The Shafter Press - Serving the community since 1922

By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

A year of change in Shafter


January 3, 2019 | View PDF

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Gilbert Alvarado was selected as Shafter's new mayor.

2018 was a year with plenty of highlights and milestones in the City of Shafter. One of the first events of the year came in the rebirth of The Shafter Press. Due to the closing of the newspaper in December 2017 Shafter had no local newspaper at the beginning of the year. Enter farmer and director of the Shafter Depot Museum Stan Wilson. Wilson looked into what it would take to resurrect The Press. Wilson and a couple of local people reached an agreement with Reed Print, the former owners, and bought the name. Wilson contacted Shafter High grad and newspaper publisher Michael Schroeder, and the dream took hold. Resembling a group of kids who decide to put on a show for the neighborhood, the group gathered with Editor Jamie Stewart, Office Manager Diane Givens, former production manager Kathy Smithee, and Kobie Carrasco.

The crazy idea was born to put out a newspaper in a week's time. Up to the challenge, the team came together and the first issue of the new Shafter Press and Wasco Tribune] was out on Feb. 15. The new and improved newspapers are focused on local news, more pictures and support from the local community to put something out that the entire town can be proud of.

Another milestone for Shafter was the change in city's leadership. With the November election, two City Council members were sworn in. Sitting Council member Cathy Prout and newcomer Cesar Lopez took their oaths and were seated on the panel. On that night, Gilbert Alvarado, who started his tenure on the City Council in 2008, was selected as mayor. Alvarado said that the City will build on its strong financial foundation, and he is looking forward to addressing community concerns and keeping Shafter a desirable destination for prospective businesses and residents alike.

The year also saw a history-making season on the gridiron as the Shafter High Generals completed an undefeated season as they dominated the league like no other Generals' team in history. The magical season included outscoring their opponents 367-52 and a trip to the Central Section Division V finals. Coach Jerald Pierucci and his staff have built a program at SHS that has returned the Generals to the top of the SSL and Valley elite.

Here are some of the highlights of the year

In addition to the beginning of the new [BEGIN ITAL]Shafter Press, [END ITAL] February also saw the Shafter Colours Festival holding a variety of events played to packed houses. The Ford Theater was the site of Larry Starrh's production of "Dangerous Curves," which took you back to the days of the film noir era, complete with big band music, spats, and pinstriped suits. The festival also had an Art Gallery, featuring local artists including Greg Bergen, Charlotte White and photographer Colleen Diltz. In addition to all of this, there was a performance by the Shafter Symphony, and tours through all of the museums, including the Green Hotel, Minter Field Air Museum and the Shafter Depot Museum.

March saw drastic changes on the horizon for the Richland School District. In a letter put out on March 1, the District announced that there would be sweeping changes in administrations at all of their schools. Each school was going get a different principal and Vice Principal with the exception of Leonora Lopez, who was retaining her position as Vice Principal at Richland Junior High. These proposed changes met with some opposition as a group of parents, community members, and local staff organized a group to protest the changes and try to keep the schools with the same administration. The changes were approved and the schools started the 2018-2019 with new administrations.

The Distinguished Young Woman event was another of the highlights of March 2018. One representative was chosen to compete for Shafter in one of the oldest scholarship programs for young women in the country. Karly Cleveland, daughter of Karl and Carmen Cleveland, was chosen as the Distinguished Young Woman for Shafter, and represented the city in further state competition. Cleveland led 10 other young ladies for the title. At the end of March, a Shafter man was arrested after a 7½-hour standoff. John Wells, 55, of Shafter, barricaded himself in his house and refused to come out Wells even shot a robot that had been utilized by the SWAT team. Wells was taken into custody without any injuries and scheduled to be arraigned.

February's big news was the return of The Shafter Press and Wasco Tribune, which were restarted by local investors after the former owners, Reed Print, closed operations the previous December.

April was eventful month, with a beautiful Easter Son Rise Ceremony that drew a crowd, celebrating the resurrection of the Lord. The Teen Challenge Choir sang for the crowd and a message of hope was given. There was also an Easter Eggstravaganza at the Valley Bible Church in Shafter. The event included arts and crafts, games, music and story time. All of the children were taught why we celebrate Easter.

Also in April, the Wasco/Shafter Relay for Life event was held. The event gathers the communities of Shafter and Wasco as they bond over a common cause; the fight against cancer. Several groups from Shafter and Wasco performed for the crowd and those who were participating including Second 2 None, Richland Junior High Jazz Band and Planet Dance Studio. There was also a chance for community members to donate their hair. Stylists were on hand to cut their locks so they can go to a patient that needs it.

In [BEGIN BOLD]May,[END BOLD] the first highlight was the Annual Cinco de Mayo Festival. The holiday was celebrated by a large crowd turning out for the festivities, beginning with a parade downtown, featuring Grand Marshals Albert Barrera, Gilbert Rodriguez and Vincent Duffy, long-time coaches for the Shafter Gladiators football program. The parade was filled with brightly colored floats, marching bands, classic cars, lowriders and, of course, the horses.

Following the parade, there was something for everybody at Mannel Park with a myriad of activities, booths, vendors and rides for the kids.

Entertainment was provided by Ballet Folklorico and Planet Dance, among many other acts that kept the action going throughout the day. Mayor Cathy Prout was on hand to present the grand marshals of the festivities with certificates. The trio also received proclamations from representatives of the offices of Rep. David Valadao and Assemblymember Rudy Salas.

May also saw the annual Memorial Day service held at the Shafter Cemetery. It was a touching ceremony that honored those fallen heroes who have given their lives serving the country. Police Chief Kevin Zimmermann spoke about the sacrifices that they have made, and featured speaker Pastor Jim Neal told of his family's involvement in the military.

June is the time for students to move on and up with graduations at the Richland Junior High and Shafter High School. The SHS Class of 2018 saw a lot of important events take place during their time there. The school has grown in numbers, with large-scale renovations, a new gym, and a new weight room, and the including the ending of the losing in the Shafter-Wasco football rivalry. The Generals dominated the Tigers this year and claimed victory for Shafter.

With all of those things accomplished, the seniors at Shafter High saw their time as students at their alma mater come to an end with the commencement exercises that took place on the Shafter High football field on Wednesday night. 302 students graduated from Shafter High this year. Principal Shipley said that this was a great class and they will be missed. There is an even bigger class coming in this fall. "We have over 400 students enrolled for this next school year," said Shipley. June also saw the groundbreaking of a renovation of Maple Elementary School. This was the start of a very exciting time for the Mustangs. In recent years, the school has faced numerous challenges as their buildings were worn and breaking down. But, with support from local businesses, parents and a few key political supporters, Maple was approved for federal money that will allow them to rebuild the school so the children will be able to move into the 21 st century with updated classrooms, air conditioning, renewed buildings.a new gymnasium and new equipment and gymnasium. Principal Julie Boesch has doggedly pursued the dream of a new school for her children and has told the tale to anyone who would listen.

As Assemblymember Rudy Salas got on board, along with state Senator Andy Vidak and state Sen. Jean Fuller, the school garnered attention with their efforts and the dream became a reality. They broke ground on a project to be completed in three phases and take about 18 months to finish. First up will be the replacement of some classrooms, followed by another group of classrooms in the second phase. The final phase will be a new administration multipurpose building. Bousch said that the project couldn't have been done without the help of the elected leadership and all of the staff who have put in long hours, wearing several different hats, doing whatever was needed for the students to get a quality education. The Shafter Learning Center had a busy June with a full slate of classes and activities for the young and old. From computer classes, astronomy, to acting and improvisation, the calendar was full for the community.

In July, Shafter celebrated with its annual Fourth with Fireworks Show. The night sky was lit up with a host of colors at the Shafter High football stadium. The show has been held on July 3 for years now, saving funds for a better show .

The event began with a myriad of activities for the kids. There were bounce houses, a huge slide, other inflatables.

103.9 FM's Danny Morrison was the emcee for the festivities leading up to the fireworks show. Morrison and company held a dance contest that had the entire crowd entertained. Passes were given away to Legoland and Magic Mountain for the winners. The event attracted a large crowd of not only Shafter residents, but people from Wasco, Bakersfield and the surrounding area.

As the sun set, it was time to light up the sky. Amber Ford performed a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and then it was time for the fireworks. It was a show that did not disappoint. Every year, the fireworks show gets bigger with a memorable finale.

The Ford Theater was the site for a Community Worship and Prayer Service on July 19. The worship service began with its first event. About 75 people attended from churches all over the city. Cris Starrh commented when she first announced the event, "We think that the community needs a chance to come together as one body and fellowship with each other." The musicians for the service were from different churches in town.

August started with a performance by the Shafter Children's Summer Theater. The program concluded with the final performance of Mulan that closed a successful weekend run. The program is in its 23rd year and this year's performance was a big hit all three nights. Cris Starrh created the Childrens Theater program in 1996. She was wanting a project to keep her kids busy during the summer, and it has grown every year. For the first 18 years, the program was held at Shafter High School, with the venue changed to the Ford Theater five years ago. The kids practice twice a week during the summer, memorizing dialogue, learning blocking, choreography, singing and acting their different parts.

There are new leaders at the helm this year, her niece and nephew. Michelle Starrh is the musical director this year, and Brent Starrh is the director.

Students gathered in anticipation of a new school year as they attended the annual Arena Day at the Shafter Activity Center. This event consists of all incoming students getting their schedules, books, pictures taken, as well as getting all of their paper work turned in for the new year.

Richland Junior High staff were on hand helping the attendees navigate the activity center in their registration process. were excited to receive their Trojans shirts, signifying their transition from elementary school to junior high.

September saw the beginning of what would become the most successful football season in SHS history. Coach Jerald Pierucci and his staff led the team to a championship season and set the bar for future Generals' teams very high.

Ross also announced in August that the company had purchased additional land at the Wonderful Industrial Park. This lease is in addition to the 1.7 million square feet that Ross already owns and operates at the park. Ross has been an occupant at the Park since 2014 and currently operates a distribution center near the new site. "We are pleased that Ross chose Wonderful Industrial Park for its expansion. They have enjoyed success here, as have other retailers, manufacturing and distribution companies because of the ready access to a dependable labor pool living within minutes of the park," said Joe Vargas, president of Wonderful Real Estate Development. Occupants of Wonderful Industrial Park have benefited by having exceptionally large trailer and equipment parking space that has increased the efficiency of importing goods from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach," added Vargas.

Also in September, the local schools by Shafter Avenue were on lockdown just before school was in session. A couple reported that a man had broken into their home and demanded the keys to their vehicle .The couple complied and the suspect fled in their sports utility vehicle. The suspect, later identified as Frank Ruelas, 50, of Shafter, was seen fleeing the scene and was confronted by Shafter Police officers.

A low-speed chase through the streets of Shafter followed. Shafter Police Department contacted the California Highway Patrol to assist with the pursuit. CHP deployed "spike" strips and used "PIT" maneuvers on the vehicle which became disabled on Shafter Avenue near Munzer Street.

The local schools were put on loc-down, including Richland Junior High and Redwood Elementary, which were just a block away from the standoff site

After about 20 minutes, officers surrounded the vehicle and one officer managed to open the drivers side door, where the officers released their K-9 unit dog who drug the suspect out of the vehicle, allowing the arrest.

John Basham, along with Yeobani and Kevin Lara, opened the doors of Basham & Lara Funeral Care across the street from the post office. The business includes a chapel as well as meeting rooms and a reception area that used to be Graddy's Lounge.

In October, it was rivalry time. Shafter/Wasco Week is a highlight of the school year for the Generals and the Tigers. This year there was even more anticipation as both football teams had great records. Shafter went in with a perfect 9-0 record and Wasco was 7-2. This was the 92nd edition of the rivalry, with Shafter holding a two-game advantage in the series. A close game ended with the Generals in front.

There were the customary dress-up days for the Generals, ending on Friday with, of course, Shafter Pride Day, when the students sported their blue and gold. The game was in Wasco this year, so the Tigers played host to the Generals, the cheerleaders, and ASB students for breakfast on Friday morning. Gifts were exchanged at the breakfast and then it was time for the Exchange Rally. The historic Wasco Auditorium was packed to the rafters with students as the Shafter contingent entered the building As the introductions were finishing, pushing and shoving broke out from both sides as the coaches separated the players.

Wings and Wheels at Minter Field Air Museum on November exceeded expectations as it drew a large crowd to celebrate this one-day event that honored the history of James Dean, the rich history of the Minter Field Air Museum, and displayed some wonderful planes and cars throughout the day.

The event started on Friday night with a screening of James Dean's "Rebel Without a Cause" at the Fox Theater in Bakersfield. There was a VIP reception before the screening, and guests were able to check out a replica of the vehicle that Dean had been driving when he competed at Minter Field just months before his death.

The biggest news in November was the election on Nov. 5. Several changes took place in local races, with Rep. David Valadao losing to TJ Cox and state Sen. Andy Vidak losing to Melissa Huerta. In a tight race, Supervisor David Couch retained his seat, beating out two challenger. As for the city government, there were two seats up for grabs on the City Council and one seat available on the Richland School District board. Melissa Dewitt beat out Stan Voth for the seat vacated by Steve Mann, who decided not to run again. For the City Council, Cathy Prout and Cesar Lopez won the seats. Also, in a December highlight, Lopez was named mayor pro-tem, along with Gilbert Alvarado named the new mayor of Shafter.

December was a time of change for Shafter. A new mayor was named. Gilbert Alvarado, who was serving as mayor pro-tem, has served on the Council since being elected in 2008;. He is looking forward to keeping the city strong financially and giving residents more opportunities to grow.

Jamie Stewart | the Shafter Press

The most successful SHS football team in decades made it to the Valley finals.

December saw a flurry of activity for Santa Claus as he made appearances at Minter Field, for their Fly-In and toy giveaway, at the annual Shafter Christmas Parade, and the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony held at the Downtown Square.

The Parade is put on the Shafter Lions Club and it was followed by a Tree Lighting Ceremony and was preceded by events and activities for the kids at Mannel Park;.

The City of Shafter's Tree Lighting and Sing drew a crowd, with different groups singing and the lighting of the downtown tree.

Ronald Pierce of the Minter Field Air Museum said that over 400 children came to the Santa Fly-In and Open House. Santa descended in a helicopter and, with help from the Pinups for Patriots as helpers, he gave out hundreds of stuffed animals;.


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