Reflecting on the second half of 2021 in Wasco
Last updated 1/13/2022 at 2:12pm | View PDF
While continuing to deal with the restrictions covid-19 placed on everyone, July began with a bang as the annual fireworks show was held at the ball park.
The Orange Heart Foundation and the Recreation and Parks District coordinated efforts together to provide the city with fireworks lighting up the sky.
The reopening of the pool at Barker Park marked the beginning of summer in 2021. The pool had been closed in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The virus refused to take a break. Near the end of July, infection rates continued to rise in the county.
There was some sadness in July as well because Wasco lost several residents. Volunteer icon Danny Rueda passed away due to illness. He was honored with a Catholic Rosary that filled the Palm Avenue gymnasium. He was recognized for his contributions by the local VFW and Ronald McDonald House for his volunteer efforts.
Deputy Philip Campas was killed in Wasco when a suspect opened fire during an incident on 1st Street. Suspect Jose Manual Ramirez, Jr. had gone on a killing spree after shooting his wife, sons and Campas. Five were killed that afternoon.
Scott Hurlbert was sworn in as the new City Manager after Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez left the city for Iowa. Hurlbert was a previous city manager for the city of Shafter and Wasco council members were happy to see him join the fold.
The Kern County Sheriff's Office provided an update on crime statistics. Crime is on the rise in many cities like Wasco, and the KCSO confiscated 4,300 pounds of illegal fireworks in the county this year.
In August, due to a DUI, Mayor Alex Garcia was asked by members of the council to resign his position as mayor while continuing to remain as a council member.
At the end of September, there was a push for testing and vaccinating for covid-19. Vaccination clinics were held at the old courthouse on 8th Street.
October saw vaccination rates increase; however, it wasn't enough because at the end of the year, the infected numbers continued to rise and Wasco was in the lead for that rise.
In October, the Wasco Woman's Club held the Area B annual conference at the clubhouse. Members from the area traveled to Wasco to join together and set some goals for the upcoming year.
Also in October, Sgt. Peter Martinez left Wasco for duty in Kern County. The KCSO switches sergeants and deputies around to different areas offering them opportunities to enhance their careers. Deputy Charles Shinn was promoted to sergeant at the Wasco substation.
October saw the resurgence of Trunk or Treat at Barker Park and the Wasco Library. Both places were giving away free candy to the kids, and in addition to candy, the library gave away an art project for the kids to work on at home.
Wasco lost its former city attorney when Gordon Drescher died Oct. 24.
Resident and Woman's Club member Chris Gibson was recognized as a cancer survivor in October during Cancer Awareness Month.
Local business Joyful Steps was able to remain open after the pandemic and spent several months renovating the shop. With new paint, new shelving and special toy items in addition to its teas and honey, the store continues to entice locals to visit the little shop for collectibles.
In October, Council member Vincent Martinez led residents on a walk to support the KCSO. Many gathered on a gray afternoon to show their support for the job the deputies and sergeant have been doing for Wasco.
The state mandated that third graders would begin receiving additional help, which will make their school day longer. Third graders would begin receiving 35 minutes of additional time to their school day because the state feels third graders are able to maintain a longer presence in the classroom and they are able to benefit from the extra time.
While reviewing the history of some of the schools in Wasco, the Teresa Burke Elementary School celebration was remembered in 2006 when original property owner Adele Durando sold some of her land for the new school to the school district. Durando also invited special guests to attend a luncheon at her home after the official ribbon cutting.
School started in early August with students wearing masks inside the classrooms and only able to remove them when outdoors. Classrooms were redesigned to accommodate safe distancing for everyone while inside the classrooms.
Wasco High began preparing for its football season with over 100 players signed up to play either varsity, junior varsity or freshman football. Varsity Coach Chad Martinez was pleased with the turnout and said that it should be a busy year for the Tigers. The Tigers had a new football reporter, Lamont Gridiron, who covered most of the games.
The Tigers' first game was a blowout win when they beat Tehachapi 50-14.
Continuing with sports, the Wasco Reserve returned after a year-long absence due to covid. New Manager Nic Ray had high hopes that his team would make the playoffs. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and the Reserve quietly left town when the season was over.
The Wasco Union Elementary School District offered incentives to all staff. Superintendent Kelly Richers said the district would offer each employee $200 to get vaccinated and the second incentive was to offer each employee $100 for perfect attendance, whether a 10-month or 12-month employee.
Also, since the passing of board member Danny Rueda left an open seat on the board, a committee has been formed to review Letters of Interest by community members who wish to serve the remainder of Rueda's term.
Wasco needed something to celebrate and it was the ribbon cutting of a new Mexican restaurant. Viga's Tacos, at 1401 Highway 46, opened to a large fanfare with a ribbon cutting, music, free food and a large crowd welcoming the newest business to town.
Mid-August brought Pastor Frank Sanchez to the forefront as New Generation Church held a revival at the ball park. There were dancers, testimonies and lots of love for everyone present.
Always a hot topic, the High Speed Rail's Pond Viaduct Structure and Poso Viaduct Structure were completed in August. The city continued to discuss some of the ongoing issues such as the farm labor housing camp and who would pay for its demolition.
The City of Wasco held a Job Fair on Aug. 26 which brought out several companies, Bakersfield College, the Department of Corrections and employment firms attempting to entice people to sign up for employment.
The Wasco Woman's Club had a brunch and invited several WHS students to attend. Emma Litchfield, the Woman's Club Rose Queen candidate and Ensley Mehlberg, who attended the HOBY event as the representative for WHS, arrived for brunch with their mothers in tow.
Wasco High School Activities Coordinator Hailey Coyle is the face for all things spirit at WHS and she was profiled in October. Coyle coaches the schools' cheer squads and oversees anything and everything to do with spirit. She is also heavily involved in the Wasco Rose Pageant and runs the evening of the pageant where each candidate is able to perform a talent, answer a question or two and wear a beautiful formal gown in front of her peers. The girls compete for athletic performance, grades and talent.
The Rose Pageant took place Sept. 9 in the WHS gymnasium live this year after a paid virtual pageant was held in 2020. Ixchel Sanchez was named 2021 Wasco Rose Queen/Miss Wasco.
In September, an agreement was reached between the HSR and the city of Wasco regarding the farm labor camp. The HSR applied for a grant and it was finally approved, which will allow monies to become available from HSR to demolish the old farm labor camp and make improvements in Wasco.
In mid-September, Petra Rueda was named as the replacement for WUESD board member Danny Rueda. Petra is well known in town for her volunteer activities.
WHS hosted a successful live Charles Craig Classic for local schools.
While the Kern County Fair was live this year, many visitors continued to wear their masks for safety and protection. The fair this year was much smaller than in the past.
Sno White Restaurant opened in town in the former Hoyett's Restaurant site after a major remodeling. The restaurant serves chicken, burgers and salads.
October saw the revival of the Rose Festival under the direction of the Orange Heart Foundation and the Festival Committee and several volunteers. Sharon Sharp from the Recreation and Parks District board assisted the committee in putting the Rose Parade and Festival on Oct. 9 at Barker Park. First the parade began about 10 a.m., the festival continued at the end of the parade at Barker Park. The evening ended with the annual music festival.
November capped a great football season for the Tigers. They won every one of their league games and some non-league games. They beat Centennial High in the first round of the playoffs; however, Frontier High proved to be a tough one and the Tigers faced their first loss of the season. WHS won their Homecoming game as well as the game against their arch rival Shafter High. Seniors Jackie Mendez and Jacob Ruiz, selected by the freshman class, were chosen as Homecoming Queen and King for 2021.
In early October Wasco was introduced to its new assistant city manager. Maria Lara walked into Wasco with the experience of the position and the desire to meet goals she set for herself.
Pastor Fernando Segura of Canyon Hills Church held its annual Love Wasco event with free food, events for the kids, games, raffle prizes and all at no cost to anyone.
Palm Avenue Principal Oscar Luna was named as the new board member to the Recreation and Parks District board in November.
The City Council presented concept views for its beautification project.
The Nov. 25 edition alerted everyone that the HSR received a $24- million dollar grant to fund the former labor camp demolition and Route 46 issues.
December saw the resurgence of the Christmas parade and the Veterans' Hall filled with decorated Christmas trees hosted by Toys for Tigers.
Varsity Football Coach Chad Martinez was named KGET's FFX (Friday Football Xtra) "Coach of the Year."
Principal Veronica Sanchez Gregory was profiled in the Dec. 15 edition of the paper. She was a cross country coach until she became principal at Lost Hills Elementary School. Mariachi instructor Juan Morales was recently hired at Wonderful Academy in Lost Hills.
True Value Hardware Store in Wasco reported burglaries in their newest store on Highway 46.
Lost Hills School District sent five runners to the AAU Cross Country National Championship on Dec. 4. Natali Gregory, Maria Ballesteros, Emmanuel Bustamante, Joshua Chavez and Jesus Diaz went to AAU Cross Country National Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina.