Castro defends ‘Blue Rubber Band Man’ as July 4 parade marshall

(PNS reporting from VISALIA, CA) Outgoing Visalia Chamber of Commerce president Adrianna Castro stands behind the selection of her brother, area broccoli farmer and businessman Eddie Reyes, as Grand Marshall for this year’s annual July 4th parade.

“Eddie is not only an outstanding, civic-mind citizen,” she told PNS early this morning, “but his blue broccoli rubber bands put our Central Valley city on the world map!”

Castro announced the selection of Reyes (family photo, right) at the closed-door meeting Monday night, her last meeting as president of the group. Her term expires at the end of the month.

After the announcement, incoming president Tony Santamaria jumped up and called her choice “nepotism” and had to be “calmed down,” according to Chamber members at the meeting who contacted PNS.

“Eddie is more than just my big brother,” Castro explained. “He was a man with a plan Panama!”

“You know, our parents were immigrant farm workers who worked day and night to feed our family to save up and buy a small farm. When we were kids, we used to help out in the fields and pick, clean, sort and package broccoli. That’s where Eddie got his idea.”

“Eddie saw our mom cut her hands repeatedly with the wire-reinforced paper “ties” they used to hold the stalks of the broccoli together. This broke his heart. He knew there had to be a better way to keep a few broccoli heads together. ‘Let’s get our heads together!’ he always would say.”

“One summer day in 1967, when he was making a rubber-band powered zipgun with kids from his clika, he got the big lightbulb. Rubber bands!”

He came home that night, she said, and told everyone at dinner of his plans:

We have to replace these wire ties with rubber bands. And they need to be strong, and come in nice colors.

Reyes spent months combing the rubber band trade magazines at the library, and eventually found a company in Akron, OH to make broccoli-strength rubber bands that met his standards, she said. And they could make them in blue, Eddie’s favorite (and his clika’s favorite) color.

“First it was just us using the rubber bands, and then other farmers asked if they could try them out. Before we knew it, Eddie was the Blue Rubber Band Man!”

Reyes Rubber Bands, the family company, soon bought that Akron factory, and has since become the nation’s leading supplier of blue broccoli rubber bands.

The company slogan — Strong, and a nice color — is now known around the world wherever professional-strength blue rubber bands are required, she said.

“In Afghanistan, NATO field medics carry a little stash of our rubber bands for use as emergency field tourniquets,” said Castro. “In Washington, D.C., lobbyists, dope dealers, gangsters, pimps and legislators all use them to carry big rolls of Benjamins in their pants pockets. And the sex toys? Don’t ask!”

PNS contacted Tony Santamaria, Castro’s critic, for comments, but he did not respond to either voice mail or email inquiries. Reyes’ office would only say that he was “honored to be chosen.”

(Disclosure: This correspondent’s “significant other” says the broccoli rubber bands beat the hell out of ponytail scrunchies — “and such a nice color blue!”)

Reyes will ride the traditional 1955 Cadillac El Dorado convertible up Main Street, followed by the Redwood High School Marching Band. The parade starts at noon Sunday.

Photo of a totally unrelated California farmer courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.