Sharing memories of Harvest Festival

Special Olympian Francisco Diego, who will graduate this May with his Immokalee High School class, will compete in the Special Olympics May 10 at Wide World of Sports in Orlando. “Kiko” will compete in the shot put and the 100 yard dash and plans to go on to study culinary arts at iTECH College. He is pictured with his teacher, Kelly Stevenson-Crews. (Patty Brant/Immokalee Bulletin)

Special Olympian Francisco Diego, who will graduate this May with his Immokalee High School class, will compete in the Special Olympics May 10 at Wide World of Sports in Orlando. “Kiko” will compete in the shot put and the 100 yard dash and plans to go on to study culinary arts at iTECH College. He is pictured with his teacher, Kelly Stevenson-Crews. (Patty Brant/Immokalee Bulletin)

The Immokalee Chamber of Commerce President Danny Gonzalez tried to bring the town’s Grand Old Historical Harvest Festival back this past weekend( 04/23/2016). ICOC tried to bring to the community some of the activities their parents enjoyed with a twist to enhance younger migrant families and the changing community’s population of Immokalee to enjoy the new memories!

In the  Spring of each year, Immokalee took on a festive atmosphere in the rural town with 40,000 people during its peak season. There were fifty-five thousand acres of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons being harvested, row by row by thousands of migrant workers from 9 different ethnic group (Mexicans, Cubans, Haitians,Seminole Indians, Caucasians, African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans and the Florida Crackers).

The Harvest Festival Event began in 1965 during the Spring only and was the last event as the migrants left the community and its population dwindling to 20,000 for the summer and early fall. The growing season begins in October and ends in May. The festival was usually on the second Saturday in March…  always.

The Event strived to include all ethics groups into this annual activity by encouraging different farmers & farms to offer up foods and items from their native countries in  selected booths and tents in a family oriented setting and controlled environment.

Family sponsored games were the hit of the day along with tomato staking, horse shoeing, and softball games.

The Immokalee Salad became famous for its abundance of veggies offered for a serving of salads with Wild Hog BBQ.

Music and Entertainment was a multi-cultural affair. Each of  9 schools in Immokalee were asked to select an ethnic group and perform on a stage setup in the Airport Park.

Each Farm in Immokalee selected their reigning Queens with the help of IHS and each farmer or farm purchased a float for the parade in March. This event was a huge affair in Immokalee.

Olden  Harvest Festival  Days..the festival brought in 20,000 persons to the event in Immokalee

Below is a list of Queens to present times. We have tried to revive this Event ..so far with little success..we are hoping to make it more up to date with the farm workers of today..

Going down Memory Lane with Past Immokalee Harvest Festival Queens:
1965 Grace Osceola
1966 Diane Heath
1967 Bernadette Black
1968 Linda Kemp
1969 Diane O’Quinn
1970 Guadalupe Sanchez
1971 Judy Rutledge
1972 Tempy Adams
1973 Ellen Shoults
Cathy Fowler
1974 Bonnie Lancaster
1975 Pam Lewis
1976 Barbara Whatley
1977 Cindy Glidden
1978 Jody Thomas
1979 Nina Hunter
1980 Sandra White
1981 Meann Darby
1982 Donna Raulerson
1983 Laura Rosbough
1984 Toni Fowler
1985 Anita Burnett
1986 Loretta Miller
1987 Norma Herrera
1988 Tawana Howard
1989 Kristy O’Steen
1990 Brundi Starling
1991 Kathryn Warford
1992 Jennifer Whatley
1993 Lori Loukonen
2011 Lisa Carver
2012 Diana Sanon
2013 Maleighna Cade

Ninth grade Immokalee High School cheerleaders helped out at Lozano’s booth for the Harvest Festival Saturday, April 23. Proceeds went to the cheerleaders! Pictured from left: Alesandra Cardenas, Carolina Bustamante, Julie Martinez. (Patty Brant/Immokalee Bulletin)

Ninth grade Immokalee High School cheerleaders helped out at Lozano’s booth for the Harvest Festival Saturday, April 23. Proceeds went to the cheerleaders! Pictured from left: Alesandra Cardenas, Carolina Bustamante, Julie Martinez. (Patty Brant/Immokalee Bulletin)

ICOC selected a home town candidate for our Harvest Festival Grand Parade Marshal..James”Jimmy: Garvin. Jimmy grew up in Immokalee and graduated and went on to college at Howard University to make his family and community very proud. Jimmy lead the annual parade off with lots of parade entries. All activities took place at our original Airport Park……just like in the olden days. The Event consisted of all types of delicious foods, a cake walk with goodies to be had, local school entertainment all day  a raffle, a fish cooker, camp stove, Fire Hazard lamp and Everglade Farm kids Tractor) for the community to take part in. Lastly, we had a Little Mr./Ms. Tomato Contestant .

The contestants were: Alexander Gonzalez-son of Yaxmin Sanchez and Alejandro Gonzalez, Alayna Sky Turrubiartez-daughter of Krystal and Adam Turrubiartez and Maddox Contreras-son of Latasha Croker. Our winner for this year’s Harvest Festival Little Mr. Tomato for 2016 is…Alexander Gonzalez with one penny = one vote of 845,077. Little Miss Tomato for 2016 is Alayna Turrubiartez with one penny = one vote of 522.072.

Special Recognition to the following : Elizabeth Hamman, Miss LeHigh Acres Spring Festival; Akyrah Stone, Miss LeHigh Acres Spring Festival Jr.; Samantha Brister, American US Miss Florida Teen. She is considering running for national title in July

Special recognition to: Kiko Diego, State Special Olympic Runners and Homecoming Court King at I.H.S. this year. Special performers hosted by Lisa and Keith Banks..iCO of Immokalee High School.

Linda Ayer and Ms. Moss hosted I.H.S. Beta Club Skit for The National Beta Club Convention in June; STUDIOi in Immokalee for their performance; Sunshine Elementary Cheerleaders from LeHigh Acres; and the famous Immokalee High School Marching Band under the direction of Band Director Mr. Malebtran.

Winner of 2016 Parade float entry for the Harvest Festival Parade–Araba Temple of the Fort Myers Shriners.

On behalf of the Immokalee Chamber of Commerce, we would like to thank Collier County Park & Recreation, Immokalee Fire Control District, our entire community, our venders, all the volunteers from other organizations, our sponsors of the event and our Chamber President.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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