Imperial Valley Alive - Spring 2024

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Spring 2024
Spring 2024 2 NEVER JUMP INTO CANALS NEVER PLAY NEAR CANALS NEVER SWIM IN CANALS STAY AWAY, STAY ALIVE. Visit Dippy Duck’s Facebook page  / DippyDuckSafety or for more information and activities. Dippy Duck wants to remind everyone to this summer.

Publishers' Message

Spring means something different for we who live in this southeastern corner of the Colorado Desert. Here, our garden flowers are wrapping up their blooming season and the vegetable fields we drive past on our way to work or out of town are nearing the end of production.

The segue from Spring to Summer is a fleeting one, one that finds us taking advantage of every opportunity to spend time outdoors. It’s a time many of us savor, because all too shortly we’ll be making adjustments that are so crucial to surviving summertime in the low desert.

This, our Spring 2024 issue, reflects our shared determination, enjoyment, and the opportunities our unique environment offers.

Spring in every part of the nation brings the crack of bats echoing through a ballpark, the cheers of the crowd as runners take their bases. Locally, teams of young baseball players can be found competing on Little League or high school fields throughout our county. Our cover story by Darren Simon, however, opens the window on a different kind of Little League team: the Challenger Division. Here, players with various challenges, who may not have a chance to play elsewhere, have found a home field and a network of coaches, parents, and supporters.

As you turn the pages, you’ll learn from writer/photographer Charla Teeters Stewart about the Imperial Valley Swiss Club and the 100th anniversary of its

Grab the fleeting joy of Spring

founding. As detailed in Swiss Club history, the first Swiss arrived in the Valley in the early 1900s, braving a climate and terrain far removed from the mountains and lush valleys of their homeland. The club recently celebrated a century of contributions to the Imperial Valley complete with its 103nd Schwingfest, a Swiss-style wrestling competition.

We also bring you stories of some of the unique individuals who live and work among us, people like Betty Jo McNeece, for whom the county’s receiving home is named. At 87, Betty Jo remains the ever youthful, dynamic ball of energy who some 30 years ago was tasked with raising funds for the receiving home. In this story by Julie Smith Taylor, you’ll learn the circumstances that led to Betty Jo’s determination to help others.

Stefanie Greenberg tells us about Bo Shropshire, an easily recognized and recently retired California MidWinter Fair Board member whose diverse talents include intricate leather craftsmanship, learned as a child and honed throughout his life.

We also celebrate the 70th anniversary of Sun Community Federal Credit Union, which began life in El Centro as Government Agencies Federal Credit Union. Writer Bill Gay tells us Sun Community’s story today, where it came from and where it’s going.

Then, we offer tips on hiking, especially staying safe as temperatures climb. And we explore the gardens

and museums of The Huntington near Pasadena, an easy getaway for those looking to briefly escape summer’s temperatures.

As always, we bring you lists of local restaurants, and a calendar filled with activities in the coming months.

Please enjoy these stories brought by the writers and photographers who help make Imperial Valley Alive the magazine it is today. We hope you find them as educational and delightful as we do. 

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Bill Gay Susan Giller Peggy Dale Sue Gay Bill Amidon Some of the shrubs at The Huntington in San Marino. - Photo by Peggy Dale


Bill Gay

Sue Gay

Susan Giller

Bill Amidon

Peggy Dale


Stefanie Greenberg

Darren Simon

Julie Smith Taylor

Charla Teeters Stewart

Shelby Trimm


Alejandra Noriega


Alejandra Noriega

Alejandra Pereida

Stefanie Greenberg

Peggy Dale


Alejandra Noriega

Alejandra Pereida


Sergio Uriarte

Jesus Uriarte

Bill Amidon

Heidi Gutierrez

John Lovecchio

Bo Shropshire demonstrates the intricate leatherwork he crafts at his Imperial home and workshop. - Photo by Alejandra Pereida


Special needs sports program hits a home run, Page 6

Childhood experiences motivated Betty Jo McNeece’s desire to do more, Page 8


Bo Shropshire: Cowboy crafts works of art in leather, Page 10


Sun Community marks 70 years of serving Valley, Page 12

Valley’s Swiss community turns 100, Page 14


Learn the many ways growers work to conserve water, Page 16

COLAB advocates for county roads, bridge improvements, Page 18


Get moving in the great outdoors with hiking tips, Page 20

Exquisite gardens, museum make for refreshing getaway, Page 22

COVER PHOTO: Christian Sanchez, 22, waits for the pitch while Aria Alcantra, 8, waits her turn in the dugout during a Challenger League game.

-Photo by Alejandra Noriega

Spring 2024 4
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Publishers’ message, Page 3 Dining options, Pages 23-26

Calendar of events, Pages 28-29

Kidwise, Page 39

Spring 2024 5
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Taking a break in the shade with some refreshing lemonade, members of the younger generation enjoyed traditional games and activities at the Swiss Club's 100th anniversary. - Photo by Charla Teeters Stewart Audubon prints at The Huntington in San Marino. - Photo by Peggy Dale Betty Jo McNeece - Photo by Peggy Dale

Challenger League

At the familiar crack of a baseball against a bat, 8-year-old Jackson Norwood sprang into action, diving to keep the ball in the infield between first and second base. He then jumped up and threw the ball to first base.

Nathan Espinosa, 24, stood at home plate and pointed his bat to center field. With the help of a tee, he sent a line drive into the outfield. As he ran to each base, he slid, dirtying his blue camouflage baseball jersey, which didn’t matter to him at all.

Not to be outdone, Samantha Franco, 10, walloped the ball to send a screamer down the third base line.

Norwood, Espinosa, and Franco are just three of the youth and young adults who gathered in Evans Park in Imperial on a recent Saturday for a unique Little League baseball program — the Imperial

Camaraderie, team spirit at heart of special needs program

Valley Little League Challenger Division. For 16 years, the league has given Valley youth with special needs the chance to experience the joy and camaraderie of playing baseball. Currently, there are more than 30 participants in the league.

“I really like playing baseball, and I want to be a pro someday,” said Jackson, who belted a shot into the outfield during his turn at-bat despite having cerebral palsy, which limits movement on his left side. While running to first base, he stopped to wave to his mother and told her she had to take him to Target for a reward.

Created by Little League International in 1989, the Challenger League is an adaptive baseball program for individuals with physical and intellectual challenges. The program serves those between the ages of 4 and 18 or up to age 22 if still enrolled in school. A Senior League Challenger Division accommodates players ages 15 and above, with no

ABOVE: Esther "Teté¨ Rodriguez goes for the ball at first base while Isabella Garcia goes to help field the ball.

maximum age.

The program was introduced in the Imperial Valley in 2008 under the leadership of Imperial Valley native Tony Ojeda, a longtime coach and leader within the Valley’s Little

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TOP: Camila Fernandez (left) and Esther "Teté¨ Rodriguez keep their eyes on the next batter during a recent Challenger League game.
- Photos by Alejandra Noriega

League programs. He currently serves as president of the Imperial Valley Challenger League.

While serving as district administrator of all Valley Little League divisions, Ojeda attended a regional event at which the Challenger League was promoted. Maintaining the program remains his passion.

“When they hit the ball on their own, and they run to first base, and they turn around to the crowd and raise their hands like Rocky, and the crowd goes wild, their faces light up,” said Ojeda, who began coaching Little League at age 19. Now 66, he is still enthusiastic about the sport.

“It lights me up just as much,” said Ojeda, who owns Ojeda Industries, an agricultural and industrial parts store, in Brawley.

It is hard not to get enthusiastic when watching youth who might not otherwise have a chance to participate in a team sport play in a Challenger League game. From Jan. 1, the games are played on Saturdays at Evans Park in Imperial. The season ends when the weather gets too hot.

The participants, both boys and girls,

play a two-inning game. Everyone gets a chance to hit and play defense. There are no teams. Everyone wears the same uniform, a blue camouflage jersey, and a black baseball cap with the word Challenger embroidered on the front (all provided thanks to the community).

And everyone has the chance to run the bases and experience a win.

There is also a public address system, from which each youth’s own song is played as he or she walks up to the plate to take a turn at bat.

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Aria Alcantra, followed by Dustin Nichols, exits the tunnel created by family and supporters after the game. Jonathan Muñoz is at right. - Photo by Alejandra Noriega

Betty Jo McNeece Keeps

on giving

Betty Jo McNeece may have turned 87 years old April 25, but her decades of service to the Imperial Valley continue to positively impact the lives of others. Her legacy will undoubtedly be her dedication to creating a warm and welcoming place for the community’s most vulnerable children requiring assistance.

Her tireless efforts began more than 35 years ago. For decades, children in need of temporary shelter were sent to Juvenile Hall in Imperial County. Starting in the 1950s, abandoned, neglected, and abused children were sent to what was called Los Niños, a program then housed in the old County Hospital building. The World War II-era facility south of El Centro was a drafty, old building that was never intended to be a warm and welcoming place to care for children.

Betty Jo was volunteering with girls in the county Juvenile Hall in 1985 when she learned more about Los Niños. She decided something had to be done, so she asked the county chief probation officer if she could work to help renovate it. A housewife for most of her life, she said she was shocked when he challenged her to help build a brand-new facility instead. At first, she didn’t think she could do it, but with some guidance and determination, she worked to turn the dream into a reality.

She started a grassroots campaign, built community support and ultimately passed a bond issue to raise the funds to build a new facility for the program. Seven years later in 1992, the facility opened its doors south of El Centro.

To honor her work, the county Board of Supervisors named the new facility The Betty Jo McNeece Receiving Home. Today, the receiving home provides care and shelter for about 500 children a year who receive care for up to 10 days until a permanent placement is available. The facility has a large kitchen, laundry facility, dining room, two wings of nicely decorated bedrooms for boys and girls, a toy room, a playground, and a caring staff to provide a home-like environment.

The first thing Betty Jo will tell you is that she didn’t do this by herself.

“There was a lot of help behind me,” she says. “I would talk to people I knew, call up family members, and network whenever I could. I created little groups in each town across the county. We would have monthly meetings at the Imperial Valley Press offices because the staff was also very supportive,” she explains.

“It’s amazing what our county does for others. I have found people to be so generous when it comes to programs for women and children.”

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Betty Jo McNeece sits in front of a wall full of mementos from her years of raising funds for the county's receiving home named after her. - Photo by Peggy Dale


Even after the new receiving home was built, Betty Jo continued to work to support the children in need. She established the VIPs (Volunteers in Probation), a group of volunteers who took the kids on fi eld trips, hosted parties and helped in other ways.

“We would raise funds to pay for everything and get even more volunteers to help,” she says. “Each year, there is a toy drive organized by the ABATE Motorcycle Group and the I.V. Motorcycle Club. Then the Lions Club throws a Christmas Party for the children. We also get additional help from local churches and other organizations that we are so grateful for,” she explains.

“To help the children feel empowered, we built a little store in the home where kids could ‘buy’ items and gifts for their family members based on points they earned. They even offered children ways they could give back and help others at Christmas time by delivering food and gifts to those less fortunate. “That’s a gift in itself,” says Betty Jo.

Betty Jo was born in Calexico. She graduated from Central Union High School in El Centro and married her high school sweetheart, Robert McNeece. They were married 68 years before Robert passed in May 2023.

“We raised four children, have 11 grandchildren and will soon have a total of 26 great-grandchildren,” she says


Teacher Appreciation

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Help us celebrate local teachers and staff!

Last year we donated 2500 bags to teachers all over Imperial County. Donate essential items for teacher bags!

*You can choose from one of the many schools we will be donating to or choose them all!

Support local by purchasing items from local businesses!

Last day to donate:

August 2, 2024

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card sent by Betty Jo McNeece the first Christmas after her husband, Bob, passed away is framed on her office wall. - Photo by Peggy Dale

Bo Shropshire

In an area deep-rooted in cattle and cowboys, it’s only fitting that longtime resident Bo Shropshire found a home for his family and love of leatherwork in the Imperial Valley.

No stranger to farm life, Shropshire grew up on a farm in Blythe with familial ties to agriculture and cotton gin production. Shropshire carved a path

Semi-retirement looks good on this cowboy

for himself with a career in pest control management. Though he retired three years ago following a more than 46year career, he keeps his hand in the field by offering soil consultation services.

While Shropshire is a fixture in the local ag industry and community involvement, he has also made a name for himself as a leather craftsman and artist. He acknowledged he has about

Bo Shropshire shows how a leather Bible cover he is making for a friend will come together. - Photo by Alejandra Pereida

55 years of experience with the craft. Now 70, he is thrilled to have the space at his Imperial home and the time to devote about six to eight hours a week to working on leather, creating belts for friends, or commissioned pieces.

Shropshire credits the origin of his craft to the late Helen Corwin, who worked for Porters of Arizona, a Western store in Phoenix. According to the obituary that ran following her death in 2018, she even built a saddle in 1958 for actor James Arness, who played Matt Dillon in the long-running television series Gunsmoke.

Despite Shropshire’s own expertise, he recalls Corwin’s talent with awe. He cites her ability to cut leather without a pattern and how much he loved watching her craftsmanship. He treasures a belt in his collection that Corwin made for him when he was 4 or 5 years old.

It’s easy to glean Shropshire’s passion for all things leatherwork, from how he speaks to the nuances of leather and tooling to his remarkable collection of hand tools and sewing machines.

“You don’t have to have much,” explains Shropshire, saying anyone could invest in a swivel knife and a halfdozen tools and then sew the pieces by hand.

“If somebody wants to get into leatherworking, you can get onto YouTube and find all sorts of artisans that can guide you,” he added.

Shropshire began his own collection years ago and has always integrated

This leather corner, complete with turquoise pieces, is part of a podium Shropshire created in memory of the late Debbie Cameron. The podium will be used at California Mid-Winter Fair animal events.

- Photo courtesy of Bo Shropshire

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Shropshire demonstrates leatherwork.

a space in his home for his work. From a workbench to when he and his wife, Aleta, were just married, the Shropshires have built an impressive new workshop at their Imperial home that includes a well-appointed and complete shop and office stacked with hides of leather and displays of finished purses, book covers, and belts.

“It’s so much fun,” he said. “You give something to somebody that you’ve handmade, it means something.”

Invaluable gifts to family and friends to works of art have become his legacy. Among his notable creations is the leather artwork he provided for the Pioneers Memorial Hospital Foundation fundraising auction that pays homage to the Cattle Call and is framed with repurposed wood from an abandoned


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Sun Community

Credit union celebrates its 70th and community

Over its 70 years in business, Sun Community Federal Credit Union has evolved with a changing industry to meet the needs of a growing community.

It had modest beginnings on March 9, 1954: 10 charter members with its first office opening in a vacant detention cell in the basement of the Calexico Port of Entry. A few years later, it moved to the basement of the Calexico Post Office.

From its humble beginnings, Sun Community has grown to more than 50,000 members today. That small detention cell has been replaced by eight branches and a call center in the Imperial and Coachella valleys, which today support Sun Community’s assets of more than $750 million.

As its website notes, “Your community

is our community. We make local decisions, and your money stays here: the place we call home.”

A recent proclamation presented to Sun Community Chief Executive Officer Patrick Carey and Board Chair Juan Cruz by the El Centro City Council focused on the community aspects of its heritage.

A comment by Councilman Edgard Garcia summed it up: “The epitome of what you stand for is community.” El Centro Mayor Sylvia Marroquin, who worked at Sun for 15 years, agreed. “I have lived it,” she said.

The Sun Community name is a relatively recent brand change due to changes in its membership criteria. In fact, it has gone through several names.

Fourteen years after those 10 people became charter members, the Imperial Valley State Employees Federal

Credit Union changed its name to the Government Agencies Federal Credit Union, which became known by its acronym, “GAFCU.”

GAFCU outgrew its Calexico Post Office and moved to 1407 State St., El Centro, in 1968. Eleven years later, it constructed a new location at 1441 State St.

Nancy Thornburg experienced the institution’s growth during those years. Thornburg began her banking career in 1977 at what was then IMPCO Federal Credit Union, which then served employees of the County of Imperial.

During that period, a challenging economy, high unemployment, and inflation, coupled with the deregulation of interest rates, created a difficult business environment for small credit unions.

Thornburg went to work for GAFCU in

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Sun Community Federal Credit Union CEO Patrick Carey, 4th from left, and retired GAFCU CEO Beverly Dawson, 6th from left, join credit union team members with tenures of 20 or more years at a celebration of Sun Community's 70th anniversary at the El Centro branch on March 16. Photo courtesy of Sun Community Federal Credit Union - Photos courtesy of Sun Community Federal Credit Union

April of 1980.

Noting it was “trying times” during those years, Thornburg said, “I knew I wasn’t able to go any further at IMPCO, and it was a good thing I did that.”

She was soon followed by the rest of IMPCO employees that October when regulators forced the countyemployee credit union into a merger with Thornburg’s new employer.

The result virtually doubled GAFCU’s assets to about $8 million.

GAFCU’s assets at Government Agencies had grown to about $14 million when Beverly Dawson came to Imperial Valley from a San Diego-area credit union in 1985 and assumed the job as chief executive officer.

Her award-winning 17-year career there built the foundation for its operations today. By the time of her retirement in 2002, those assets were $138 million.

Dawson, who currently lives in Washington state, recently made a return visit to El Centro and Sun Community to help celebrate its 70th anniversary at an event held March 16 outdoors between the credit union’s two buildings.

“Bev was an amazing CEO,” Thornburg said. “She empowered her employees, and that’s how our mindset would be.” Thornburg was part of the institution’s leadership during Dawson’s tenure.

Dawson said she went to work in implementing modernization efforts using lessons she brought from San Diego. For example, “I was huge in putting ATMs everywhere,” such as the Port of Entry, the Naval Air Facility, and other locations. Internally, she worked on updating computer systems.

Thornburg remembers Dawson as a person who believed in teamwork. “We worked very hard and played hard, too,” she said, “We were always doing promotions of some sort.”

Dawson, said Thornburg, wanted Government Agencies “to be a place where people enjoyed coming to work.”

By 1991, GAFCU had outgrown its State Street location and built the 17,500 square-foot headquarters building at its current El Centro branch location, 1068 Broadway.

Dawson was also a proactive innovator.

One example is given in a professional magazine, Dimensions, about Dawson

Officials of what was then Government Agencies Federal Credit Union prepare to break ground more than 30 years ago for what is now Sun Community's branch in El Centro. It began in a vacant detention cell in Calexico with 10 members and now has eight branches in both the Imperial and Coachella valleys.

that was written shortly before her retirement in 2002.

It noted she was “the right person for her business situation.” In 1997, Congress considered legislation to establish Community Development Credit Unions (CDCU). That move for GAFCU would open membership to all Imperial County residents.

The designation would apply to anyone who “works, lives or worships in Imperial County.”

The article noted, “The charter (was) secured by Dawson and Co. a mere four weeks after congressional approval in 1998.” The CEO told the magazine, “We were a poster child for CDCU status. We wanted to serve people who would not otherwise be eligible for membership.”

The new designation also included a special low-income designation for its service area. According to the Sept. 28, 1998, Imperial Valley Press announcement article, special status was given to credit unions in “investment areas where people of modest means are ‘underserved’ by other financial institutions.”

The Credit Union Digest noted in June 2001 that GAFCU, under Dawson’s leadership, had become the largest community development credit union in the nation, serving a low-income, predominantly Hispanic county.

“GAFCU’s business plan includes serving the entire community either with high touch or high tech,” it noted.

The name change to Sun Community came shortly after Dawson retired. Thornburg noted that the name of

Government Agencies/GAFCU was creating some confusion among its potential members. “The perception was that you had to be a government employee to join,” she said.

And Sun Community is not resting on its laurels.

“At Sun, we know every member of the credit union is also an owner,” said Sun Chief Executive Officer Carey. “By remaining laser focused on providing the best possible pricing and service to our members, we have grown to become the largest locally owned bank or credit union in our communities.

“We are proud to serve everyone from government workers to field workers, from mom-and-pop shops to large businesses, with high touch or high tech, in English or in Spanish. We are proud to continue the tradition of service and innovation that Beverly Dawson and Nancy Thornburg held,” he said.

It is embarking on a major building campaign, which includes remodeling of the Imperial and El Centro branches, construction of two new branches in the Coachella Valley (Coachella and Cathedral City) and relocation of the Palm Springs branch.

And part of this expansion will bring it full circle.

Remember that vacant Calexico detention cell of nearly a quarter-century ago? It will be a fading memory with the opening of the future new branch in that city that is part of these plans. 

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Swiss Club

Celebrates traditions, sports, community

The Imperial Valley is a rich tapestry of cultures—a melting pot of ethnicities, traditions, heritage, and all the food and festivals they generously share. This unique composition makes the Valley a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. It is also a place where different cultures thrive and are appreciated for their uniqueness and contributions.

One such ethnic group is the Swiss. The Swiss began settling primarily in the Holtville area of Imperial Valley in 1901, as they sought the opportunity to fulfill dreams of land ownership and the chance to work for themselves. Many Swiss came to the Valley making it a “favored dairy spot in Southern California, with more than 24,000 dairy cows producing 6 million pounds of butter annually,” according to

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Paul Leimgruber and Joshua Haugh engage in the traditional Swiss sport of Schwingen (wrestling) at the Swiss Club's 100th anniversary - Photos by Charla Teeters Stewart
Cheryl VonFlue and daughter Brittney VonFlue honor their Swiss heritage in traditional Dirndl dresses, posing proudly in front of the Swiss Club museum.

Pioneers Museum material published in 1992.

While only one of the original dairies is still operating today, the Swiss remain a significant force in farming and contributing to the Valley’s growing agricultural juggernaut.

This close-knit group of hardworking people loves to gather and continue their tradition of sport, music, food,

and dance. In 1921, the first Swiss Schwingfest was held in the Imperial Valley. This event was the impetus for the formation of the Swiss Club of Imperial Valley, which is at 1585 E. Worthington Road in Holtville.

On Saturday, April 13, the Swiss Club celebrated its 100th anniversary and 103rd Schwingfest.

With wrestling events, traditional

games and music, authentic sausages and food, and plenty of drink and dance, the Schwingfest celebrated all things Swiss and the club's longevity. Swiss Club President John Britschgi said the club is important because it helps keep his family connected to their heritage.

“It is important to keep the cultural traditions alive so they can be passed

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Hundreds converge at the Swiss Club of Imperial Valley on April 13 to commemorate the organization's centennial milestone. - Photo by Charla Teeters Stewart


Sustaining produce through conservation

For growers in the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association (IVVGA), producing the highest-quality crops to feed the nation remains their priority. However, they also recognize the importance of sustainable agriculture through conservation and have implemented innovative irrigation methods that save hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water each year.

Not only have their major investments in conservation helped support the Colorado River, the Imperial Valley’s sole source of water, but through the efficiencies they have implemented, growers have been able to save water while increasing the productivity of their fields.

In some instances, growers in the IVVGA report increasing their yields by more than 50 percent while using less water.

Annually, the Valley conserves about 500,000 acre-feet of water with growers providing much of that savings through direct on-farm conservation practices and indirectly through daily operational decisions that also save water. By way of context, one acre-foot is enough to serve two families of four for a year.

Now, growers are being asked to conserve more through a new federal program to address the effects of drought on the river. IVVGA growers stand ready to respond, using the efficiencies and knowledge they’ve developed over time.

This article identifies some of the innovative conservation steps IVVGA members have taken to conserve water supplies.

Solid-Set Sprinkler Irrigation

 One of the most commonly used methods of conservationminded irrigation in use in the Valley is sprinkler irrigation.

 Requiring heavy investments in pipelines and pumping systems, water is scattered by a system of pressureregulated spray heads and rotors that rise just above crops and cover a large surface with a uniform spray.

 Jack Vessey of Vessey and Co. said sprinkler irrigation not only conserves water, it also enables greater yields, as growers can plant on wider beds with greater crop density.

 In effect, he said, the combination of moving to wider beds and sprinkler irrigation have both enabled him to save up to 1.5 acre-feet of water per acre and increase yields by up to 50 percent.

Drip Irrigation and Subsurface Drip Irrigation

 Drip irrigation is another method farmers in the Valley have implemented to deliver water and nutrients directly to roots in precise amounts. This method uses drip tubing, emitters, and valves.

 This system minimizes water runoff, evaporation, and soil percolation.

 The drip irrigation system can be placed on top of or under the soil, in what is called subsurface drip irrigation.

 Farmer Alex Jack of Jack Bros. Inc., said through drip irrigation he can save up to 3 acre-feet of water per acre on his lettuce fields while doubling production.

Tailwater Recovery

 Tailwater recovery is a form of conservation associated with furrow irrigation, most often used on alfalfa or other forage crops in the Imperial Valley.

 It involves the use of pumpback systems to recover irrigation run-off.

 Facilities, like storage reservoirs, are needed to collect the tailwater so that it can be reused, creating a water supply savings.

 Thomas Cox said tailwater recovery can be implemented faster than other conservation methods and can conserve up to one and a half acre-feet.

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Sprinkler irrigation on Vessey and Co. land. - Photo courtesy of Jack Vessey
An automatic valve opener for drip irrigation. - Photo courtesy of Alex Jack

Micro-Sprinkler Irrigation

 Similar to drip irrigation, micro-sprinkler irrigation provides conservation through a more targeted, localized irrigation flow.

 It is commonly used in the Imperial Valley on citrus trees.

 IVVGA President Thomas Cox of Lawrence Cox Ranches said that in his operations, two micro sprinklers are placed on either side of each tree and provide a 180-degree spray that targets the root system.

Micro-Sprinkler Irrigation.

 Under this form of irrigation, he said, his operation is saving up to 2.5 half acre-feet per acre compared to older irrigation methods.

Wireless Soil Moisture Sensor Probes

 Technology is continuing to play an increasing role in Imperial Valley fields to both manage water and maintain healthy crops.

 One such technological advancement is the use of wireless soil moisture sensor probes, which are placed four feet deep within the soil and provide constant data on moisture.

 That, in turn, enables farmers to determine the exact amount of irrigation needed.

 Alex Jack said the information provided by the probes lets him know when the roots have the water they need, so water can then be shut off.

 Thanks to the soil probes, he is able to conserve nearly an acre-foot per acre in his onion fields.


 This is a process associated with organic farming that relies on covering the soil after a crop is harvested with a plastic film to prevent the spread of bacteria and weeds.

 It has the added effect of conserving water.

 Scott Howington of Oasis Farms, whose operation focuses on organic farming, said he can conserve up to one and a half acre-feet per acre of water on his fields through this organic farming practice.

These conservation actions, plus others that IVVGA growers have implemented, like field reconfiguration, precision land leveling, and the use of other new technology such as climate sensors, come with challenges, largely related to major capital investments and recurring costs.

However, Imperial Valley growers remain committed to sustainable agriculture and safeguarding water resources while ensuring the Valley’s ag economy continues to succeed and that the nation’s food needs can continue to be met. 

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Solarization. - Photo courtesy of Scott Howington - Photo courtesy of Thomas Cox


Advocating for roads, bridge improvements

The purpose of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business (COLAB) is to advocate for its members on issues of key concern. Yet the goals we strive to achieve offer benefits that extend far beyond the specific concerns of the coalition’s membership. At its core, our advocacy focuses on creating a better future for all in the Imperial Valley.

A case in point is COLAB’s continuing advocacy for improvements to Imperial County’s road and bridge system. Daily, you will hear complaints from COLAB members and anyone who travels through the region about the condition of county roads and bridges. For some COLAB members, the closure of damaged bridges often adds hours of detours to the workday and expensive repairs to equipment and vehicles that have been damaged while traveling on rough pavement.

COLAB advocates for changing this reality, not just for our members but for all of us who rely on the county’s roads and for future jobs and economic growth.

To be fair, county Public Works Director John Gay and his department have made a lot of progress in the past few

years by implementing some innovative methods and seeking federal funding for some projects. He has also been collaborative in seeking solutions and transparent about the issues facing the county.

For instance, the county Public Works Department launched an online form for reporting problems after meetings with COLAB. To use it, go to the website report-a-pothole.

While fixing potholes is important, it falls short of a full solution. The root of the county's problem is a systemic state funding formula that favors urban areas and puts our region at a severe disadvantage. With 2,555 miles of roads, 1,349 of which are paved, Imperial County ranks 7th out of California's 58 counties in terms of miles it maintains. However, due to the state’s funding formula, which favors population-dense urban areas, Imperial County receives road funds that place it in the bottom third of the state’s counties.

Adding to the issues is the fact that the county maintains 138 bridges on its road system, most of which are old, and many are deteriorating timber structures. In 2023, the county completed the construction of two north-south bridges that had snarled traffic between El Centro and Calexico that had been out of

service for nearly a year. The Clark Road bridge over the Central Main Canal south of the Sheriff’s Office was replaced, as was the Dogwood Road bridge, also over the Central Main Canal, south of Heber.

Gay deserves a lot of credit for taking a new, expeditious, and cost-effective approach to building the bridges in both locations. For the first time, the county installed an “off-the-shelf” or prefabricated steel truss bridge to span the canal in both locations. The completion of these two bridge projects eliminates a major transportation logjam and bolsters the safety and resilience of the county road system.

Recently, federal funding has been approved for important additional county bridge projects. And Lithium Valley funding has been approved for some road and bridge projects to support lithium extraction projects.

Despite the progress, many other bridge projects are waiting in the wings, desperate for repair or replacement.

The need for work on county bridge and pavement projects is not isolated to any single area, so it is no surprise that there are frequent complaints about the transportation infrastructure.

Yet if today’s infrastructure does not satisfy the public’s current transportation needs, how will it embrace the prospects of lithium industry development and the

Spring 2024 18

a year after the major thoroughfare was closed due to a deteriorating timber bridge. -

job creation it promises?

That is why improving county roads and bridges takes on added urgency now, and it remains one of COLAB’s top advocacy priorities. We realize the solutions needed to improve the county transportation system extend beyond local boundaries, so COLAB continues to meet and collaborate with the county to realize solutions.

We support Gay’s proposal to change the state funding formula to make it more equitable for our rural county, which must maintain a high number of road miles. We also support the county’s efforts to get state and federal funding for vitally needed road projects.

COLAB makes this a top advocacy priority to help realize the dream of a resilient and efficient county road system that meets the public’s needs and supports job and economic growth. 

Spring 2024 19
The construction of a prefab steel truss bridge on Dogwood Road across the Central Main Canal, south of Heber, allowed traffic to resume in 2023, Photos by Alejandra Noriega The Dogwood Road bridge replacement project represents a new approach by Imperial County's Public Works Department to maintain and improve the region's aging road and bridge infrastructure.

To the Trail!

If you’ve ever wondered what’s past a trailhead or what’s above in the mountains beyond, now is the time to get outside and find out! You can’t find better vistas in the desert or on a mountain peak in spring before summer hits.

While all it takes to hike is getting outside and moving toward a destination, if you’re looking to navigate the trails, it’s best to follow precautions for safety and to have the most positive experience possible.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:


First, decide where you want to go and

Hiking tips to safely venture out

find the available trails in that area. The AllTrails website and app is an amazing resource. While the free app is useful, purchasing the subscription allows for map downloads for when you’re out of service range. It also has preview videos of the trail that are helpful to see elevation and assess difficulty. How far or for how long do you want to hike? While you may be able to walk a mile in less than 15 minutes, navigating elevation, rocky pebbles or narrow corridors makes for an easy 20- to 30-minute per mile estimate. What are the trail conditions and forecasted weather? What is the parking availability? Is there a fee for entrance to get to the trailhead?

Be Prepared

While it’s OK to hike heavily trafficked trails solo, it’s suggested to travel with at least one other person. Service can be spotty and trail conditions or health can be unpredictable, and now you have a photo

Spring 2024 20
Joshua Tree National Park. - Photo by Stefanie Greenberg
Three Sisters Falls near Julian. - Photo by Alejandra Noriega


Each year, trail-goers underestimate the intense heat in the desert. Dehydration when hiking may occur at any time, but to hike in heat without sufficient hydration is dangerous. Pack enough water to get you through your whole hike. Invest in a small daypack for shorter hikes with a small bladder and in a larger pack that can carry as much water as you need in a largersized bladder. Throw some ice cubes in your bladder to melt as you hike for a refreshing treat.

10 Essentials

Whether carrying a small pack or a fullsize backpacking pack, every hiker should at minimum carry the 10 essentials.

According to the American Hiking Society, they are: appropriate footwear, map and compass/GPS, water, food, rain gear & dry-fast layers, safety items (light, fire and a whistle), first-aid kit, knife or multi-tool, sun protection and shelter (space blanket at minimum).

Find your tribe

Hikers love to share their knowledge and are some of the friendliest bunch on a trail. If you don’t know anyone who wants to hit the trails, search for a local meet-up group online that’s in your area. The meet-up groups vary from singles, co-ed, women-only, and more. Groups host meet-ups and some host other non-hiking events to socialize or travel together! The Hikerbabes group enlists ambassadors, or local experts, to lead hikes and host camping/hiking trips. That particular organization also hosts member trips ranging from national parks to international excursions.

Remember to look up from the trail and see the majestic beauty that surrounds us. Breathe in the fresh air, take in the sunshine, eat a snack and take time for photos. See you on the trail!

In Imperial County, meet-up groups include IVDM Lowlanders and the more experienced Jacumba Hikers. Information on both groups is available at https://www.ivdesertmuseum. org/explore/hiking. 

Stefanie Greenberg is a member of the Hikerbabes hiking community,

The Three Sisters trail becomes more rugged, steep, rocky, and some sections of the trail have loose gravel.

Spring 2024 21
- Photo by Alejandra Noriega




Treasures fill The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden

About 150 miles northwest of Imperial County lies the treasure that is The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. It’s an easy getaway, with admission that could be yours for free, thanks to The Huntington’s monthly Free Day.

The Huntington spans 207 colorful acres in San Marino in the San Gabriel Valley. San Marino adjoins Pasadena, the historic enclave that hosts the Rose Bowl, Tournament of Roses, and California Institute of Technology, among other things.

Renowned for the architecture of its galleries, library, and other structures, The Huntington is also home to about 130 acres of Botanical Gardens that feature 16 exquisitely designed themed gardens. The gardens range from Chinese and Japanese gardens to those featuring Australian plants, desert cactuses, and


Spring 2024 22
Chinese Garden at The Huntington in San Marino.
of many orchids in the collection at The Huntington.

Valley's Eateries

American Food


210 E. Cole Blvd #5, Calexico, CA 92231


Applebee's Grill & Bar $$

2421 Cottonwood Dr, El Centro, CA 92243


Applebee's Grill & Bar $$

2505 Scaroni Ave, Calexico, CA 92231


Back To Eden Juice

616 Main St, Ste#4

Brawley, CA 92227

Imperial Valley's homegrown restaurants offer lots of tasty choices

Brickhouse Deli

447 W. Aten Rd, Imperial, CA 92251


Broken Yolk Café

3049 N. Imperial Ave., El Centro, CA 92243


Brownie’s Diner $$

990 Main St, Brawley, CA 92227


Buckshot Deli & Diner $$

8120 CA-111, Niland, CA 92257


Buffalo Wild Wings $$

510 Danenberg Dr, El Centro, CA 92243


Burgers & Beer $$

260 N. Imperial Ave., El Centro, CA 92243


Desert Rat Pizza $$

Foster Freeze $

Cafecito Bar

157 N Plaza St, Brawley, CA 92227


Chili's Grill & Bar $$

3303 S. Dogwood Rd, El Centro, CA 92243


China Palace

Steakhouse $$$

1075 Adams Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Denny's $$

1445 Ocotillo Dr, El Centro, CA 92243


Denny's $$

3403 Dogwood Rd.

El Centro, CA 92243


612 Main St, El Centro, CA 92243


Dogwood Sports

Bar & Grill $$

3603 S. Dogwood Rd, El Centro, CA 92243


130 N. 5th St, Brawley, CA 92227


Habit Burger $ 2335 S. 4th St, El Centro, CA 92243


Imperial Valley Colectivo

221 N. Imperial Ave, Imperial, CA 92251


Hope Café and Creperie $ 605 E 2nd St, Calexico, CA 92231


2362 S. 4th St, El Centro, CA 92243


Dune and Sea Coffee

Malan St & S Imperial Ave

Brawley, CA 92227



Famous Dave's $$

3103 S. Dogwood Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Farmer Boys $$

1532 Cruickshank Dr, El Centro, CA 92243



Hope Café and Creperie $ 1027 W State St. El Centro, CA 92243


Hot Rods & Beer $$

235 West E 5th St, Holtville, CA 92250


https://hotrodsnbeer. com

Humble Farmer Brewing $$

116 S. Imperial Ave Ste C, Imperial, CA 92251


Junior's Café $ 1791 Adams Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Leroy's Backyard BBQ $$

401 Broadway, El Centro, CA 92243



Steakhouse $$

612 S. J St, Imperial, CA 92251


Spring 2024 23
Locally Owned Beer/Wine only $20 & under per person $10 & under per person Over $20 per person Full Bar


508 E Danenberg Dr., #7

El Centro, Ca., 92243


Panera Bread $$

2321 S. 4th St, El Centro, CA 92243


Pepper Grind

Coffee $

1560 Pepper Dr, El Centro, CA 92243

Rabb Slabs Bbq $$

496 W. State, El Centro, CA 92243


Red Feather

Off-Road Market & Cafe $

1182 N. Imperial Hwy, Ocotillo, CA 92259



Barbecue $

297 South Imperial Ave. Imperial, CA 92251


Shake & Wake $

1490 N. Imperial Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Sizzler $$

707 N. Imperial Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Sonora Fusion $$$

560 W State St, El Centro, CA 92243


The Burger and I 3451 S Dogwood St

Spc 1396, El Centro, CA 92243


The Healthy Spot $

134 Main St, Calipatria, CA 92233


The Original Town Pump Steakhouse


200 W Main St., Westmorland, CA 92281


Tropical Delights $$

221 W E St, Brawley, CA 92227

(760) 344-5051

Vibras Healthy Nutrition $

136 N Plaza, Brawley, CA 92227


Asian Cuisine

Chef Lee's Express $

1049 N. Imperial Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Chi+Mac $$

330 Wake Ave

El Centro, CA 92243


China Inn Restaurant $$

461 W Main St, Brawley, CA 92227


China Palace

Restaurant $$

1075 Adams Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Fortune Garden $$

3309 S. Dogwood Rd, El Centro, CA 92243


Fortune House $$

1627 W Main St, El Centro, CA 92243


Fujisan Sushi $$

1560 Ocotillo Dr Suite O, El Centro, CA 92243


Golden Dragon $$

928 Imperial Ave. Calexico, CA 92231


Hong Kong $$

550 Wake Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


K Sushi Bar & Grill


416 S. J St, Imperial, CA 92251


Khan Korean BBQ $$

330 Wake Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Komaki Sushi & Sea

Food $$

1133 Ben Hulse Hwy, Brawley, CA 92227


Kotori Japanese Food $$

300 E Cole Blvd, Calexico, CA 92231


Lucky Chinese Restaurant $$

500 S. 4th St, El Centro, CA 92243


Los Ce-B-Ches $$

1074 E Coles Blvd Ste 7, Calexico, CA 92231


Mah’s Kitchen $$

290 N. Imperial Ave., El Centro, CA 92243


Peony Pavilion $$

1505 Main St, Brawley, CA 92227


Poke & Noodle

Japanese Cuisine $$

799 E. Danenberg Dr, El Centro, CA 92243


Sushi & Noodle $$

800 N. Imperial Ave, El Centro, CA 92243 442-283-5075

Sushi & Noodles $$

630 S Brawley Ave, Unit #6, Brawley, CA 92227


Sushi Park $$

330 Wake Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Sushi Spot $$

115 North Imperial Ave.

Ste F-G, Imperial, CA 92251


Volcano $$

445 E. Main St, El Centro, CA 92243


The Thai Bistro $

775 E. Danenberg Dr. Ste. 105 El Centro, CA 92243

(760) 592-4611

Unni Korean Food $

582 Adams Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Wongs Kitchen $

102 W 5th St, Holtville, CA 92250


Italian Food

Assaggio Ristorante Italiano $$

538 E St, Brawley, CA 92227


Chuck-E-Cheese $$

803 E. Danenberg Rd, El Centro, CA 92243


George’s Pizza $$

116 W 5th St, Holtville, CA 92250


Grasso's Italian Restaurant $$

1902 Main St, El Centro, CA 92243


Inferno $$

505 Main St, Brawley, CA 92227


Johnny Carino's $$

3203 S Dogwood Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Mona Lisa Cocktails & Cuisine $$$

2393 CA-86, Imperial, CA 92251



Artisan Bistro $$

123 W Barioni Blvd, Imperial, CA 92251


Mozzarelli Pizza & Gelato $$

950 N Imperial Ave, (inside Strikezone)

El Centro, CA 92243


Round Table Pizza

508 E Danenberg Dr.,#6

El Centro, Ca. 92243


Mexican Food

Antojitos Como En Casa $$

841 W. Main St., El Centro, CA 92243


Antojitos Como En Casa $$

425 Desert Gardens Dr., El Centro, CA 92243


Spring 2024 24

Asadero Neighborhood $$

220 W Birch St. Calexico, CA 92231


Birrieria y Menuderia

Guadalajaras $

845 Imperial Ave, Calexico, CA 92231


Briseida's Kitchen $$

741 Cesar Chavez Blvd, Calexico, CA 92231


Cardenas Markets $$

1620 N. Imperial Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Celia’s Restaurant $$

1530 Adams Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Cilantros La Taqueria $

643 S 4th St Ste 1, El Centro, CA 92243


D’Lupita's Restaurant $$

336 W 5th St, Holtville, CA 92250


D'Poly Taco, Grill & Beer $$

1573 W. Main St, El Centro, CA 92243


El Cañon $

625 Main St, Brawley, CA 92227


El Chochis Snacks & Salads $

1065 Main St, Brawley, CA 92227


El Jumping Bean Taqueria

129 S. 6th St, Brawley, CA 92227


El Jumping Bean Taqueria #2

1050 S Brawley Ave #103, Brawley, CA 92227


El Menudazo $

548 Broadway #C, El Centro, CA


El Merendero $$

1702 N Imperial Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


El Zarape $$

139 S. Imperial Ave, Imperial, CA 92251


Flautas & Sopes $

1622 S 4th St, El Centro, CA 92243


Flautas & Sopes $$

1531 Ford Dr, El Centro, CA 92243


Flautas & Sopes $

715 Cesar Chavez Blvd, Calexico, CA 92231


Hacienda Market & Snack Bar $

941 K St, Brawley, CA 92227


Holtville Taco Shop $

404 E 5th St, Holtville, CA 92250


Jalisco's Bar & Grill $$

844 N. Imperial Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Johnny's Burritos

301 Wake Ave., El Centro, CA 92243


Johnny's Burritos

490 D St., Brawley, CA 92227


Johnny's Burritos

105 S. Imperial Ave., Imperial CA 92251


K Taquiza Restaurant $

249 E Main St, El Centro, CA 92243


Spring 2024 25

Karina's Mexican Food $$

845 Adams Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Kennedy's Taco $

1560 Ocotillo Dr, El Centro, CA 92243


La Birrieria Red

Tacos $

710 Heil St, El Centro, CA 92243

(760) 970-4406

La Fonda Bar & Grill $$

1950 S 4th St #1, El Centro, CA 92243


La Fuente Restaurant $

737 Emerson Ave, Calexico, CA 92231


La Resaca $$

143 S. 6th St, El Centro, CA 92243


Las Chabelas Restaurant $$

749 S. Brawley Ave, Brawley, CA 92227


Las Palmitas Taco Shop #1 $

2003 S. 4th St, El Centro, CA 92243


Las Palmitas Taco Shop #2 $

880 Adams Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Letty's Casita $$

705 S. 4th St, El Centro, CA 92243


Los Cabos Seafood & Grill $$

201 N. Imperial Ave, El Centro, CA 92243


Los Cerritos Restaurant $

411 E 5th St, Holtville, CA 92250


Ma Lupe's $$

390 W. Aten Rd, Imperial, CA 92251


Mi Casita $$

324 S. Imperial Ave. Ste B, Calexico, CA 92231


Mexca Brew Co. $$

612 W Main St, El Centro, CA 92243


Nana Dora's

103 W. K St., Brawley, CA 92227


Nana’s Kitchen $$

502 W. Aten Rd., Imperial, CA 92251


Nicky’s Mexican Restaurant

644 Main St, Brawley, CA 92227


Patty’s Loncheria $$

1191 Main St, Brawley, CA 92227


Puerto Nuevo Patio & Grill $$

395 Broadway, El Centro, CA 92243


Rosa's Plane Food Inc. $$

445 S. Imperial Ave, Calexico, CA 92231


Rosa's Plane Food Inc. $$

1523 Main St., El Centro, CA 92243


Sobe's Restaurant $

1151 S. 4th St.

EL Centro, CA 92243


Sofia’s Kitchen $$

395 A St Ste B

Brawley, CA 92227


Sofia’s Seafood & Grill $$

132 S Plaza St. Brawley, CA 92227


Sombrero Mexican Food $$

703 E. Danenberg Dr, El Centro, CA 92243


Tacos De Pescado

Marlyn $$

1614 S 4th St, El Centro, CA 92243


The Burrito Factory $$

130 S. Imperial Ave. #3458, El Centro, CA 92243


Virginia's Casita $

645 Main St, Brawley, CA 92227


Spring 2024 26
If you are interested in enhancing your restaurant's listing, contact Bill Amidon at Reliance Public Relations, Inc., 760-693-5330.
Spring 2024 27

Calendar of Events

May 3

5th annual Imperial Valley Taco Festival

5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Main Street, Brawley. Presented by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Brawley and One World Beef. Watch as the region's top Taqueros battle it out for the Taco King title, prizes for the tastiest 'open category' taco, and the most delicious salsa. There will be two stages with live music, local vendors, beer, and a “Margaritaville” located inside Inferno.

May 4

Cinco de Mayo Celebration

Noon to 8 p.m., 410 S. Cesar Chavez St., Brawley.

Hosted by Hidalgo Society. The community is invited to enjoy Cinco de Mayo festivities and watch the crowning of the new Cinco de Mayo queen.

There will be a horseshoe tournament, food, games for the kids, folklorico, music, and much more. The bar will be open.

The information included in the print version of Imperial Valley Alive! is what was available by publication deadline. Visit our calendar online at and submit your event information.

Past Cinco de Mayo queens will be honored.

May 4

Yoga in the Yuha

8 a.m., Imperial Valley Desert Museum, 11 Frontage Road, Ocotillo. Tickets are $10 for museum members and $15 for nonmembers.

For more information, call 760-3587016 or email info@ivdesertmuseum.


May 4

Bathhouse Bazaar

10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Jacumba Hot Springs Hotel, 44450 Old Highway 80, Jacumba.

There will be vintage and used wares, local art, live music, native herbal goods, EMF education, and handcrafted items.

For more information, email Natalie@

May 9

IVDM Presents Stargazing

7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Imperial Valley Desert Museum, 11 Frontage Road, Ocotillo. Hosted by Mike and Nancy Rood, viewing will be of Mercury at its greatest western elongation. There will be telescopes available, talks, games and snacks.

Bring your own chairs and binoculars. For more information, call 760-3587016 or email info@ivdesertmuseum.


May 10

Mommy & Me Hat Party

5:30 p.m., 709 S. G St., Imperial.

Celebrate Mother’s Day with Desert Diamond Creations. There will be a felt hat and trucker hat bar available.

May 11

Traditional Craft Day: Acorns

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Imperial Valley Desert Museum, 11 Frontage Road, Ocotillo. Free community event for all ages.

For more information, call 760-358-7016 or email

May 11

Free Family Day Desert Treasures

10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Pioneers Museum, 373 E. Aten Road, Imperial. For information, call 760-352-1165 or email director@

May 11

City of El Centro Day at the Ballpark

5:40 p.m., Petco Park, San Diego. Tickets are limited and can be purchased at the El Centro City Manager’s office, Building A, 1275 W. Main St., El Centro. For information, call 760-337-4540.

May 17

IVDM Wine Tasting & Silent Auction

6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Imperial Grove, 486 W. Aten Road, Imperial

Spring 2024 28

Proceeds will benefit the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Tickets are $35 for museum members and $40 for nonmembers, and they are available on Eventbrite.

For more information, call 760-358-7016 or email

May 17

Desert Oasis High School Mental Health Fair

3:30 to 6:30 p.m., 1302 S. 3rd St., El Centro. Sponsored by CALRegional. Learn about exciting career opportunities and CALRegional’s healthcare training programs.

May 18

WCT Townsel Memorial Family Fishin' Fun Day

6 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sunbeam Lake. The first 100 kids get a free fishing pole or tackle box. Ages 16 and over must have a valid fishing license. There will be a raffle and prizes.

For more information, call (858) 864-6391.

May 18

Imperial Valley Community Foundation

11th annual Golf Tournament

7 a.m. registration, 8 a.m. shotgun start, 1 p.m. awards and raffle at Del

Rio Country Club, 102 E. Del Rio Road, Brawley. The deadline for registration and sponsorships is May 3. Register online at www.

May 19

IVDM Volunteer Day

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Imperial Valley Desert Museum, 11 Frontage Road, Ocotillo.

You will get to organize photos, talk with museum staff, and learn about local history! You are not required to stay and help for the entire day, but if you want to, please bring your own lunch.

Please either call us at (760) 358-7016 or email us at info@

May 24

Sure Helpline Center Gala 6 p.m., St. Mary Church, 795 S. La Brucherie Road, El Centro.

Funds raised will benefit victims of domestic violence and sexual violence.

Tickets are $100 for a single, $800 for a table. A table reservation includes two bottles of wine and seats 10 people. For reservations, call 760352-7878.

Imperial Valley Museums

Pioneers Museum

373 Aten Rd., Imperial, Ca. 92251

Ph: 760-352-1165

Open: September thru May

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10

AM – 4 PM

Sunday 12 PM – 5 PM

Cost: General Admission $10

Students/Active Duty/Senior

Citizens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5

Children under 5 FREE


Imperial Valley

Desert Museum

11 Frontage Rd, Ocotillo, Ca. 92259

June 1

Bathhouse Bazaar

10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Jacumba Hot Springs Hotel, 44450 Old Highway 80, Jacumba.

Vintage and used wares, local art, live music, native herbal goods, EMF education, handcrafted items. For more information, email Natalie@

June 15

Juneteenth celebration

3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Sports Pavilion, 770 Park Ave., El Centro..

Sponsored by the Imperial Valley Social Justice Committee, activities include food, music, entertainment, games, face painting, spoken word, and vendors.

For more information, call 760-562-4666 or email

July 6

Bathhouse Bazaar

10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Jacumba Hot Springs Hotel, 44450 Old Highway 80, Jacumba.

Vintage and used wares, local art, live music, native herbal goods, EMF education, and handcrafted items.

For more information, email Natalie@ 

Ph: 760-358-7016

Open: Wednesday – Sunday 10

AM – 4 PM

Cost: General Admission $5


Center of the World in Felicity

"Museum of History in Granite¨

History of Humanity / The Church / Maze of Honor

Center of the World Plaza, Felicity, Ca. 92283

Ph: 760-572-0100

Open: Nov 1 – April 30

(Guided Tours) Daily – 10 AM –5 PM MST

May 1 – Oct 31

(Self Guided Tour) -7 AM – 7 PM

Costs – Include Parking

Adults $10

Children ............ (5-12) $5

Children (Under 5) FREE


Spring 2024 29
The 2023 Children's Fair in El Centro's Bucklin Park. The fair is held annually. - Photo by Alejandra Noriega

The league clearly manifests the camaraderie so important to youth sports. The organizers, volunteer coaches, parents, and family members do more than make the league possible; they imbue it with a community spirit that is captivating.

Every youth who participates is cheered loudly as they hit the ball and run the bases during the two-hour game, which is filled with its share of exciting moments and, more importantly, fun.

“They are playing baseball, they are socially accepted, and they have accomplished something,” Ojeda said. “For mom and dad, this opens a world of possibilities.”

Richard Beltran has seen the benefits the Challenger League has had for his two sons, Dominick, 15, and Donovan, 9, both of whom have autism. This is their first year playing.

“Before, they didn’t do much at home,” Beltran said. “Now I can get them outside to play catch.”

William Nichols’ son, Dustin, 24, who has autism, has played in the league for 13 years. “It means the world for him to experience this and be with other kids. It is just awesome.”

Jackson’s mother, Arlene Norwood,

said her son benefits tremendously from playing baseball. and other sports in the Special Olympics. That Jackson plays sports means a lot since there was a time when his family wasn’t sure he’d be able to walk.

“It’s been tremendous for him, and he’s come so far,” she said.

The ball players have fun but are also proud of what they can do on the field and confident in their skills.

“Batting is my favorite part of baseball, and I’m pretty good,” said 8-year-old Aria Alcantra.

Sebastian Inzunza, 10, said, “Batting with my friends and spending time with friends is my favorite part.”

And Derek Leon, 21, said he enjoys coming out to play every Saturday and feels he’s pretty good at baseball.

Community support has been crucial to the Challenger League program's success in the Valley.

When the league needed new uniforms this year, a community member made a donation to cover the cost. A community fund-raising effort this year also helped pay for field improvements.

Community support also allows the youth to attend the annual Challenger League Jamboree in areas like San

Spring 2024 30 (760) 550-8324 Full campsite setup Flexible delivery and pick up Clean and sanitized travel trailers Onboard Wi-Fi Features Include: Plan your next camping trip with us any time of the year. To the campground or the desert, we have you covered! Camper2you /Camper2YouLLC Is your trailer sitting around? Want to make some money? Let us consign your trailer! 760-335-6357 WWW.LOCKEAC.COM
Joey Castaneda and his sister Kassandra Castaneda. - Photo by Alejandra Noriega

Diego, where players from different Challenger Leagues have a chance to play together and then attend a Padres game at Petco Park. If families need help with costs, the league can provide that support.

“Whenever there has been a need, those needs have been met thanks to the community support,” Ojeda said.

And, the community participates in a “buddy” program in which organizations throughout the Valley give their time to join the youth on Saturdays. Ojeda said the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration team, have participated as “buddies” as has the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office as well as many others.

Jessica Leon, league vice president, and whose son is Derek Leon, said everyone involved participates to put smiles on the faces of the players.

“Giving kids with special needs a chance to participate in sports like baseball, that allows them to participate in the community, means a lot to the people who volunteer here,” Leon said.

As Ojeda looks toward the league’s future, he does have one hope for the Valley. Currently, Valleywide, he said, there is no baseball field that is compliant with the Americans With

Disabilities Act (ADA). He wants to see at least one field built or adapted so it is ADA-compliant.

And he wants to see the program keep growing.

“In Little League, we are teaching life lessons,” he said. “The goal is not to create professional baseball players;

it’s to create good, productive citizens. That absolutely extends to the youth participating in the Challenger League.”

He added, “For these kids, they see that they can do baseball, they can have fun, and they can learn. All the kids learn and grow.” 

Spring 2024 31
Challenger League players gather after a recent game. - Photo by Alejandra Noriega


Despite creating a happy life as a wife and mother, Betty Jo’s childhood wasn’t so great. She was a victim of incest, which ultimately motivated her to want to help others who had suffered as she had.

“I established a local group in Imperial County called Parents United that helped children, parents, and anyone who has been molested,” she says. “The group also worked with pedophiles because most of them were victims, too. I got local psychiatrists to help for free and ran that program for four years.”

Betty Jo believes that by the age of 7 victims make a choice on how they deal with their pain. In her case, Betty Jo decided to help others by not being ashamed to speak about it.

“I feel God called me to do this work,” she says. “One should never bury the truth, but shed light on it. It’s important to choose to do something positive and productive, so you can heal and help others.” Betty Jo not only speaks out, but has written a book about her life with the help of Becky Hanks, a writer and former Imperial Valley Press reporter. The book is titled, “The I of the Hurricane.”

Betty Jo also worked closely for years with Betty Young, another key volunteer at the home.

“We were the two Bettys and we worked hand in hand to help those children,” she says. “Betty got the McCabe Foundation to grant us $82,000. We used that money to furnish and complete the home as the bond monies didn’t cover anything beyond construction. Betty was the smartest woman I ever knew and so it is fitting that the school at the receiving home is named in her honor.”

In 2000, Betty Jo took a step back from her volunteer work to care for her ailing mother and then her husband Robert.

“I’m hoping to get back in shape and volunteer again on a regular basis,” she says. Until then, Betty Jo continues to help the receiving home in other ways. She is available to speak at various club and community events to pitch her cause and earn some great publicity for the home whenever possible.

“I’m always looking at new opportunities and resources to increase donations, support the Foundation, and help the children,” she says. “My goal is to share as much as I can so that I can get people to continue to help and raise money and awareness. Whenever I make a presentation, I always encourage people to volunteer wherever their hearts lead them and to teach their children to do so, too, because we all have the opportunity to make a difference.”

Betty Jo says it’s gratifying when kids who’ve stayed at the receiving home recognize her or will contact her wanting to share their success stories years later. May we all be motivated and inspired to follow in her footsteps because it is special people like Betty Jo who make this world a better place. 

To learn more about the Betty Jo McNeece Receiving Home, volunteer, or make a contribution, call (442) 265-2550 or Betty Jo directly at (760) 540-0488, or visit .

Spring 2024 32

Bo Shropshire shows how his leather stitching machine operates.

horse corral in the Valley’s Northend. Another heartfelt design was a turquoise and leatherwork podium unveiled at the end of the livestock auction at the 2024 California Midwinter Fair & Fiesta. The piece was dedicated to the late Debbie Cameron, who devoted countless hours to youth working with their animals at the fair.

“She was an exceptional lady,” said Shropshire, who knew Cameron firsthand through her involvement with local 4-H and FFA youth and the California Midwinter Fair.

Shropshire served 28 years as a member of 45th District Agricultural Association Board and much of that time he worked with the youth livestock. He submitted his resignation from the board following this year’s fair.

“I just want to have a chance to give back to a community that has made me successful,” he said of the time he served on the fair board.

His two children were active in 4-H and the California MidWinter Fair Junior Fair Board, and Shropshire volunteered as a leather project leader and community leader for the Magnolia 4-H Club.

Now with two grandchildren and almost 50 years of marriage with his wife, Shropshire’s semi-retirement doesn’t look like it’s slowing anytime soon.

He has some projects in mind: One, a half-pint saddle (a small seat that would sit about a 2-year-old) with one fender promoting the Imperial Valley Fairgrounds and one with Brawley Cattle Call that could be displayed for different events. Perhaps a new belt for his wife, presenting varying decorative options from which to choose. Or even looking at a new piece of leather and creating in his mind’s eye what will be crafted.

A true cowboy, he continues to love horses and roping.

“Every day on this side of the dirt, it’s a good day,” he said.

For this cowboy, his reputation and honor hinges on his life’s work, from businessman to leatherwork and his other interests.

“The only thing I want to be known for is that I was a man of my word,” he said. “That’s really the only legacy I can leave.” 

Spring 2024 33

down to future generations,” he said.

Hans K. Vogel, 92, who has been a member of the Swiss Club his entire life, fondly recalls the days when the club held a dance every two weeks. “They were the heart and soul of the Swiss community,” he said, “coming together and keeping our traditions strong.”

He smiled ear to ear when he spoke about meeting his wife at a Swiss Club Schwingfest in Los Angeles. The two dated briefly long distance, became engaged and then married upon his return from Korea.

And he is not the only one who found love at a Swiss Club event. Walter Britschgi met his wife at a Schwingfest in Northern California. She was from a Washington state community, 7 miles from the Canadian border, while he was from the Imperial Valley, 7 miles from the Mexican border, and a Swiss Club wrestling match brought them together.

Wrestling, or Schwingen in Swiss, is a central activity in Swiss life and is considered Switzerland’s national sport. Swiss clubs in the United States regularly travel to participate in Schwingfests held by clubs in other regions. The Holtville Schwingfest was no exception. Wrestlers from as far away as Iowa come to grapple and continue the tradition.

Walter Britschgi said his father “didn’t want me to play football, but I was allowed to wrestle because it was part of our heritage, so that became my sport.”

Not many things in life endure for 100 years, but the Swiss Club of Imperial Valley has thrived through good and bad times, wars and depressions, pandemics, and modernization.

Club member George Morris said he is “proud that the Club has lasted this long. It is important to keep connected to our culture and traditions. This is where I met my best friends, this is where I would sit and listen to the old timers tell their stories.

“Our vacations were set around Schwingfests and visiting other Swiss Clubs. I am just sad that those who worked so hard to establish it and kept it going are not here to enjoy this milestone.”

Hans Vogel called the 100th anniversary, “a proud moment

Spring 2024 34
In the traditional game of 'Cheese Poke,' Elizabeth Schaffner, 10, triumphantly wields her sword, guided by luck and skill, as she claims her prize of cheese. Carter Weiderman, 8, revels in the ring toss game.
- Photos by Charla Teeters Stewart

Event-goers explore the treasures of the Swiss Club Museum nestled within the Holtville property. From artifacts to ancestral garments and historical documents, the museum offers a captivating journey through the cherished traditions and heritage of Swiss families in the Imperial Valley. - Photos by Charla Teeters Stewart

and inspiration for the Swiss community of the Imperial Valley.”

Some club members suggested the 100th anniversary celebration should

also serve as a call to action for the Swiss community to keep the club active so their cultural legacy will continue to thrive for generations to come. 

Spring 2024 35 1605 Scott Ave., El Centro, CA Always at your service since 2011 Excellent , loving care in the comfort of your own home. (760) 352-3108
Swiss Club teens add their youthful energy to the 100th anniversary festivities.

Social media

Face-to-face socialization

Social media use among teenagers and young adults is being linked to cyberbullying, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

The problems, experts say, are worsened by the pervasiveness of electronic devices which, combined with social media use, are stripping away face-to-face interactions and opening the door

to anonymous bullying through threats or harassment.

Loss of personal interactions is taking a toll, especially on today’s youth, experts say.

“For some, social media is their only form of communication and socialization and may be harmful to their development,” said Dalia V. Pesqueira, Behavioral Health Manager with the Youth and Young

Adult program at Imperial County Behavioral Health Services (ICBHS).

“Face-to-face socialization is an important skill we obtain to create empathy and effective communication skills needed for our development and survival.”

“Information through media can be deceiving, harmful, and dangerous to our developing youth,” she said, as cyberbullying can create a

Spring 2024 36

media and teens socialization an important skill

fearful environment in social media due to offensive comments or pictures that can be shared across the different platforms. “Social media without supervision and limitations can become detrimental especially when face-to-face socialization is eliminated,” she said.

As a result, ICBHS has seen increases in cyberbullying, but also increases in cases of depression and anxiety among youth. Pesqueira said low self-esteem, issues with body images and insomnia can also result from social media use and abuse.

“Some youth depend on the amount of likes or attention they obtain from others approving their post,” Pesqueira said. “Some compare themselves to images, lifestyles, and successes portrayed through media.” If youth do not obtain the response they want, the effects can be devastating, leading to increased anxiety and depression.

Having a balance is needed when navigating social media, Pesqueira said. Online platforms can be helpful and supportive to youth when they can engage in healthy socialization and use the supportive networks available. Behavioral Health Services is helping youths learn and maintain a life balance through several evidence-based models used in individual or family therapy. Evidence-based models teach effective communication skills and provide techniques to better manage their mental health.

“It’s important to teach our children to cope with feelings and the fast changes of this world without depending on online platforms, tablets or television to calm or entertain them,” Pesqueira said.

“We are trying to teach family members to maintain a healthy relationship between social media and the outside world,” Pesqueira said. “It’s important for parents to be able to role-model healthy online ethics and provide education and awareness to their children about the risk of cyberbullying.” Parents are encouraged to limit their own use of electronic devices and give their full attention to their children when communicating, in order to identify any risk of cyberbullying or mental health issues, Pesqueira said.

“Media can provide an opportunity for easier way to socialize when having problems connecting with others, but overuse can create dependency and can develop more challenges to conduct face-to-face conversations due to a disconnect with the real world.

Teaching effective face-to-face communication skills and healthy boundaries with social media can provide a healthier balance in our lives,” she said. 

Spring 2024 37 202 N. Eighth St.  El Centro, CA 92243 For appointment call: 442-265-1525  (800) 817-5292 

ABOVE: Carvings by Sargent Claude Johnson in The Huntington, commissioned for the California School for the Blind.

LEFT: Tropical plants in the Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory at The Huntington.

succulents, and a conservatory filled with exotic orchids, a carnivorous plant bog, and tropical rain and cloud forests. Many of the exhibits within the conservatory are interactive, offering the rare opportunity to learn about unusual plants from around the world.

Once a month The Huntington offers Free Day passes through advance registration via the website

Tickets are available the last Thursday of each month from 9 a.m. until they are sold out, for admission the following Thursday. For regular ticket pricing and to learn more about The Huntington, visit www.

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is at 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108. 

Spring 2024 38
- Photos by Peggy Dale

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