Wasco Tribune - Serving the community since 1970

By Toni DeRosa
Wasco Tribune 

A year of change in Wasco

 

January 3, 2019

There were many changes in the City of Wasco during 2018, and one of them is in your hands. When Reed Print, Inc., closed its doors in December and the Wasco Tribune and The Shafter Press ceased publication, it seemed it was the end of an era. But it turned out to be a new beginning.

As luck would have it, former Shafter High School graduate and East Coast newspaper publisher Michael Schroeder contacted the Reeds and inquired about the closure. Following Schroeder’s inquiry, local farmer and curator of the Shafter Historical Museum Stan Wilson refused to watch his paper go by the wayside. He also contacted the Reeds and expressed an interest in keeping the paper going; it was then that the Reeds shared with Wilson that Schroeder had contacted them about purchasing The Shafter Press.

The rest has become a nice resolution to a difficult situation when Wilson and Schroeder decided to take on the ownership and publishing of both papers. Their first editions were published under the new company, Shafter-Wasco Publishing, LLC on Feb. 15, 2018.

Several members of The Shafter Press remained on board, including Editor Jamie Stewart and General Manager Diane Givens, as well as former Production Manager Kathy Smithee, who was named as advertising manager of the new business.

In early 2018, the City of Wasco saw City Manager Paul Parris resign, to be replaced on an interim basis by former City Manager Larry Pennell. He stepped in and managed the recruitment process for a permanent manager. David Ortiz-Hernandez started as city manager in September.

At the same time, City Clerk Duviet Rodriguez resigned and was replaced by Maria Martinez as interim city clerk. (She later ran for the office unopposed.)

2018 also brought changes in the election process within Wasco when the City Council voted on redistricting. This changed the way people would vote for their council members. A candidate has to live in the district in which he/wished to run. This meant Councilmember Cheryl Wegman was unable to run in 2018 because her seat wasn’t up until 2020.

Resident John Pallares stepped up and ran for Wegman’s seat and won. In fact, none of the City Council candidates ran opposed, and all candidates “won.” In addition to the council members not having to run, city clerk Maria Martinez also ran unopposed and was able to maintain her position.

While 2018 was a year of big change for Wasco, some things remained the same such as the willingness of the community to step up and coordinate important functions. The Orange Heart Foundation spent the year raising funds for their annual Fourth of July fireworks show. They also were instrumental in the coordination of the annual Wasco Festival.

Here are the other front-page stories from Tribune:

In February, the local band 2nd to None, a rock band from Wasco made up of grade-school kids with their leader instructor Ed Crane. The group will be on “America’s Got Talent” in 2019. Also in this first issue of the revitalized Tribune was a photograph of the returning staff, with a personal note from Publisher Mike Schroeder. Additionally, in February, Independence High School was named among the state’s best and was referred to as a model continuation school. Additionally, for the first timE, WHS qualified for the academic decathlon state meet.

In March, efforts in the city to move forward on the construction preparation for the high-speed rail project were reported. The high-speed rail authority hosted a public information meeting to update the citizens on the project and answered questions from the audience. In business news, Vanguard Medical Group held its grand opening and official ribbon cutting ceremony. Politically, March was a tumultuous month for Wasco when its former city manager, Paul Parris, resigned and former city manager Larry Pennell took over the job. Starbucks opened its doors and El Pueblo Market re-invented itself. WHS also opened its new Student Services Building and Councilmember Cherylee Wegman was honored by the State Assembly as Woman of the Year.

March ended with a tragedy on Highway 43 at the intersection of Wasco Avenue, as a local family was returning from a celebration when it was hit head-on by a 47-year-old Shafter resident. Father Adam Garza was killed along with three children. Sixteen-year-old male was taken to Kern Medical Center with major injuries and was released later. The car Garza was driving had been cut in half during the accident.

The month of April began on a much lighter note as Rep. David Valadao toured a new self-help subdivision, which added 20 homes. Business was looking good for California Home Loans and California Home Pros. It was also this month that Dr. James A. Forrest passed away from complications of a stroke. Forrest was the former superintendent of the WUESD and sat on its board.

April was also Easter, and St. John’s Catholic Church and Westside Family Fellowship celebrated Easter weekend in very different ways. St. John’s shared the Passion of the Christ with the community as members of the church went through the Stations of the Cross with local parishioners.

Easter Sunday was celebrated with an Easter egg hunt for the youngsters while adults were inside the church attending Easter Sunday service. April brought closure to the Garza family as they displayed love and unity for their lost family members. During this same month, WUESD Superintendent Kelly Richers got a 4 percent pay increase. Well-wishers said goodbye to Dr. James Forrest. He was laid to rest at the Arvin National Cemetery on April 9. Breast cancer survivor Jill Drescher was recognized for her volunteerism in the city and her successful battle with both breast and uterine cancer. Drescher has been a leader within the Wasco community for years. A new editor, Toni DeRosa, was the named the new editor of the Wasco Tribune. While Toni DeRosa worked at the Tribune upon her graduation from Cal State Bakersfield in 2005-2006, she returned in 2018 to write for Wasco Tribune again under its new leadership. Additionally in April, groundbreaking for the new Richard Reding gymnasium at Palm Avenue Elementary School took place with the knowledge in 2019; Palm Avenue Elementary School will transition to Palm Avenue Middle School in September 2019. Hoyett’s Café celebrated 70 years with an outdoor barbeque, featuring it well-known barbecued hamburgers. Many long-time residents showed up to help Hoyett’s celebrate the occasion.

The month of May brought warmer temperatures, so that those participating in the annual Relay for Life could enjoy themselves all day. Also occurring in May was the annual father-daughter dance sponsored by the Orange Heart Foundation. There was another Wasco cleanup, where young and old helped clean the city’s alleys and streets. The Wasco City Council honored employee Robert Villanueva, who had been attacked May 12. The city’s water was labeled by the state as still drinkable, but requiring treatment. May was also when long-time Thomas Jefferson Principal Steve Davis publicly announced he was retiring. A little shop of tea and honey called Joyful Steps was highlighted in the May17 edition. To round out May, the groundbreaking took place for the brand, new elementary school to be known as Dr. James Forrest Elementary School. May ended with Memorial Day ceremonies at Wasco Cemetery. The Wasco Woman’s Club sponsored a prom for WHS special education students. It started out as a small pizza party but has grown to include a hot meal provided by club.

Also included in May was a special Wasco Coalition meeting with special guest speaker Dr. Chuck Wall, who founded the Random Act of Kindness movement in Kern County during the 1980s. Wall presented each audience member with a special coin and a moving message about paying kindness forward.

The Cinco de Mayo celebration included the Knights of Columbus servoing margaritas for attendees and a variety of food was available for purchase. Entertainment included the local band 2nd to None from Teresa Burke Elementary School. Folkloric Citlali, Dueto Voces de mi Pueblo also entertained attendees at the celebration.

June brought thoughts of graduation, and there were several to cover including Wasco High School, Independence High School and Thomas Jefferson Junior High. Each ceremony was conducted by superintendents of the districts, and WHS had its largest graduating class ever. The superintendents addressed the graduates both in English and Spanish – providing their message of hope in the future and reflection on their high school years. The valedictorian messages were inspirational and moving as well as heartfelt. In addition to graduation was the announcement that Maple Elementary School broke ground on a long-awaited renovation. Wasco also held a bike rodeo and began thinking of roses – the Rose Pageant to be exact. Scheduled for Sept. 6-8, preparations were beginning as publicity was provided about the upcoming rose pageant. A chili cook-off and car show were featured. The big draw this year was the first-ever corn hole competition.

Mid-June highlighted Councilmember Cheryl Wegman and WUESD Assistant Superintendent David Bowling. Also highlighted was the downtown Farmers Market, which is open every Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. Pearls and other handmade items are sold at the Farmers Market. The Farmers Market is held across the street from the Sheriff’s substation on 7th Street. Additionally in June, Mayor Reyna’s unique introduction to the Wasco City Council was highlighted, as well as his involvement in St. John’s Catholic Church fundraising efforts. Upgrades to Southgate Park were celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony from which a Cal Recycling Grant provided the recycled tires that make up the playground area. Also, in June, the council approved the budget; however, new fees were criticized. The new name and new logo for the former Rose Festival was changed to the Wasco Festival.

With July came the annual Fourth of July fireworks show sponsored by the Orange Heart Foundation. Barker Park began filling up late in the afternoon to view the fireworks.

Catrina’s authentic Mexican restaurant on F Street was highlighted in the paper. Owners Cesar and Marcela Marquez and their young son Daniel enjoy being in Wasco and came to Catrina’s with years of experience. Curator of the Wasco Historical Museum Marlene Swan opened the doors of the museum for a lesson on Wasco history. After an exhaustive search, a new city manager was hired. “This was the first time that all the interviewers agreed on their number 1 candidate, David Ortiz-Hernandez,” said Interim City Manager Larry Pennell.

Also introduced in Wasco was the new way of voting for city council members. Formerly an at-large district, Wasco was now voting by district since redistricting the city. The city held an informational briefing explaining the new way of voting. Highlighted in business was Wasco Tire Service, LLC, run by brother and sister, Izak and Alex Valenzuela, for their parents. In July, the WUESD board approved teacher raises, WHS FFA members continued to work on summer projects and it was discovered that Week’s Roses was still blooming. It was also noted that the Wasco Festival was celebrating its 50th year.

August brought our attention to the lack of 9-1-1 dispatchers in the Sheriff’s office. Meanwhile, one of the original owners of Hoyett’s Sandwich Shop was highlighted – Easter Smothers. Fundraisers for the upcoming school year were just beginning with the state Sen. Rudy Salas-sponsored Stuff the Bus collection for kids of Wasco schools.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed new gymnasium at Wasco High School was released. This measure will be on the Nov. 6 ballot (it passed). Father Raul A. Sanchez Flores was to be installed as parish priest for St. John’s Catholic Church. Lisa and Thomas Edick were surprised with a party to announce their selection as the grand marshals for the Wasco Festival.

The unveiling of the new mural on 7th Street was celebrated. Artist Carlo de Guzman created a historical vision of Wasco, with the high school, the old movie theater, a rose field and lots of families are depicted in the mural.

With the minimum number of candidates for the council and school board, there would be no need for an election. The new council members will be Gilberto Reyna, Alex Garcia, John Pallares, Tilo Cortez and Danny Espitia, and the new WUESD board members will be Richard Reding, Cheryl Wegman, Luis Fernandez, Anna Poggi and Danny Rueda.

The Wonderful Academy in Lost Hills provided free school supplies to all students who showed up at the site. The city council repeated its negative vote on cannabis sales in the city.. Named the emcee of this year’s Rose Queen Pageant was for KGET TV-17 reporter/anchor Lori Lizarraga.

At the end of August, candidates for the fourth-district supervisorial race were in the throes of their campaigns. A candidate forum was held in Wasco for the three candidates – David Couch, Grace Vallejo and Jose Gonzalez.

The artists for the Wasco Festival were announced: Christian Alexander and Elizabeth Randolph Soto. Alexander is a former WHS graduate. In August, beekeeper Christopher Carlberg shared what a day on the job looks like for him as he rescued bees from a site in downtown Bakersfield.

Victoria Bernal was named the 2018-2019 Wasco Rose Queen. She performed a talented ukulele performance of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” In celebration of the Wasco Festival, the evening of Wine and Roses rocked with Grand Marshals Lisa and Tom Edick enjoying the ’50s vibe.

City employees and local officials said goodbye to Interim City Manager Larry Pennell at a luncheon. The city instilled new rules for subdivisions regarding lights and sidewalks. The regulations were based on feedback from residents. Long-time hamburger spot Jolly Kone was spotlighted. Jolly Kone has been around since the 1950s, and owner Jose Espinoza has upgraded the local drive-in.

October brought Homecoming, with King Caleb Dobb and Queen Sayra Raya beaming at the game as they were crowned. Basham & Lara Funeral Care opened in Shafter, serving the Wasco area, too. The new City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez was welcomed to the city.

Usually, October brings thoughts of Halloween and preparation for the upcoming holiday season; however in Wasco, it means Wasco Homecoming and Wasco Festival time. Wasco’s homecoming activities with anoutdoor rally and the display of the class floats. Seventh Street was filled with revelers anxiously waiting for the homecoming game to happen.

In addition to Homecoming and the festival, the VFW served over 250 attendees a pancake breakfast. Post 6742 helps local children as well as aiding those veterans in Wasco. Volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, SAL and community members helped out by serving breakfast. The Wasco Woman’s Club held a candidate forum for the District 3 supervisor’s race. Another forum was held for the WHS board candidates as well as for Bond Measure E for the new high school athletic facility. Additionally in October, Griffith Baptist Church celebrated 75 years in Wasco. Newest Councilmember John Pallares was highlighted. The fourth-district supervisorial candidates met in Wasco to hold one of their last forums prior to the election.

The weather was perfect for the festival,and Barker Park was jam-packed with attendees who played games, indulged in eating some of their favorite “junk” food and ended the day with a music festival. By the end of October, Wasco was ready to finally rumble against Shafter for their annual Rivalry Week festivities. Even though it was a good game and Wasco played hard, keeping the Shafter team under control, Shafter beat Wasco to claim their unbeaten season.

A new class was inducted into the Wasco Athletic Hall of Fame in October with a celebration of new accomplishments. A couple of teams were inducted into this year’s Hall of Fame, including the Boys 1990 Varsity Baseball team and the 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 Varsity Girls Basketball Teams.

In November, the City Council approved council member medical benefits, Dio de los Muertios (Day of the Dead) was celebrated with great fanfare. Lots of music, creativity and decorations were displayed on 7th Street for the festival. The street was shut down so partygoers could relax and not worry about traffic interrupting their fun. On a lighter note, a tiny kitten was saved at a Wasco clean-up and taken home to live with one of the worker’s family. Tiger Mart remodeled and reopened.

The Tigers football team moved on to Visalia in the playoffs, and students and the community celebrated veterans. Also winners in November were the girls cross-country team. Sadly, the Tiger football team’s winning season came to a close when they lost to the Visalia Golden West Trailblazers.

Free Will Baptist Church gave thanks by holding a free dinner for anyone who wanted to attend. The Knights of Columbus also held another blood drive and the Girl Scouts were one of the first groups to taste the pizza at the newly opened Pizza Factory on Highway 46. The City Council voted on a plan for sidewalk vendors, revising city guidelines.

The year is almost ended, and the Wasco Christmas parade was attended by many who braved the chilly weather standing along 7th Street to watch the many floats come by. Several local businesses remained open in case anyone wanted to browse a bit. The official lighting of the Christmas tree and the Christmas parade followed. The following night Planet Dance held its winter dance recital in honor of Jordan Garza, who died March 25 in a vehicle accident with her family.

A sweep of residences netted six arrests, and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office was continuing a search for an “armed and dangerous” suspect in a stabbing and separate armed robbery.]The Shafter Press and the Wasco Tribune held an open house in their Shafter office for its readers and anyone who was interested.

The Wasco Woman’s Club held its annual Christmas party for the special education students at Grace Community Church.. The students loved the festivities. The Regional Oral Language Festival was held at Sequoia Elementary School in Shafter and four boys from Wasco took second place in grade 7-8 verse choir. When the final election results were in, Measure E for WHS failed by a small percent point and Rep. David Valladao lost his seat to TJ Cox.

 

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