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Shafter comes back from uncertain covid times

This continues last week's recap of 2024 Shafter events. The first half can be viewed online at The

July saw the return of the July 3 Fireworks show at Shafter High School, put on by the Shafter Chamber of Commerce, with support from local businesses and the community. The skies over Shafter were lit up on Monday night, celebrating the Independence Day holiday. The free event began at 6p.m. with a variety of inflatables, games, and plenty of food and drinks for those in attendance. There were well over 2,000 people in attendance, not even counting the amount of people in the nearby neighborhood, who camped out in their front yards, holding viewing parties outside of the Shafter Recreation Department fields where the event was held.

Emceed by Angel Jimenez, who also provided the sound for the event, there was plenty to the keep the kids busy as everyone waited for the sun to go down.

As the sun set, the night was lit up with a show that was provided by Zambelli Fireworks, who have been doing the Shafter event for over two decades.

Also at the event was Minter Field Air Museum, with their LOACH helicopter, as well as an antique fire engine and their Yellow Follow Me Jeep. Staff of the museum let the kids sit in the cockpits and seats of the vehicles and aircraft, making for great photo ops.

The event attracted people from all over Kern County, including Alicia Valdez, who came from Delano with her family. "We have been coming here for a few years now. It is a great time. Its hard to find something to do nowadays, giving the kids a safe place to go for the holiday. We just love it here in Shafter."

One of the biggest highlights of the show is the bombastic finale, which didn't disappoint this year, using multiple charges, lighting up the sky all at once. The success of the event is because of a city that gives to its residents, as well as a community that supports its own, showing pride for the city, as well as the country.

July also saw winners crowned in the Shafter Recreation League's baseball and softball seasons.

The 11U Girls White Sox completed their championship season, beating the second place Red Sox by a score of 14-2, ending a season that saw them dominate their competition. The White Sox outscored their opponents 86-9, displaying their strong pitching and explosive offense on the squad. Coached by Caleb Munoz, the White Sox lost only one game during the season, a tough loss to the Diamondbacks.

There were two divisions that saw undefeated teams take the titles. In the Girls 14U division, the Yankees, coached by Maria Munoz, ended the season undefeated, a tie the only blemish on their record.

In the Boys 11U division, the Blue Jays took the title after completing an undefeated season with a record of 7-0. In the Boys 14U division, it was a battle between the Angels and the Diamondbacks, with each team fighting to take home the trophy. At the end, it was the Angels who topped the Dbacks, giving them the championship.

The season was a successful one, with over 200 players in the different divisions, giving the kids a chance to display their talents, as well as keeping them fit and healthy.

In addition to the regular season, the department also held their first Hit,Pitch, and Run competition during the season, testing the players' abilities in all aspects of the game. The winner of the competition was Saide Ayon, who will now move on to a competition held at Dodger Stadium during a real Dodgers game. Saide and her parents were invited to take part in the event, giving them a chance to watch a Dodgers game, as well as giving Saide a chance to showcase her talent in front of thousands.

The department presented a volleyball season with 19 teams competing in the different divisions. They also ran a summer tennis camp, which will begin on July 25 and run through August 24. This camp will teach the kids the fundamentals of the different strokes in tennis, as well as conditioning, and basic rules of the game and technique.

In August, Gossamer Grove entered into its final phase of building, bringing their total up to over 700 homes in total. Lennar Homes is currently building of its final phase of development. This development is also near the site of the newest park, Community Park, that opened recently in the development.

This final phase is also the first batch of homes that will be in the Richland School District.

With the previous homes built in the Norris Elementary School District, the new homes will be served by the Richland School District.

High school students will still be going to North High School, with none of the homes in the boundary area for Shafter High. Currently, there are 486 children attending Norris schools from the development.

September saw the passing of two Shafter icons within two weeks of each other. Toni Johnston, and her husband, former Councilmember and Shafter Mayor Jon Johnston, died, leaving a hole in the fabric of the city. Johnston served on the Shafter City Council for many years, as well as being the Mayor of Shafter beginning in 2012. Johnston began serving on the cuncil in 1998 and served for about 20 years. He also was a member on the Shafter Kiwanis Board for many years.

Johnston was also very active in the community as he served on several committees in the city, schools, as well as being very active in his church, The First Southern Baptist Church in Shafter.

Johnston will be remembered as an honorable man who loved his God, family, and community, and also a humble man.

"Jon was a great man who was willing to take the necessary steps to help shape Shafter into what we have today. He was always active in the community, regardless of what it was, and he will be missed by all," commented Mayor Pro-Tem Chad Givens.

September also saw new ownership in Shafter icon Sun Country Flowers. Amanda Kirschenmann took over for Carol Reichenbach, who had the shop for over 17 years, and planned on keeping the store the same popular destination for flowers for any occasion. Kirschenmann had started growing flowers and selling them at the Tin Cup and online, building a reputation for beautiful arrangements. Kirschenmann no longer grows her own flowers, deciding to suspend the operation for a time. "I may grow some of my own in the future, but it just makes sense right now to obtain them from a wholesaler."

October saw the case against former Shafter Code Enforcement Officer Matthew Maldonado dropped by the Kern County District Attorney's Office. Maldonado had faced

five counts of felony child molest/annoy. He was arrested in January 2022 and had his case

continued for over a year.

Judge ruled that Maldonado's three previous investigations could not be introduced during this

trial, making it more difficult for the prosecution to move forward with their case. They also did

not have one of the alleged victims in the case available . These factors made it difficult for the

prosecution to have a strong enough case to try Maldonado at this time.

The Kern County Sheriff's Office had conducted an investigation into allegations of a similar sort against Maldonado while he was the code

enforcement ffficer in Wasco, with no charges ultimately filed in that case.

Also in October, the Shafter High Drama Department brought its production of the Broadway smash "The Addams Family" to life at the Fred Starrh Performing Arts Center on the SHS campus with great crowds and first-rate acting, dancing and singing.

Under the direction of Advisor Hal Friedman, the cast was at once hilarious, chilling and touching, all at the same time, bringing the audiences to their feet.

Heading up the veteran cast was Emily McGuire as the matriarch of the family, the sultry Morticia Addams.

In November, the city celebrated Thanksgiving with support from several organizations, with food being given away, as well as fresh food and canned goods, everything for the makings of a great holiday dinner. The Shafter Kiwanis Club had help with their food drives from the Key Club of Shafter High, as they provided food for needy families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.According to President Ben Wilson, they had enough food for over 75 baskets this year, with the families enjoying a full holiday feast for their dinner tables.

In November, the Shafter High Generals football team saw their season come to an end on a controversial play that made it to the national news. Shafter dropped a 43-42 contest that was decided by an ineligible receiver from Matilda Torres catching a pass in the endzone for a two-point conversion that should have never been. A meeting with all parties a couple of days after the game saw the CIF organization allowing the play to stand, giving the Generals their first loss of the year and ending their perfect season.

Another Thanksgiving tradition that played out on a chilly Thursday morning was the annual Turkey Bowl, which had the youngsters of Shafter facing off against the old guys, a battle at Veterans Park in a no-holds-barred game of tackle football. These gluttons for punishment had a blast lacing it up against one another, with the old guys putting it to the youngsters this year by a score of 7 touchdowns to 4. The Young Guys boasted a few current and past Shafter Generals, while the Old Guys were full of past Generals, along with a group of guys who had dreams of playing high school football but may have never got the chance. Well, they took advantage of this opportunity and came out on top of this battle.

December saw a host of festive activities enjoyed by the entire community, from the annual Christmas Parade, the Christmas Store, and the Christmas Tree Lighting and Sing.

It was Christmas in Shafter at the Shafter Depot Museum, with the annual Christmas at the Depot event. Santa arrived and took a seat in the museum's new caboose, giving the kids, young and the young at heart, a chance to make their Christmas wishes known.

There was also some great Christmas music as the Shafter Brass Band entertained the crowd as they perused the museum and checked out all of the trees.

The Mennonite Brethren Church of Shafter held a Christmas Festival event on Sunday night, giving the community several ways to celebrate this holiday season. "This was a special time for our church and the entire community," said Pastor Pay Coyle, who was one of the leaders of the event.

Downstairs in the Children's Sanctuary, there was kids creating masterpieces that they could take home with them, as well as listening to stories from the Bible in the Story Time station.


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