This is the second half of the 2022 Shafter year in review. The first part ran last week, and is available online at TheShafterPress.com
The second half of 2022 was an eventful one in Shafter, with a historic playoff run by the Shafter Generals football team, a general election that ended with a new member on the City Council, and the return of July 3 Fireworks Show, put on by the Shafter Chamber of Commerce. New businesses opened in Shafter, too, including the first Starbucks location, as well as new sites for Amazon and Walmart.
The Shafter Chamber of Commerce held its annual July 3 Fireworks Show at Shafter High School. The return of the event was packed with residents, from Shafter, Wasco, Bakersfield and throughout Kern County. It was held at the Shafter Recreation fields, due to the renovation being completed at the new Shafter High stadium.
The event included food, games and activities for the kids, music, and, of course, one of the best fireworks shows in Kern County. The event attracted more than 3,000 people, with a large number of people watching the show from neighborhoods surrounding Shafter High, complete with tables and barbecues in front yards.
July also saw the first of several workshops on the new three-cart system going into effect in Shafter by the end of 2022. This system does away with alley service, with everyone going to curbside service, making it necessary for residents to separate their trash, as well as putting their carts out on the curb on collection days.
This is going to require many households to make changes to their properties, or require residents to get their carts to their curbside, and put the cans away out of sight of the street when not on a collection day. This has caused a protest by several residents that claim the change will cause them undo stress and costs, changing the process in place when they purchased their homes. "My house was built with the premise of there being alley service for the trash containers. To get my property accessible for curbside pickup, I am facing a cost of $5,000, and I guarantee you that this will not happen," former mayor Gary Nelson said.
There was also a new restaurant in town, when Tacos La Villa took over the former Del Taco location. The new restaurant in town, Tacos La Villa, has enjoyed a great start, with lines in the drive-thru and a brisk business in the store, making their first couple of months a success. Owner Danny Nunez has brought unique fare to the city. "We are truly blessed for the opportunity to bring our authentic brand of Mexican food to Shafter," Nunez said this week. Begun in 1993, Tacos La Villa has grown to include nine locations in Bakersfield, and growing. Reviewers have noted that the food at the restaurant has an authentic flavor, giving residents a more traditional Mexican food experience than some national chains. Shafter Business Development Director Bob Meadows said that the restaurant has a unique take on the fast food industry. "Their hook is that the food is more like homemade and authentic than some fast food chains," said Meadows. Diner Marie Villalos echoed that sentiment. "I just love their food. It is a step above most fast food places, with a more authentic feel and taste to the food. I can't get enough of their Cheeto Burritos. They are awesome!"
In July, the city also said goodbye to Captain Jeff Bell of the Shafter Police Department, who retired after 23 years of service. Bell was honored at a luncheon and was recognized for his years of service to the department and the city of Shafter.
In August, Shafter saw two new candidates announcing their intention to run for two open seats on the Shafter City Council. Rafael Zamudio and Gustavo Olvera joined incumbents Cesar Lopez and Mayor Cathy Prout in the race. Zamudio, a welder, wanted to run because he didn't like the way the council has been communicating with residents, seemingly out of touch with what the city's needs are.
Olvera, a former Shafter police officer, said, "I wanted to run to serve the city and to listen to their needs and act on those, instead of specific agendas."
August also saw the Shafter Kiwanis Club welcome a number of new teachers in the Richland and Shafter High Schools, including over 20 teachers in the Richland School District. The schools also opened their doors in August, with in-person instruction for all students. They also began holding rallies and sporting events again, after restrictions being lifted because of the pandemic regulations. Students and teachers were excited to be able to live normal educational experiences again.
The Shafter Generals football team opened their season with a big win over the West High Vikings, 46-6. With a freshman at the quarterback position, Ezekiel Osborne, the Generals scored quick and often with a balanced offense, with Osborne's arm and the running of senior back Koa Rhodes, who had a big game for the home team.
Shafter also lost one of its leaders with the passing of Jon Johnston. Johnston had served on the Shafter City Council, including a stint as mayor, and had served the city in so many other ways, including in his church, on several boards and clubs in Shafter. Johnston was remembered as an honest, reliable and great man who loved his God, his family and his city.
In September, the City of Shafter approved plans to build a new park. The City Council approved moving forward with plans of building a new recreation and sports park at Golds Avenue and East Ash Avenue. The park is to be built in two phases, and when completed, the park would include a 28,000 square foot gymnasium, tennis/ pickleball courts, basketball courts, a dog park, office buildings, and a concession stand. This project is being led by Shafter Recreation and Parks District Manager Philip Jimenez, who has been working with his board for years to get the project moved forward. The project is state funded. To be approved, the area had to be changed from being a commercial zone to a public area zone. This change was also approved Tuesday night. In other action, Melissa Bergen and Katie Wiebe presented to the council plans for a thrift store in Shafter. Bergen said that the store would be similar to a Goodwill store, except it would be run by community members as a nonprofit. Proceeds would go to the Mennonite Central Network, but 10% of the proceeds would go to the community.
Also in September, it was announced that Big Stop Market was expanding, making more room for parking and opening the way for even more businesses on the site. The Planning Commission required a zoning change in land that they had acquired behind their building from a residential zone to commercial. With this hurdle taken care of, they will be demolishing the structures there now to prepare them for their expansion, according to store manager LoveDeep Joshan. The plans include moving gas pumps from their current location facing Shafter Avenue to the other side of the building, facing Lerdo Highway. "This will make room for more parking in the front of the store, and will make it easier for customers to get in and out of the property," said Joshan. Big Stop, at the intersection of Lerdo Highway and Shafter Avenue, has been open for over 20 years, selling gasoline, convenience store items and, most recently, prepared food and deli items. Gary Joshan, LoveDeep's father, opened the store in 1997, and the family appreciates Shafter for its residents and its community feel. "We love the people and being in a small town. It has been great serving Shafter, and we hope to continue to serve this city for years to come," Gary Joshan said.
September saw a Shafter icon change hands. Amanda Kirschenmann took over Sun Country Flowers, giving her dream of her own flower business a reality. Sun Country Flowers in Shafter is now under new ownership. Carol Reichenbach, the owner of the shop for over 17 years, has decided that it is time to move on. Enter Amanda Kirschenmann, who has been growing her own flowers for a few years now. Kirschenmann started her own business a couple of years ago, growing flowers and plants and selling them online and in different spots around town, including from a display at the Tin Cup Coffee Shop, Amanda's Flowers. Kirschenmann no longer grows her own flowers, deciding to suspend the operation for a time. "I may grow some of my own flowers in the future, but it just makes financial sense right now to obtain the flowers and plants from a wholesaler." The shop will still carry a wide variety of flowers and plants, just the way the residents of Shafter have grown accustomed to over the years.
October saw a story of unity and perseverance as the Church of the Nazarene of Shafter suffered a vandalism attack in its sanctuary. But, the church and community rallied together to clean up and start rebuilding the building immediately. Two attacks on their church in the last two months hasn't stopped the Shafter campus of the Ridgeview Community Church from moving forward. While the Shafter Police Department continued to look for clues in the substantial vandalism of the church's West Lerdo Highway sanctuary on Sept. 28, the church held a clean-up day on Saturday to begin the rebuilding process. Pastor Keven Huckaby of the Ridgeview Community Church of the Nazarene in Bakersfield, who oversees the church in Shafter, said that he was so touched by the support that the community has shown to the church in this trying time. "This really shows the love that this community has for one another," said Huckaby.
Also in October, Police Chief Kevin Zimmermann spoke about the positive impact the department's fight against gang activity in Shafter has had on the community. Shafter's proactive procedures have been key in this fight.
in northern Kern County, including Delano, McFarland and Wasco, Shafter has not borne the brunt of the violent assaults. Chief Kevin Zimmermann said that this is in large part to a philosophy that was taken by the City of Shafter almost 20 years ago, in which they decided that the safety of the city was going to be made a priority. Zimmermann said there has been virtually no activity in recent years from the one gang – which he would not name – they know exists here. That group is thought to be Varrio West Side. "In the last six years, Shafter has had 17 crimes that are believed to be gang-related," Zimmermann said. "And half of those aren't necessarily the suspect committing a gang-related crime. Several times, it was a traffic stop or stopped for some other reason, and the suspect was found with a weapon or drugs. Iit is categorized as a gang-related crime because the suspect is involved in a gang, maybe a felon, and were in possession of a weapon." The chief said that the first steps in the success of their department was when a three-legged stool theory was adopted by the City Council in envisioning the future of the city. Public safety was made one of the three top priorities. It was then that the council secured funds for personnel, including an equipped gang-unit task force and advanced technology.
Of course, October is also rivalry time, with the Shafter Generals and Wasco Tigers facing off after a week of activities at each school, culminating in a day-long celebration that ends with a fight on the gridiron. The day starts at the host school's cafeteria with the Exchange Breakfast.
For the 90th time, the two teams went head to head in one of the fiercest and longest-standing rivalries in the state. As is the custom, on the Friday of the game, the host school – this year it was Wasco – hosts the two schools' football players, coaches, cheerleaders and Associated Student Body leaders to an exchange breakfast. During the breakfast, the cheerleaders exchange gifts with the opposing side. After the breakfast, it was time for the Exchange Rally. The Wasco High auditorium is one of the loudest venues in any high school anywhere. With its resonating acoustics, the cheers and chants reverberated around the building. Both cheer squads performed, along with Tilly the Tiger, who put on a great show. Of course, it wouldn't be an exchange rally without the customary video produced by each school. The majority of the time it is a series of skits spoofing the other school.
October ended with a flurry of activity with different clubs and organizations holding Halloween and Harvest Festivals around town. One of the events was the event at Mannel Park put on by the Shafter Kiwanis Club that attracted over 3,000 people to the park. The event included a parade, followed by a variety of activities, including music, food, games and a lot of fun.
November saw Mayor Cathy Prout and Gustavo Olvera win the two open seats on the Shafter City Council in the General Election on Nov. 8. The results were not made official until right before the state's deadline, Dec. 16. Prout easily outdistanced the competition, gathering over 1,700 votes. Olvera narrowly beat out incumbent Cesar Lopez, getting 31 more votes than Lopez. They were sworn in at a council meeting in late December.
November also saw the start of a historic playoff run by the Shafter High Generals football team. The squad opened the playoffs as the number eight seed and beat Strathmore in the first round. In the quarterfinals, the Generals upset the top seed, Liberty Madera by a score of 14-13 when the Toros went for a two point conversion at the end of the game and was stopped by the Generals' defense. In their semifinal game, Shafter beat Matilda-Torres for their second straight upset. In the Valley Championship game, the Generals beat Caruthers to win the Generals' first Valley title since 1955. The win got the Generals a game against Walnut High of the Southern Section. Shafter won the game, giving them their first chance at a State Championship in school history. The Generals came up just short of becoming State champions, still giving the community an amazing ride.
November also was the month in which the Minter Field Air Museum returned its biggest fundraiser of the year, Wings n Wheels. The event featured over 50 airplanes, from antique aircraft, vintage military planes, and sleek, modern planes. The Red Baron that is stationed at Minter Field was on display, a vintage plane that was used during the World War II campaign. They also had their LOACH helicopter on display, giving the kids a chance to climb in the cockpit for a picture. For foodies, there was plenty to choose from. The Shafter Big Band entertained the crowd with a great mix of oldies and standards. The band is made up of local residents who enjoy getting together to play good music. Vendors were aplenty, with everything from informational booths including the Kern County Honor Flight, the Kern County Veterans Association.
In December, the Shafter Lions Club hosted its annual Shafter Christmas Parade, with an entertaining parade around Mannel Park, full of floats and fun. The Shafter Lions Club, together with sponsor The Wonderful Company, held the parade, with entries coming down Central Avenue from Mannel Park. Host Angel Jimenez, who does the sound for the majority of special events in Shafter, welcomed the large crowd lining the streets, awaiting the entries of floats, cars, trucks and bands. The Shafter High School Band was on hand, playing seasonal favorites, as well as putting on a demonstration by the Shafter High Drill and Flag Corps. The City Council was represented, with Mayor Cathy Prout and Councilmember Gilbert Alvarado, also a Lions member. The American Refuse entry was one of the highlights of the parade, with a trash collection truck decorated with Christmas lights, with a snow machine on the top of it blowing snow as it made its way down Central Avenue. Several clubs and organizations in Shafter were represented, with the Shafter Recreation Department, Shafter Police Department and Shafter's FCC soccer teams, along with the Shafter Commanders, the city's youth football team in the Golden Empire Football League. The event started in the afternoon., with a variety of things at the park for the entire family to do. There were bounce houses, food, music and a raffle in preparation for the nighttime spectacle.
Another tradition returned in December when the city held its annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. The event drew a good crowd, serving up hot chocolate and cookies for the attendees. Different churches and organizations played a lot of traditional holiday songs, including the choir from GROW Academy.
Santa Claus flew into Minter Field in Shafter, touching down in an airplane, giving his reindeer a rest before their big night. Hundreds of children and parents were on hand awaiting his arrival. They spent time looking at the antique airplanes that the Minter Field Air Museum has on display as they waited. They were also entertained by an appearance of KC the Bull from the Kern County Fair. KC visited with the children and took pictures with them. When Santa touched down, a big roar came from the crowd. Mrs. Claus joined Santa and greeted the kids at the event. Shafter's Apple Market provided cookies and juice for the attendees. With the kids lined up, Santa and Mrs. Claus took pictures with the kids, getting their Christmas wishlists before they left. All of the children received a stuffed animal, donated by Petsmart of Bakersfield.