Vista’s Rose Parade Moment: A Five-Foot Avocado

How important was avocado growing in Vista?

Take a look at this banner headline on the front page of The Vista Press for the week of January 6, 1928:

Vista Press banner headline Avocado float

“Vista did herself proud at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses last Monday with her beautiful and novel avocado float,” the article began. The float was sponsored by the Vista Chamber of Commerce and assembled by a committee composed of chamber members along with members of the local horticultural society. The article saluted the backers and the assemblers for their “enthusiasm and teamwork” in creating the float.

The float, 10 feet long by 27 feet wide, was, in the words of the article, “intended to represent the rolling lands of the Vista district, the whole surrounded by an immense avocado…”

The base was a field of foliage, including strawberry vines interspersed with white and pink carnations, poinsettias, pepper boughs and holly. There were some small avocado trees representing an orchard, and “at each corner of the float a larger avocado tree bearing fruits was placed,” read the account.

Dominating this scene was a giant avocado, “which was 42 inches in diameter and 60 inches in height.” The big fruit was made out of thousands of avocado leaves, “pinned on in such a manner that the large imitation of a fruit was very realistic and attracted undivided attention while it was passing the countless thousands who lined the route of the great parade.” One man was even said to have thought the big fruit was made of “wax or plaster of paris…”

The float was entered in Class A-2 in the parade competition and “was awarded a special prize, a silver cup, which is now being suitably engraved and will be forwarded soon to Vista. “

The article concluded by stating that “Thousands of people were impressed with the novelty of the float and immediately began asking about Vista, and where to find this great land of the avocado and other subtropical fruits—‘The Subtropic Empire.’”

It’s not evident how much the nickname “Subtropic Empire” caught on, but the title of “Avocado Capital of the World” was prominently associated with Vista for a number of years, according to Harrison and Ruth Doyle’s book, A History of Vista. Until the late 1940s, Vista was home to the largest avocado packing plant in the United States. But as the Doyles and other chroniclers of San Diego County’s agricultural history have pointed out, the title of “Avocado Capital of the World” was traded among a number of north county communities over time. That, however, is a story in itself.

To read the entire 1928 Vista Press article, visit the Vista Historical Society website, . The home page contains a digitized archive of the newspaper. Click on the year 1928 and find the January 6 issue.

Upcoming History Events

“The Archaeology of Childbirth” is the subject of a lecture this Saturday, February 8 from 11 a.m. to noon at the San Diego Archaeological Center. Cara Ratner, M.A., Education Program Director at the center, will discuss the biology and evolution of human beings in relation to childbirth and the cultural and archaeological aspects surrounding it.  Free to center members, $5 per person for non-members. For further details, visit and click on the “Events” tab.


Celebrate Valentine’s Day with tea at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead. Seatings for tea, sweets and sandwiches are planned for three Sundays in February, the 9th, 16th, and 23rd.  A $10 ticket includes tea and snacks plus a tour of this historic 19th century farmhouse. For further details go to .


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