YMCA’s Harvest Youth Parade Unifies Organizations

​Espanola Valley YMCA’s Director, Ben Sandoval, responsible for creating the Youth Harvest Parade to unify youth organizations six years ago, drives a John Deere tractor at the head of the parade pulling YMCA students in trailer while many of the Y’s students walk along their entry. Photos by ROBERT NARANJO/valleydailypost

YMCA’s Harvest Youth Parade Unifies Organizations

Fun For Everyone To Kick Off Halloween


The 6th Annual YMCA Harvest Youth Parade, held on “All Hallow’s Eve” or more commonly known as Halloween, was an impressive display of organizations rallying around the youth of the Espanola Valley in a fun event for all, especially the children and families who lined the parade route for Halloween treats. No need to yell out, “Trick or Treat!”

The YMCA’s Harvest Youth Parade was staged behind the Bond House Museum at the Plaza de Espanola. It began at 4:30 pm by heading west on Hill Street, north on Calle de Las Espanolas, west on Bond Street, north on Coronado Street, and east on Vietnam Veterans Memorial Parkway and ended at the Beatrice Martinez Espanola Senior Stroke Center. It’s been the same starting time and route every year.

Spectators line the parade route and wave happily as it goes by while children happily gather Halloween candy. A youthful runner, (on right) keeps up with the parade in an impromptu run. Photos by ROBERT NARANJO/valleydailypost

The Harvest Youth Parade was an idea formulated by Ben Sandoval, Director of the Espanola Valley YMCA, (“the Y”), which is under the umbrella of the Los Alamos YMCA. “The project was started in an effort to unify the youth and the organizations that serve our youth in Espanola,” Sandoval told the Valley Daily Post. The Harvest Parade had a surprising amount of participants and a near record amount of entries according to Sandoval.

The National Dance Institute (NDI) entry was a favorite among parade spectators. Photos by ROBERT NARANJO/valleydailypost

The Harvest Youth Parade had 11 entries with over 300 youth participants, not including adults, Sandoval said. This year’s parade and spectators were only eclipsed by the parade “a couple of years back when there were 14 entries.” Sandoval explained that if the Harvest Youth Parade (on Halloween) falls on a Friday, there appears to be less participation, likely due to area high school football games and other activities going on. This year’s parade fell on a Thursday and enjoyed beautiful weather — a great combination resulting in an outstanding parade for participants and spectators.

The parade was clearly enjoyable for all. Families and youth who came out to see the parade were noticeably happy and enjoying themselves. The parents were happy to see an event created for students. “It’s great for the kids and it’s good that there’s an ROTC presence,” said Elizabeth R., who was watching the parade on Coronado Street in front of James Rodriguez/Espanola Elementary. Students watching the parade together as it turned on Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Parkway were asked what they liked about the parade. “I liked “Sparky” said Tamara. “I liked the NDI (National Dance Institute), it’s a nice program,” said Melanie.

Espanola Municipal Judge Steven S. Salazar said the Harvest Youth Parade was “fantastic.”

Espanola Municipal Court Judge, Steven S. Salazar, (on right), poses with members of the EVHS ROTC during the YMCA’s Youth Harvest Parade. Seated (on left) in
photo is ROTC’s Battalion Commander, Colonel Lily Martinez, who plans to join the U.S. Army after graduation and ultimately apply for Officer Training School. Photos by ROBERT NARANJO/valleydailypost

Espanola Valley High School ROTC’s Colonel Lily Martinez, Battalion Commander, said the parade “was a good experience” and said it’s a good event for the youth of the area. After graduation from EVHS, she’s joining the U.S. Army with her sights set on being an officer. Her ROTC instructor at the high school, New Mexico National Guard Lieutenant Mark Gonzales, marched with his cadets in the parade. The ROTC Color Guard led the parade and marched in a crisp lock step the entire route adding an important patriotic note to the event.

Ben Sandoval expressed his appreciation to all involved with the success of the YMCA’s Youth Harvest Parade which “unifies the support surrounding our youth and that’s what we continue to do as a program,” he said.

EVHS’s cheerleaders were part of the fun-filled event. Here they pose for the camera before the start of the parade. Photos by ROBERT NARANJO/

“We continue to grow with more than 300 student participants,” Sandoval said noting the total number of youth taking part in the parade. He added, “I’d like to say a special thank you to all the student participants who were involved in the parade. And, also, a special thanks to the community–the spectators–who came out to support this great event.” 

Sandoval said that it was “…important to mention that the parade is the segue to raise funds for our ‘Warming Young Hearts’ project that occurs in December.” He added, “It’s a tie in. The money that we receive for the parade goes to buying supplies for the Warming Young Hearts project, so it’s all tied together.” Warming Young Hearts is a Christmas stocking program sponsored by the YMCA.

The Espanola Valley YMCA is located on Vietnam Veterans Memorial Parkway in Espanola and can be reached at (505) 747-6569. Or, visit www.laymca.org for information on the local “Y.”