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January 27, 2022

Year In Review: Arts, loss and grand returns

How do you wrap up the year without saying Covid 100 times? It spills across nearly everything.

But the world keeps turning and things happen.

For me, the following topics we covered have left a lasting impression:

‘Watsonville Brillante’

Another giant mosaic from Watsonville artist Kathleen Crocetti and her devoted crew of volunteers went up on the parking structure at Rodriguez and Second streets. 

It dominates that section of town, the woman with her hair in a bun titled “Hermanita,” which depicts the side-profile of an Indigenous woman, who Crocetti called “emblematic of the struggle of both women’s rights and cultural rights.” 

It was designed by Juan Fuentes, a graduate of Watsonville High School. The work is an ongoing series of massive mosaics that will eventually cover a good part of the concrete structure.

Honoring Vets

For the past 24 years, I’ve covered the Veterans Day Parade each Nov. 11 in downtown Watsonville. It’s always been a powerful event. Though the numbers of vets have decreased in the parade, it is nonetheless an important reminder of those that wore the uniform, men and women.

Fair Returns 

The Santa Cruz County Fair came bounding out of the gates in September, regaining its footing and entertaining thousands after a year of being moth-balled due to the pandemic. From live music, poultry and flower shows, pony rides, new artwork, sumptuous food, bonsai trees, collectibles, swine competitions and ag history—it was almost all back and the crowds were, too. The Pajaro Valley needed something like the fair to remind all of us of the grand efforts so many put forward to educate, share fun, reconnect with friends and so much more.

Losing Giants

We lost a few major figures in the Pajaro Valley this year, two of them being community volunteer Bill Neighbors and historian Lou Arbanas at the Pajaro Valley Historical Association (PVHA). These two men could easily be compared to a pair of bookends that hold together a critical array of books about the depth of the Pajaro Valley.

Neighbors, whose lifelong career of volunteerism led him to be dubbed “Mr. Watsonville” by those who knew him, played big roles in a long list of local events and agencies. He helped with community outreach and providing housing for people displaced in disasters while also co-founding the local National Night Out, serving as a Watsonville Police Community Service officer, member of the Watsonville Certified Emergency Response Team, a committee member for the Watsonville Strawberry Festival, Fourth of July Parade and the Christmas Lighting.

Arbanas, a Watsonville native and a volunteer at the PVHA, was a powerhouse of knowledge about the Pajaro Valley and he made giant efforts to share it.

Thank you, Lou, for all that you brought forth and shared about your hometown. And thanks to you too, Bill, for the immeasurable generosity you so selflessly handed over.

Birding Fest Ends

The Monterey Bay Birding Festival hit the end of the road this year.

For the past 16 years, I have covered the festival with much delight. 

The festival, which centered in Watsonville but fanned out around the Central Coast with its field trips, became a keystone birding event for bird lovers locally and worldwide, especially being on the migratory flyway for scores of bird species that touch down at area soughs, lakes and the Pacific shore.

New Chief

I would be remiss if I didn’t toss in a line about Watsonville’s new Police Chief, Jorge Zamora. He and I go back to the late ’90s when he was a street cop. The Pajaronian welcomes Jorge to his new role. In our experience, he has always been soft-spoken and helpful, a good listener and an open ear for a good laugh.

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