Tamales & Light Parade Kick off December Fun!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil

Tasty tamales and the stunning Festival of Lights Parade usher in December fun in the Coachella Valley. It is a much anticipated time when two popular holiday events take place from Palm Springs to Indio, in one festive weekend for all to enjoy!                                   rsz tamale fest logo

I seriously have been looking forward to the Indio International Tamale Festival since last years ended. It is one of my favorite events in the Coachella Valley, which makes food its main attraction. The festival started back in 1992 and grown to be one of the Top Ten best food festivals in the nation with good reason.

Tamale making is a traditional holiday ritual in the Hispanic community, bringing families together in the kitchen for this special time of year, making the timing of the tamale festival apropos.  The event has a multitude of vendors, selling a variety of mouthwatering tamales. They come in all different flavors from traditional pork, beef, chicken, chili or cheese, to gourmet tamales which have a limitless range. Gourmet tamales feature flavors such as game meat, BBQ and even dessert tamales with strawberry and pineapple just to scratch the masa.

My favorite is the Chicken Mole Tamale, which I discovered 3 years ago at the Tamale Festival. I tried to find the same tamale vendor ever since, but I just can’t seem to find them. Although there were vendors that sold the same kind of tamale, they weren’t the same. But I am fired up to go “In Search Of” that illusive Chicken Mole Tamale this year, leaving no husk unturned.                  rsz tamalefestnet

The  Indio International Tamale Festival is located in Old Town Indio and takes place on Saturday, December 3rd from 10am to 6pm and Sunday, December 4th from 10am to 5pm. Besides all of the delicious tamales, the event offers up a traditional "Fair" ambience. Admission is FREE, and festival goers can also enjoy rides, musical entertainment, beer gardens and other "Fair" type goodies (fried Twinkie’s anyone?) and vendors.

After gorging on tamales all day on Saturday (and hopefully finding my Chicken Mole Tamale), I will be marching on over to the fabulous Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade in downtown Palm Springs in the evening. The parade has an old school hometown feel, with a strong dose of holiday fashioned Americana. Enjoy brightly lighted floats, lighted vintage cars with local celebs (and some world-renowned), marching bands, specialty performers and of course…Santa! The approximate 100,000 (and growing) attendees that flock to Palm Springs every year can’t be wrong…right? Definitely right! The parade is so popular that it has been named one of the Top 10 Holiday Parades in the nation in an AOL survey.rsz logo 2016


The parade is FREE and starts at 5:45pm on Saturday, December 3rd. I plan to get there early to stake my claim on the parade route on Palm Canyon. Parade enthusiasts such as myself, are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets (it will be cold this weekend) and snacks. If you’re not into ruffing it picnic style, restaurants along the canyon will give those who wish to dine and gaze at the movement of lights a front row seat in style.                                                            rsz festival of lights parade 134 1

From Palm Springs to Indio, Tamales and the Festival of Lights Parade set the stage for December fun in the Coachella Valley for all to enjoy. They are definite favorites of The Palm Springs Local!

For more information of the Tamale Festival visit

For more information on the Festival of Lights Parade visit

Cabazon Band of Mission Indians 35th Annual Powwow

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                     rsz powow flyer 2016

The Cabazon Band of Mission Indians 35th Annual Powwow, takes place this Thanksgiving weekend from November 25th through November 27th, at the Fantasy Springs Special Event Center in Indio. The FREE event is fabulous, educational fun for the whole family to enjoy the traditions of this time honored celebration, right here in the Coachella Valley.

Powwows in the past have been predominately in the spring to signify new beginnings, but as time has passed, the celebration has been extended and also takes place at the end of the year to acknowledge the harvest season. Powwows incorporate a multitude of traditions and are significant in the Native American Indian culture. The celebration is also a time for families to have honoring ceremonies and was used in the past for religious purposes as well. The Powwows have held true to their intentions and have even added new ones. In the 1900’s, the event began to allow tribal members from different tribes throughout the United States and Canada to compete for cash prizes.

The event brings tribal members together to dance and sing, maintain friendships and cultivate new ones. All with a strong sense of ancestral respect and heritage. The Powwow attracts thousands of Native American Indian participants and non-Native American Indian participants and spectators from across the United States and Canada, all of whom take part in the three day event.

The Powwow holds a variety of celebratory tournaments that kick off with a Grand Entry, which opens the event utilizing a style of a rodeo procession. The Bird Singers have a semblance to the migratory aspect of the bird world. They sing about life lessons that are weaved through from generation to generation with generous instruction of parenting, highlighting the time when children move from their metaphorical nest and into a world of their own. The singers use the assistance rattles made from gourds and even tortoise filled with seeds as musical accompaniment.rsz cabazon indio powwow 07 320x240

The dance competitions has different dances such as Traditional Dance, Grass Dance and Fancy Dance for the men, and Traditional Dance, Fancy Shawl Dance and the Jingle Dress Dance for women. All the different dances represent different story lines from battles, to hunting. One common thread of the judging of the dancers both male and female, is their ability to have both feet on the ground when the music stops. It is a talent that requires much attention and practice. The dancing offers a beautiful display, with a flurry of spinning colors and language spoken through a physical realm.

The Powwow also offers tribal members the opportunity to sell their goods in the vendor’s area with handmade art, jewelry and other wares. Traditional Native American Indian food as well as other refreshments are also available for purchase.

The Cabazon Band of Mission Indian 35th Annual Powwow at Fantasy Springs is filled with a kaleidoscope of colors, breath taking regalia and intense performances. The celebration will give spectators an appreciation of tribal nations and their traditions. It is an enjoyable and educational event for the whole family right here in the Coachella Valley.

For more information visit

Photo credit to and

The Buzz on Buzzbox

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                      rsz box fan

There’s a buzz around the Coachella Valley. It’s about a new innovative company that has made our beautiful desert home, it’s BuzzBox. This progressive product has taken the alcohol beverage market by storm. Their high quality products break the chains from regular every day cocktails, offering consumers a better way to imbibe, all produced right here in the Coachella Valley.

Most of us enjoy a cocktail now and then. We drink socially or enjoy relaxing with a libation in the confines of our own homes. But whether you are out and about, or playing mixology master at the casa, there are many ingredients that go into making your favorite mixed drink. And if you’re at home making it yourself, and have others around you clambering for something other than what you like, the list of ingredients can grow to an uncomfortable and costly length.

Wouldn’t it be advantageous for all of us who appreciate an alcoholic concoction to have our drinks pre-made with high quality ingredients, ready for us to just pick up at the store ready for consumption? Well thanks to the innovation of BuzzBox by Rod Vandenbos and his team, we can do just that.

The idea came from an ordinary outing when BuzzBox Founder/CEO Rod Vandenbos was with his family and friends and found himself lugging around a plethora of ingredients to make drinks for an outdoor gathering. In the midst of his labor, it was his daughter her sparked the idea when she asked her father for a juice box. He then automatically thought adults having a juice box of their own, a cocktail box of sorts. He knew he was on to something.

This was not the first time that Vandenbos had thoughts of creating a convenient cocktail. He had seen some inconveniences throughout his former thirty year career in the entertainment field, where he would head up events. He saw the extreme waste and the difficulty in sales tracking that traditional cocktail making procures. A product such as BuzzBox, virtually eliminates those problems, while still offering high quality cocktails.

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BuzzBox is much more than just liquor in a to-go cup. Their cocktails are made with precise manufacturing, while using the highest of quality of natural ingredients, such as real fruit juices and high-end alcohol. The cocktails are also free of any preservatives, and are packaged in eco-friendly packaging, the first of its kind.

The handcrafted cocktails are created with the utmost care and attention, headed up by Chemist Francoise Labbe, of their Beverage Design and Production Department. Labbe explained to me how important there packaging is to the quality of their cocktails. The packaging is made with renewable paper, and are collapsible for recycling. It is the absence of oxygen in the compact containers (asepic packaging) that allows for the product to keep fresh (a shelf life of 18 months) and also allows for preservatives not to be used. It is a freshness that is more than apparent and a pleasure to the palate.

The BuzzBox cocktail options are vast, such as the Perfect Margarita, Classic Greyhound (my fave), Long Island, Classic Cosmo, Bloody Mary and many more, with an alcohol content between 12% and 14% depending on the cocktail. Their cocktails are so good (and I’ve tasted most of them), that you would never believe that they came from a box. You can either enjoy it straight from the box using the convenient little attached straw, or pour it over ice…either way, you will be amazingly impressed. The cocktails are made without added sugar and some are less than 100 calories, “It’s the healthiest cocktail that you could have”, said Vandenbos.

What is also impressive, is that the company is excited about their products and being here in the Coachella Valley, “We love being here” expressed Vandenbos. It was exceptionally apparent to me when I sat down to interview Vandenbos and VP/Chief Brand Officer Brad Kinney, that they love what they do, and that they are ecstatic to be here in the desert to help and be part of the community.

Since their launch in 2014, BuzzBox’s popularity has grown at maximum speed, with sales doubling every month. Their products can be found at high profile Coachella Valley concerts and events, and at local stores such as Jensen’s and Jules, and broader outlets such as Whole Foods and most recently, Total Wines in Palm Desert. They are sold individually or in packs.

There is definitely a buzz in the Coachella Valley, and that buzz is BuzzBox. By bringing consumers high quality, convenient and consistently great tasting cocktails, they are only complimenting the business community here in the desert…and we are happy to have them. Cheers!

For more information on BuzzBox, visit

Winter Wonderland Fun Comes To The River!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                                          rsz rinkriver logo slider

Ah the beauty of winter, snow falling, kids all buddle up in their cold weather ware all ice skating outdoors in holiday delight. Ok, now picture the holiday outdoor ice skating without the snow, and maybe kids wearing shorts instead of bulky winter ware, and maybe 80 degree weather. If you can picture all of that, then you have the right idea of what The Rink at The River in Rancho Mirage will look like this holiday season from November 22nd, through January 8th 2017. The popular shopping center is bringing the desert some winter wonderland fun, right before our eyes.

Ice skating in the Coachella Valley is not a new idea. I recall participating in indoor ice skating at the Town Center Mall (now Westfield Shopping Mall) when I was a kid in the 80’s, and most recently at Ice Castles in Cathedral City, although admittedly not as proficiently as when I was younger. But outdoor ice skating in the desert? That is something very special and unique indeed.

The Rink at The River sponsored by Renova Solar, will be positioned in the water area on the west side of the Cheesecake Factory, in the vicinity of Acqua California Bistro. The 50 by 70ft rink will be complete with skate rentals and even lessens for those not used to gliding around on ice. The water is frozen within the built platform and is chilled by a huge 24 by 8ft chiller. Something like you would find in your ice box, but heck of lot bigger.

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The Rink is an Atmospheric rink, as described by The Rivers Director of Programming and Marketing, Tammy Pshebylo, “It is straight for ambience, you couldn’t play hockey on it for instance” said Pshebylo. However, what winter thirsty attendees can do, is skate around and enjoy a little holiday fun smack dab in the middle of the Coachella Valley. Fun!!

The Rink will offer skating during the day and at night seven days a week. There will be special events including the Grand Opening on Tuesday, November 22, as well as a Holiday Spectacular and Tree Lighting ceremony on Tuesday, November 29th, plus many others.

The Rink at The River is certainly a special treat for us this holiday season in the Coachella Valley, where we can slap on a pair of skates, and tootle around the ice, all while wearing shorts! Cheers to a very Happy Holiday Season at The River in Rancho Mirage!

For more information visit

Photo credit to

Everything Apple and Fall Fun in Oak Glen

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                           rsz imag0819

It’s the picturesque essence of the fall season, with apples, deciduous trees, and a cozy mountain town ambience, Oak Glen, California has it all. One of best parts of Oak Glen, is that it’s just a short drive away from the Coachella Valley (40 min or so), and offers up a great little day trip get-a-way for some fall fun, apple picking, lip smacking cider, and even some out of this world apple donuts.

I remember first going up to the Oak Glen area when I was a kid. My family and I would jaunt up to the quaint place as a day respite from the desert heat in the summer, and for apples and extra cold weather (in comparison the desert) in the fall. It’s a memory that I not only cherish, but have cultivated into a yearly tradition, especially during apple season.

There are two specifically popular seasons in Oak Glen, one is in the spring when the weather warms and the raspberries grow, and the other is in the fall for their apple harvest season. Their fall season is undoubtedly the biggest draw to Oak Glen, for it is just exudes an immensely inviting, warm seasonal feel…. adorable!

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There are many apple orchards to visit in Oak Glen, but for me, there is one that is always on my radar which I am very partial to, Hudson’s Snowline Orchard & Winery. It is off the main 5 mile loop that houses most of Oak Glens attractions, set slightly down a wandering road that looks like you might be entering some enchanted forest, or possibly a road to an English cottage…it definitely gives energy to the imagination.

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Once the road has left the rear view mirror, you will find that an apple orchard has grown right before you, it is lovely and almost magical. Snowline looks like something from far in the past, and rightfully so as it was established way back in 1898 (no, that is not a typo). I believe that its age is part of the lure of Snowline, it complements the apples in some way. The orchard has had four families that has owned it in its 118 years, most recently is the Hudson family, who have had Snowline for the last 36 years. They have continued the tradition of Snowline, and added a new aspect to the orchard, now producing and offering wine and hard cider (adult apple cider). Visitors to the orchard can try their new products in Snowlines tasting room.

If you’re looking for a variety of apples, than Snowline has a great many to choose from, all bagged up and ready go, or you can pick some yourself. Apple picking is a great family feature at Oak Glen orchards. And of course there is the cider, it is incredible! Snowline apple cider is considered one of the best in Oak Glen (I must agree). Their cider comes in three different flavors, original apple, apple raspberry, or cherry apple. They are all delicious, I mean it is as if you are biting into a juicy apple with each sip.                                           rsz imag0831

Snowline also offers their apple donuts. They are made with apple cider, and tossed with a cinnamon and sugar mixer. Served hot, and bite size, their donuts are in demand, resulting in having to wait in line for the pleasure of the sweet dough to dissolve in your mouth. So worth the wait!

On the weekends and weather permitting, Snowline has BBQ available, accompanied with some outdoor live music. The BBQ is excellent, and the items for purchase include Pulled Pork (my fave), Brisket, Ribs, Hot Links and more. I suggest having a side of their light and fresh coleslaw made of course with apples.

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The only problem with Snowline and other apple attractions in Oak Glen, is that apple season only goes for so long, starting in September and ending at the beginning of December (Snowline closes December 1st). Apple season enthusiasts such as myself have to wait a whole year to enjoy all of the apple fun once more, but it’s a hearty suspense, and so welcomed when it finally becomes apple season again.

I will definitely make it up to Oak Glen before their apple season goes dormant until next year, to enjoy some cider, BBQ and stuff my mouth with apple donuts. It’s a wonderful place to skip over to for a day trip from the desert, and to bring back treasures of everything apple and to accentuate the fall season state of mind.

Hudson's Snowline Orchard & Winery is currently opened 7 days a week from 9am-5pm.                                                                              


For more information about Snowline Orchard & Winery visit

For more information about other Oak Glen attractions visit

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