Soboba Elders Ring in the New Year

◆ By Mike Hiles

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Tribal Elders welcomed in 2020 a little early with a fun evening at the elegantly decorated Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29. Nearly 500 guests included elders from 19 other tribes from California and one from Arizona.

Each holiday season, Tribal Elders host parties at their reservations for others to visit and enjoy. Soboba’s New Year’s Party was the final one of 2019.

Soboba Elders Coordinator Erica Schenk introduced Elders Board President Francie Salgado Diaz who welcomed everyone to the annual New Year’s Party.

“I’d like to acknowledge two of Soboba’s leaders that paved the way for us to move into our property: Anthony Mojado Sr. and Robert “Bobby” Salgado Sr.,” she said. “We have overcome many obstacles and challenges over the years – from inadequate housing to dire poverty – and these two leaders are a legacy for us. It is a miracle we have a beautiful casino, hotel and this event center we are meeting in tonight.”

Diaz continued her heartfelt message: “It is a true blessing and I thank God for us as a generation that has paved the way for our grandchildren and our future generations.”

“It is with honor to each of us as a generation that has been instrumental in developing a better way of life for our people as we persevered over the years and are now reaping our harvest that has been long overdue,” she told the filled room. “I hope you all brought your dancing shoes because tonight is our night to celebrate and bring in 2020, and don’t be shy. We’re wishing each one a prosperous New Year. Thank you.”

Diaz’s sister, Raina Maciel, serves as secretary and treasurer for the Elders board and said after five years of serving she plans to step down in 2020. Nominations and elections are held in January for one-year terms and the new board members will officially take over on Feb. 1.

“I have some family commitments I’m looking forward to but I still plan to stay active with the group,” said Maciel, who was one of about 25 elders that took a 12-day cruise around New Zealand and stopped in Australia. “This year went by so fast but that’s what happens when you are busy.”

Schenk said outing plans being discussed for the new year include a trip to Las Vegas to see a Raiders football game and some entertainment shows and a short trip to Hawaii.

Soboba Tribal Elder Rose Salgado, and sister to Diaz and Maciel, enjoyed the party and said the highlight of 2019 for her was seeing the new casino open.

“I feel it was the most important thing that happened all year,” she said, adding that she plans to retire from Tribal Council in 2020 to focus on family and traveling. “I want to do all the things I planned to do years ago. I’m just happy to be alive – every day, I’m just glad to be here.”

Her sister-in-law, Claudia Salgado (widow of the late Robert Salgado Sr.), agrees.

“The Creator has allowed me to wake up every day from January 1 to now and I’m grateful for that since there are a lot of people that didn’t,” she said, adding that she’s not worried about keeping any New Year’s resolutions since she doesn’t make them anymore.

She enjoyed having the party at the Event Center where there is more space than previous venues. In the recent past, the party was held at the Soboba Sports Complex.

“This is the first time that I have given the opening prayer and it truly feels as if I am standing here for Robert, as this was something that he always did. It’s nice seeing everyone having a good time and seeing those you haven’t seen in a long time,” Claudia Salgado said.

That was Schenk’s favorite part of the evening as well: seeing everyone having fun. She added that there are currently about 135 Soboba Tribal Elders but that the total fluctuates. Elders become members as soon as they are 55 years old.

Everyone was treated to dinner, dancing to music from “Little Bit of Soul” live band, a performance by comedian Gilbert Esquivel, raffles, and music and messages from DJ Mike throughout the four-hour celebration.

A photo booth was available during the night for guests to have their pictures taken and since each was printed right away, they could be enjoyed within minutes.

A dance contest pitted some of the most energetic dancers against each other for a chance to win one of three cash prizes. A couple from La Jolla placed first and collected $150, Soboba’s dancers were second for $100 and Torres Martinez was awarded third place and $50. Diaz, who has served on the board for about five years, said she also plans to step down after her term ends this month to focus on getting and staying healthier.

“I’ll continue to contribute to my Tribe in any way I can to give back,” she said, adding that it’s been quite a journey for the Tribal Elders to get where they are today.

“We were looking forward to having our first major event here at the event center and thanks to a good working team that also includes Carlene Masiel as Vice President, we made it,” Diaz said. “We’ve had some challenges, but it’s been pleasant and I’ve enjoyed it.”

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Tribal Elders welcomed in 2020 a little early with a fun evening at the elegantly decorated Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29. Nearly 500 guests included elders from 19 other tribes from California and one from Arizona.

Each holiday season, Tribal Elders host parties at their reservations for others to visit and enjoy. Soboba’s New Year’s Party was the final one of 2019.

Soboba Elders Coordinator Erica Schenk introduced Elders Board President Francie Salgado Diaz who welcomed everyone to the annual New Year’s Party.

“I’d like to acknowledge two of Soboba’s leaders that paved the way for us to move into our property: Anthony Mojado Sr. and Robert “Bobby” Salgado Sr.,” she said. “We have overcome many obstacles and challenges over the years – from inadequate housing to dire poverty – and these two leaders are a legacy for us. It is a miracle we have a beautiful casino, hotel and this event center we are meeting in tonight.”

Diaz continued her heartfelt message: “It is a true blessing and I thank God for us as a generation that has paved the way for our grandchildren and our future generations.”

“It is with honor to each of us as a generation that has been instrumental in developing a better way of life for our people as we persevered over the years and are now reaping our harvest that has been long overdue,” she told the filled room. “I hope you all brought your dancing shoes because tonight is our night to celebrate and bring in 2020, and don’t be shy. We’re wishing each one a prosperous New Year. Thank you.”

Diaz’s sister, Raina Maciel, serves as secretary and treasurer for the Elders board and said after five years of serving she plans to step down in 2020. Nominations and elections are held in January for one-year terms and the new board members will officially take over on Feb. 1.

“I have some family commitments I’m looking forward to but I still plan to stay active with the group,” said Maciel, who was one of about 25 elders that took a 12-day cruise around New Zealand and stopped in Australia. “This year went by so fast but that’s what happens when you are busy.”

Schenk said outing plans being discussed for the new year include a trip to Las Vegas to see a Raiders football game and some entertainment shows and a short trip to Hawaii.

Soboba Tribal Elder Rose Salgado, and sister to Diaz and Maciel, enjoyed the party and said the highlight of 2019 for her was seeing the new casino open.

“I feel it was the most important thing that happened all year,” she said, adding that she plans to retire from Tribal Council in 2020 to focus on family and traveling. “I want to do all the things I planned to do years ago. I’m just happy to be alive – every day, I’m just glad to be here.”

Her sister-in-law, Claudia Salgado (widow of the late Robert Salgado Sr.), agrees.

“The Creator has allowed me to wake up every day from January 1 to now and I’m grateful for that since there are a lot of people that didn’t,” she said, adding that she’s not worried about keeping any New Year’s resolutions since she doesn’t make them anymore.

She enjoyed having the party at the Event Center where there is more space than previous venues. In the recent past, the party was held at the Soboba Sports Complex.

“This is the first time that I have given the opening prayer and it truly feels as if I am standing here for Robert, as this was something that he always did. It’s nice seeing everyone having a good time and seeing those you haven’t seen in a long time,” Claudia Salgado said.

That was Schenk’s favorite part of the evening as well: seeing everyone having fun. She added that there are currently about 135 Soboba Tribal Elders but that the total fluctuates. Elders become members as soon as they are 55 years old.

Everyone was treated to dinner, dancing to music from “Little Bit of Soul” live band, a performance by comedian Gilbert Esquivel, raffles, and music and messages from DJ Mike throughout the four-hour celebration.

A photo booth was available during the night for guests to have their pictures taken and since each was printed right away, they could be enjoyed within minutes.

A dance contest pitted some of the most energetic dancers against each other for a chance to win one of three cash prizes. A couple from La Jolla placed first and collected $150, Soboba’s dancers were second for $100 and Torres Martinez was awarded third place and $50.

Diaz, who has served on the board for about five years, said she also plans to step down after her term ends this month to focus on getting and staying healthier.

“I’ll continue to contribute to my Tribe in any way I can to give back,” she said, adding that it’s been quite a journey for the Tribal Elders to get where they are today.

“We were looking forward to having our first major event here at the event center and thanks to a good working team that also includes Carlene Masiel as Vice President, we made it,” Diaz said. “We’ve had some challenges, but it’s been pleasant and I’ve enjoyed it.”

Guests ring in 2020 with a toast at the conclusion of a New Year’s Eve Party at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29. Photo courtesy of Joan Fuller Photography.

Guests ring in 2020 with a toast at the conclusion of a New Year’s Eve Party at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29. Photo courtesy of Joan Fuller Photography.

Many guests took to the dance floor during the Soboba Tribal Elders New Year’s Party on Dec. 29. Photo courtesy of Joan Fuller Photography.

Many guests took to the dance floor during the Soboba Tribal Elders New Year’s Party on Dec. 29. Photo courtesy of Joan Fuller Photography.

Tribal Elders from 20 different reservations were greeted at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29 for a New Year’s Party, hosted by the Soboba Tribal Elders. Photo courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

Tribal Elders from 20 different reservations were greeted at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29 for a New Year’s Party, hosted by the Soboba Tribal Elders. Photo courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

An abundant buffet kept guests full during the four-hour New Year’s Party at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29. Photo courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

An abundant buffet kept guests full during the four-hour New Year’s Party at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29. Photo courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

 A performance by comedian Gilbert Esquivel had guests laughing during a New Year’s Party hosted by the Isobar Tribal Elders. Photo courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

A performance by comedian Gilbert Esquivel had guests laughing during a New Year’s Party hosted by the Isobar Tribal Elders. Photo courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

Tribal Elders from 20 different tribes enjoyed a New Year’s Party that filled the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29. Photo courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

Tribal Elders from 20 different tribes enjoyed a New Year’s Party that filled the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on Dec. 29. Photo courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

A lively dance contest was a highlight for participants and audience members who got to watch and cheer on their favorite dancers. Photo courtesy of Joan Fuller Photography.

A lively dance contest was a highlight for participants and audience members who got to watch and cheer on their favorite dancers. Photo courtesy of Joan Fuller Photography.