Joe Vega honored as Labor Day Parade Grand Marshal
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: August 14, 2013
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
A Santa Paulan who grew up with a strong work ethic that led to his own success as a business owner is being honored as the 2013 Labor Day Parade Grand Marshal.
Joe Vega, owner of Vega Welding, will lead the 9th Annual Labor Day Parade on Monday, September 2 at 10 a.m. The theme of this year’s Main Street procession is “Honor the Labor Force!”
According to Anita Pulido of the Labor Day Parade Committee, Vega is a perfect example of a citizen, worker and employer. “He is very generous and does a lot of gratis welding,” provided by Vega Welding, which has been in business for almost four decades.
Pulido said Vega, the recipient of the 2012 Latino Town Hall Jesse Victoria Business Award, has combined the practicalities of his welding services with decorative art that has dressed numerous buildings with elaborate metal works. “The community knows that for decorative metal works, major construction projects and for heavy duty metal works they can rely on Vega Welding,” which over the decades has provided steady employment and opportunity to hundreds of area residents.
Pulido noted Vega has mentored more than 50 others who became successful welders on their own by setting an example of hard work and dedication to the intricate craft. “Joe’s business also demonstrates the diversity of fine businesses we have here in Santa Paula” and, added Pulido, “Knowing how shy he can be, we are proud and pleased Joe accepted our invitation to lead the Labor Day Parade.”
A Santa Paula resident for 38 years and a business owner for 47 years, Vega said he grew up on Foothill Road in Ventura as well as “on the other side of where the SP is on South Mountain” in Somis. Vega’s father was a cowboy with skills to treat cattle who put his son to work when he was 13 years old, doing odd jobs: “weeding, mowing lawns, washing cars, whatever I could... it’s the best thing he could have done for me, it made me responsible.”
Following service in Vietnam, Vega attended Ventura College where he discovered welding under a teacher that inspired him. As a student he started doing “minor jobs” that had far greater value in giving him experience as well as exposing others to his work.
Vega said “I didn’t know a soul” when he moved to Santa Paula 38 years ago to open his own business after being laid off. “I’d been working on a tract out here, it was just the wife and I and I had my own truck... I was already thinking about going into business for myself,” a decision he never regretted.
But it did take some time: “I opened a shop and called it Mechanical Specialties... I thought I would build equipment. One day some guy came in and said ‘I don’t want a mechanical specialty, I want a welder!’ So I changed it to Vega Welding,” a name known throughout the county.
“I really appreciate what the Santa Paula community has done for me, for accepting me so quickly,” said Vega, who noted he enjoys what he does, especially training others for a career. “I had an opportunity to start in Oxnard, but I came to love it here,” where he and his wife Maria have a small ranch east of the city where he grows avocados, a life that reminds Vega of his childhood.
“I wanted to raise my kids where they could be in 4-H and FFA, that’s what helped me as I grew up.” He has six children, one about to graduate from veterinarian school in Australia, one a brewer who lives in Oregon, another a fashion/costume designer for the Stanford University theater department and another who is a film editor. Two sons are musicians who, Vega noted, “have to follow their dream.”
Vega has slowed down temporarily while undergoing treatment for cancer, but he is looking forward to leading the parade, “a real honor.”
Judges for this year’s parade are Maria Bombara, Gary Nasalroad and Tony Berumen. The parade - Santa Paula parade maven Ron Merson helps each year - will be filmed for online broadcast and archiving by KADYTV.net
The parade is for the entire community and everyone is invited to participate, either by watching or as any type of entry that celebrates the workforce. There are three judged categories: “Most Original,” “Most Participants” and “Best Overall Use of the Theme.”
Floats are always welcome and all are encouraged to create one. A flatbed truck or trailer, pickup, wagon or any other equipment with wheels works well as a float. Entries are open to unions, families, friends, businesses, cars, equestrian, and marching groups. Get dressed up or decorated and join the fun and help entertain the community at the Santa Paula Labor Day Parade, one of the few such celebrations held in the state.
Entry forms can be downloaded from the Santa Paula City website: http://www.ci.santa-paula.ca.us/LaborDayParadeForm.pdf or picked up at the Community Services Department. For additional information, or an entry form sent by mail, call 525-5232 or email email@example.com.
The community funds the annual Labor Day Parade: donation checks can be made out to “Santa Paula Community Fund” and mailed to: Peter Wright, 801 McKevett Road, Santa Paula, CA 93060.