, Western Days, is here. The events began Wednesday at the Valley Center Library, where they held the Bee & Butterfly Festival, and will continue Friday with the Guns & Hoses Chili Kitchen at Fire Station #1, then the Bee & Butterfly Festival. across the street. The festivities culminate with the parade on Saturday morning, followed by the festival at the Valley Center Municipal Water District property on Lilac Road.
For perhaps the first time, the event was funded by sponsors who wanted to be part of the event. Over $60,000 was raised this year, compared to approximately $35,000 in previous years. For this reason, it is free to attend and free parking.
This year’s theme is “Celebrating First Responders” and the parade will be led by Grand Marshals, including several local first responders. It will start at 10 a.m. and should end around noon.
The Grand Marshals, at the time of going to press were (subject to change):
Valley Center Grand Marshal Lieutenant James Emig
Valley Center Grand Marshal CHP Mark Latulippe
Valley Center Grand Marshal Valley Center Fire Chief Joe Napier
Valley Center Grand Marshal CalFire North Division Chief Robert Reynolds
Valley Center Grand Marshal San Pasqual Fire Chief Harold Rodriguez
Valley Center Grand Marshal San Pasqual Chief of Police Bob Bishop
Valley Center Grand Marshal Rincon Fire Chief Chip Duncan
Valley Center Grand Marshal Pala Fire Chief Doug Moriarty
Valley Center Grand Marshal Pauma Chief of Police Joe Lechnir
Valley Center Grand Marshal Pauma Fire Chief Tracy Hawk
Valley Center Grand Marshal La Jolla Fire Chief Wesley Ruise, Jr.
Valley Center Grand Marshal La Jolla Chief of Police Bruce Clay
They will all ride individually towards the start of the parade.
The final Western Days planning meeting before the event was held on Tuesday. It was led by President Gina Roberts, who announced, with supreme understatement, “There’s a lot going on.”
She said they had obtained 99% of the necessary permits. “The county team is doing everything they can to make this happen,” she said.
Roberts noted that Cruise Party Rentals would begin moving its tents to the festival grounds on Lilac Road on Wednesday. Roberts, who has been a long-time chili cooking champion, said the Guns & Hoses chili contest would involve, “Local speakers compete but you have to beat me!”
The chili contest will take place on Friday, starting at 5 p.m. It will probably continue until sunset. The Honorary Mayor’s race will be decided and announced at the end of the event, and there will be a Mayor’s fundraiser or two before that happens.
The end of the chili-cookoff will also mark the start of festival activities across the street, including two bands performing on stage. Street Heart Band will play at 5:30 p.m. and Brad Johnson & the Killin’ Time Band will follow at 8 p.m.
On Saturday, after the parade, three bands will perform at the festival: Bernie and the Beavers at 3:30 p.m., Sean Oliu and the Coastline Cowboys at 5:30 p.m. and Heidi & the Hurricane Band at 8 p.m.
Richard Tanner, who is president of the Heartbeat Classics, spoke about the motor show he organized and which will be at the festival on Saturday. “We have some great cars coming,” he said, with Mustangs, Dodges and other classic muscle cars in the lineup.
Roberts said there would be three light towers in the parking lot. Parking lanes will be marked with yellow tape to prevent drivers from wandering into ditches and gullies. There will also be cones to prevent anyone from entering the water district protected lands.
“Extreme congratulations to Gary Arant of the Water District,” Roberts said. “He had to go out of his way to get this property for us.”
Parade chair Laura Gordon said there were about 80 entries, some with multiple attendees, like the much-loved Shriners entry, which returns after several years of absence. There are also a dozen equestrian activities entrances and several car club entrances.
“I’m a little excited,” Roberts said. She mentioned the only unknown variable that could affect attendance: “It’s a different weekend, so it’s new.”
One wrinkle that hasn’t been encountered before is that early voting will take place at the VC Community Center at the same time as the parade and road closures. However, voters will be able to enter and exit on Lilac Road, but no one else. The county will provide monitors to ensure those claiming to be voters can prove it.
Shuttles will operate before and after the parade. A shuttle, an old fire truck, will be driven by Mike McDonald. The other is provided by Valley View Casino. The plan, Roberts said, is for them to shoot. They will stop for pedestrians who flag them down and let people off when they ask. They will operate between the VC Elementary School and the festival site.
Parade volunteers will receive breakfast when they start arriving around 7am.
Valley Center Road closes at 8:30 a.m. for the parade.
At 8:31 a.m., the Valley Center Trails Association will pass along VC Road during its rainy 5k between Lilac and Cole Grade Road. “The rules say if you don’t get to halfway by 9:30, you can’t finish,” Roberts said. About 50 runners have registered so far to participate, she said.
Advertisers will be placed at six strategic locations along Valley Center Road. They are David Ross, Jamie Zeller with Alexis Janssen, Charles & Marsi Carr, Tabetha Martin with Candace Mae Gruber, Oliver Smith and Everett Delano.
The street closure below has been CORRECTED from what appeared in Valley Center Magazine
Lilac Road will be closed at Betsworth, except for the entrance to the festival car park. There is no bypass for this closure.
Cole Grade Road will be closed to Fruitvale and you can go around the corner using Fruitvale to get to Sunset or MacTan.
VC Road West will be closed at Lizard Rocks Road to all cars except parade participants using School Bus Lane to stage.
Cole Grade Road South will be closed to VC Road. VC Road North will be closed at Old Road.
Prior to the parade, beginning at 7 a.m., the VC Rotary Club will cook pancakes, scrambled eggs and other dishes at the Old Towne Center (29115 Valley Center Road).
The festival will likely host the largest number of vendors ever for Western Days, 120, possibly more. This is, again, a factor is the larger footprint. In previous events, 50 vendors were usual.
This year’s lineup will include 17 food vendors. There are also two tents, which will house tables and chairs against the dance floor, and another with the Beer Garden with tables and chairs. You must be 21 or older to enter and you cannot take alcoholic beverages outside the fenced area. No alcohol will be permitted anywhere else within the festival grounds. No coolers will be allowed, so you can’t try to sneak in your own booze that way!
Alcohol will be provided by “Tap Truck”, which offers eight types of beer and four types of wine.
Dori Rattray, who is in charge of the race for the honorary mayor, reiterated that the race will end at fire station No. 1. In this case, the race is not always for the fastest or the rich. There are five candidate pairs, with each candidate paired with a first responder.
She noted that the fire station will include silent auction items, explorers to take pictures of children, tables and chairs and . . . prison. Where law-abiding citizens can be jailed and released only when they donate to their favorite charity.
There may also be spilled cornhole play when cooking the chili. Along with Chef Joe Napier and his “Buzzard’s Breath” chili, Lt. Jim Emig will cook “Chain Gang Chili.”
It’s all about raising money to help fund the Fire District Explorer Program.
Festival President Justin Salter thanked sponsors for raising more than enough to fund the events without the need for a county grant. Major sponsors included Terra-Gen, SDG&E, Palomar Health, Valley Roadrunner, Casino Pauma and Valley Center Wireless. “I think most of those top sponsors jumped in to help because we’re working with a larger area,” Salter said.
“Unfortunately, we just learned last night that it doesn’t look like we will be getting the proper license for the carnival and rides vendor,” Salter said. “We’ve been working with many entities to try and get things done, but it doesn’t look like we’ll have any rides this year like we all hoped.”