Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to the Valley News

Christmas celebrations kicked off Friday, Dec. 2, when the Soboba Parks and Recreation Department hosted its fourth annual Tree Lighting Ceremony and Light Parade at the Soboba Sports Complex. There were activities and fun for all ages with food and retail vendors, department booths and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.

About 10 brightly decorated vehicles made their way to the event from The Oaks, honking and tossing candy treats to residents who lined the parade route. The top three vote getters, judged on complexity and creativity, received cash prizes. They were John McKay, Chris Vallez and Wayne Nelson.

An “ugly” sweater contest produced some adorable contestants in the youngest age category of 0-4 and for ages 5-7 and 8-11, prizes were given to the most festive and cutest. Christian Aceves, director at the Soboba Tribal Environmental Department, won in the 18+ category wearing a green sweatshirt embellished with recycled items, what else?

Tribal Administration and the Soboba Foundation were joined by Tribal Chair Isaiah Vivanco at their seasonally decorated station where visitors could pick up a take-home gingerbread house kit.

Soboba Tribal TANF offered a Letters to Santa station that included a mailbox with a direct delivery to the North Pole. The “official” letter gave children a place to explain something they did that was extra nice and some special Christmas wishes they had. Before signing their name, they requested Santa give their favorite reindeer a big hug and kiss with a blank line for the reindeer’s name.

The annual Soboba Foundation and Soboba Casino Resort Joint Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Chamber Holiday Mixer took place Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the SCR Event Center. It was the 14th year the joint mixer has taken place at various locations throughout the valley. Good cheer was spread throughout the room with seasonal decorations and dessert bars featuring everything from gingerbread men to snowflake cookies. The banquet buffet offered various food options for the approximately 300 guests.

The purpose of the holiday mixer is to share time with each other, meet new members and reconnect with familiar ones. It is also to show appreciation for the year-long membership that connects the community through business and individuals, according to the foundation.

Soboba Tribal Chair Isaiah Vivanco welcomed everyone on behalf of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and the Soboba Foundation and thanked them for working as a community to support the local economy.

“I think it takes all of us to make this valley really excel,” he said.

Chamber Executive Director Cyndi Lemke said it is inspiring to see everyone come together to help others.

“We’re helping the youth in this valley, the seniors, and each other,” she said. “I really appreciate you and I feel so blessed to be a part of the Chamber of Commerce and I thank you all for being a part of the Chamber.”

Many gift baskets were donated by Chamber members and given away to guests during the traditional “raffle hour” portion of the Holiday Mixer event, which was led by Chamber Chair Andrew Vallejos.

Soboba Foundation President Dondi Silvas gave some closing remarks, saying she agreed with Vallejos’ comments that it’s all about getting together, laughing, having fun and having a good time.

Members of the Noli Indian School Drama Club presented “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” Thursday, Dec. 8, in the multipurpose room, next to the Soboba Tribal Preschool. The room was filled with family members, teachers and staff who said they were delighted by the performances of Victoria Boisa, Alaina Espinoza, Tobi Chapparosa, Ani Hampton, Tamara Hurtado and Lyliana Procela. Students who worked the tech side of things were Edgar Gladin, Jonathan Gladin, Jane Hollingsworth, Christopher Lagunas and Anthony Pimental. The production was directed by Noli staff members Lorin Alvarez and Genna Santini with technical direction by Jay Dagostino.

The Polar Express made a stop at the Soboba Sports Complex in the afternoon Saturday, Dec. 10, for the annual Soboba Tribal Christmas Party. Dinner was served, raffle prizes were won by adults, and children received toys from Santa Claus.

It was a great community start for the Christmas season that found Soboba Tribal Members enjoying friends and family in their own ways Sunday, Dec. 25.