SOLEDAD — Residents across Soledad celebrated the city’s 100th birthday with multiple community events last week.
The March 9 festivities began with a community cake contest, in which three bakers crafted cakes in the spirit of what Soledad meant to them, broadcasted over Facebook as a virtual show. That was followed by a community dessert grab-and-go, where 500 servings of cookies and cake were handed out.
Then the visual events kicked off with an evening parade around town, followed by the centennial fireworks to end the night.
The cake decoration contest was announced in February.
“Overall the event turned out pretty amazing,” said Tencia Vargas, Soledad’s economic development coordinator.
She said participation throughout the event was great.
“It was intended to bring in all bakers in the community, home bakers or licensed bakers could participate,” Vargas said. “We wanted to make this something fun and expressive for the community where they could share their creativity.”
Though three bakers participated, more than 4,000 people watched live on Facebook. The winner of the contest was Bianca Edith Urena, chosen by a group of judges, including two youth judges, Julian Gonzalez and Evany Moreno.
The grab-and-go desserts were different from the contest cakes, though Covid was the cause for that shift.
“Originally we wanted to do a big birthday cake, but with Covid, we had to get creative,” said Ariana Mora, administrative secretary for the city’s economic development housing program. “We did a grab-and-go at city hall. In this form, it’s like an extension of that part of the celebration.”
City staff also had items from the city’s clothing line on display at city hall as people came to pick up desserts.
The parade featured more than 61 cars, six all-terrain vehicles and two horses.
“We had a tremendous response from the community,” said Maria Corralejo, an organizer from Front Street, a group that partnered with the city to coordinate the parade and which has hosted several car cruises and caravans during the pandemic. “There were many spectators throughout the parade route. We saw various pinwheels, cars honking and a lot of smiling faces and children running and jumping as the parade drove by.”
To pay tribute to the city’s history, multiple grand marshals led the parade, including some of the eldest residents, members of pioneer families and hall of famers.
“We came up with the idea to have several grand marshals that reflect our demographic and our community,” Corralejo said. “We pushed for grand marshal, seeking announcements on our Facebook page, made calls, sent texts and emails and reached out to Craig Stephens from the Soledad Historical Society as our lifeline.”
Helping organize the rows of cars, as well as directing and diverting traffic where needed, were members of the Soledad Police Department. Other organizations also helped both during and before the parade.
“The Soledad Youth Council helped by posting parade flyers in businesses and Sofia Vargas, a SYC member, and her friends also volunteered that day in helping to pass out signs and direct participants,” Corralejo said.
The spectacle continued even as the sun went down, as a fireworks show was the final part of the day’s celebrations.
“One thing our city manager wanted from the get-go was to have fireworks,” Mora said. “We were able to get a contract with the company we normally use for Fourth of July fireworks. They’re pretty familiar with the city and the area.”
The firework plans began last year, and the decided central point to launch from was Gallardo Park.
“We were at city hall and we got to see them,” Mora said.
Even with the day of festivities over, the city has plans to continue the centennial celebration throughout the year.
Mora said the city is now showcasing youth artwork every month, including all grade levels of students and getting help from the Youth Council to share the art through videos.
“In reality they’re the future of this town, so we want to make sure they’re involved,” Mora said. “Some of the stuff we’re getting just in the last couple of days is amazing. We’ve got talent in town.”
In addition, the city has planned Throwback Thursdays and is working on more events later in the year.
“The celebration will be all year long,” Mora said.