After working for the Patterson Apricot Fiesta for over 35 years, Administrative Assistant Marilyn Hoobler will be retiring in December so that she can spend more quality time with her family.
“With our family expanding and grandkids and so forth, I determined it was time to have a little more free time throughout the course of the year,” said Hoobler.
Starting as a Secretary to the Board for the fiesta back in 1984, Hoobler has seen many fiesta traditions come and go, and with the town continuously growing during her tenure, so has the fiesta.
“The fiesta has metamorphosed, therefore, my job has metamorphosed,” said Hoobler. “When I first started working for the fiesta it was a part-time job, and now it's more than a full-time job.”
As the administrative assistant, everything from office operations to incoming and outgoing correspondence has to go through Hoobler’s hands. From office work, to making sure vendors are in place and that the Fiesta board is taken care of. Hoobler’s position with the fiesta is one of a kind.
“In some way, shape or form you touch everything,” said Hoobler. “There are so many facets to putting on the weekend that it’s hard to put everything in one small little paragraph, but everything runs through the office...There’s a few months out of the year where it's pretty quiet but during those times you are getting things ready for the intensity of [April through June], such as getting the forms out to the vendors, making sure the president has what they need, making sure that you have the chair people in place and each year it got a little more difficult such as finding insurance coverage.”
Hoobler said that insurance coverage is one of the reasons that the town's favorite Hot Air Balloon event stopped happening, but the board is working hard to try and get that back in place.
“On a good weekend with not a whole lot of wind, you could hear throughout the town the sound of the balloons,” said Hoobler. “People would stand and have their coffee outside of their house and wave at the balloonists Saturday and Sunday morning...It came to a halt unfortunately because of insurance. It got too costly to the point where the fiesta had to get a supplemental insurance policy to get them to come, but the board is trying to have them return.”
Since the early days of the fiesta all the way to now Hoobler has seen a variety of activities and competitions come, go and stay. From facial hair and arm-wrestling competitions, to the annual parade. Hoobler even recalls a time before food vendors were at the fiesta.
“Before we even had the food booths the Lions Club had the Chicken BBQ and for a few years that was the only food that was out there available,” said Hoobler. “Later they added some additional food booths and there were a few things for children to do but not much. Now of course there’s a whole park section that’s dedicated towards children’s fun and games and then there's the parade and that has lasted the test of time, that’s a crowd favorite. One thing that came a little bit later in the early 90’s they started what’s referred to as the Arm Wrestling competitions...The Whiskerino contest was a beard growing contest and they would set a date earlier in the year and they announced it through the Patterson Irrigator and people would come in to the Irrigator and sign-up and they would take a picture of them with a clean face and then from that date on until the Apricot Fiesta they had an actual judging of who had the best mustache, full beard, goatee and whatever other classifications there were.”
According to Hoobler, the fiesta even hosted a commode race for some consecutive years.
“In the 90’s we threw a commode classic...One of the board members [at the time] was an architect and he went to the Artichoke festival and they had this commode classic race and it was basically different groups like the Soroptimists, Rotary Club, and groups that just wanted to get together with some friends and they would build these [race commodes] someone would push it and someone was sitting on a potty and they ran it on Salado from the Circle out to where the post office is. That happened for maybe five or six years.”
Another change from Hoobler’s early days is the length of the fiesta, which used to conclude once the fireworks finished on Saturday, but now runs as a three-day event.
“When I first started with the fiesta it wasn’t as big as it is today,” said Hoobler. “It started on Friday with the Wine & Cheese and the pageant, then you had the parade on Saturday morning and once the fireworks were done on Saturday night it was over. Sunday was a cleanup day.”
Hoobler said that the last two years of canceling the fiesta due to the COVID-19 pandemic were very tough and emotional, but she looks forward to this year's 50th where she will serve in a more reserved role as a member of the food and craft committee.
“[The board] had no choice but to cancel it, and the following year it was the same scenario...so unfortunately for two years it was idle. But it looks like this year it’s gonna happen...I think everyone involved in the Apricot Fiesta can stand tall and very proud that they’ve played an active role in something that the whole community loves.”
When Hoobler first moved to Patterson in 1979 she couldn’t have imagined a better community and profession for her family. She has met many people through working with the Apricot Fiesta and will be succeeded by Gwendolyn Valentine-Villafana.
“It’s been a wonderful ride,” said Hoobler. “It was my job, yes, but it was also a passion. It grows on you. It’s work, but it's fun. It’s been a wonderful group of people throughout the years that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, so it's been a great experience and I couldn’t have asked for a better job that married well with my family and the community.”