Soboba Elders ring in the new year

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Soboba Elders are welcomed to the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center to celebrate the New Year. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

SAN JACINTO – The Soboba Casino Resort Event Center was full of music, laughter and good cheer as Soboba Elders were invited to ring in 2022 with a dinner party Wednesday, Dec. 29. From 3-7 p.m., about 100 guests were entertained by the rhythm and blues band Sly, Slick & Wicked, DJ Mike Nevarez and Aalon, a soul group formed by lead singer and guitarist Aalon Butler. Luis “Lou” Pizarro of the television show “Operation Repo” offered comedic relief as the night’s master of ceremonies.

Soboba Elders and their guests were treated to a choice of chicken, roast beef or salmon accompanied by mashed potatoes, a variety of vegetables, a wide array of salads and a bottle of wine to toast the new year. There were prize raffles and a photo booth to keep everyone engaged throughout the event and each guest received a 1-pound box of See’s candy.

“This has been our most well attended event all year,” Erica Schenk, who serves as coordinator for the Soboba Elders group, said.

About 60 elders participated in a recent outing to a Temecula winery for dinner and games.

Marian Chacon said she doesn’t usually make new year resolutions but is looking forward to things improving and getting together with the group again. She used to like taking the many trips the group planned but continues to enjoy the events that are closer to home.

“This is nice,” Chacon said.

Rachel Miranda said she’s looking forward to staying healthy in 2022 and attending more gatherings.

“I’m thankful that we can go places again,” she said.

Pam Valdez, who is the group’s current vice president, said they had barely started planning out events for the year when she was elected in January 2021 before things had to be canceled or postponed.

“Since June or July we’ve been doing pretty good with bingo nights, a trip to Laughlin and other short trips,” Valdez said. “My hope for 2022 is to get rid of COVID for good and be able to go out more.”

Johnna Valdez, who was enjoying the music at the event, said she is looking for the new year to be a more healing year.

“I want everybody to be safe,” she said. “I always say I’m going to lose weight on Jan. 1 and that’s out the door by Jan. 2, so I don’t make resolutions anymore.”

Current president of the elders’ group, Rosemary Morillo, said she’s looking for the virus to be completely gone and see everyone enjoy good health.

“It’s been difficult these past two years to see people passing away, not just here, but within the extension of our friends and family. We are still being cautious,” she said.

She said the group took its first outing of the year in April when a small number of them went to Knott’s Berry Farm as restrictions were lifted. An outing to San Diego was another day trip they were able to enjoy.

Morillo is thankful for her new grandson that was born Saturday, Dec. 18. The mother of nine has 27 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. She said the past couple of years they have had to drop off food and presents for birthdays, but all live locally which made things a little easier. She is optimistic that there will be family in-person get-togethers for special occasions in the new year.

The Placencia family was enjoying the Dec. 29 celebration. Tara Placencia, with her husband of 33 years, Pat Placencia, was looking forward to her New Year’s Eve birthday. She said a highlight of 2021 was the wedding of their daughter, Tatiana, in May. The couple were happy to be spending the evening with family.

“I am just hoping for a better year for everybody,” Tara said.

Each January, elections are held for a new board of directors for the elders group of Soboba tribal members who are more than 55 years old. The board oversees the establishment of what types of events most of the membership wants to have. But already being organized is a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, to visit some baseball teams’ spring training camps, Schenk said, adding that “people are looking forward to the new year after COVID-19 put a halt to many of our past events.”

Submitted by the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.