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Enthusiasm, commitment mark Wasco's busy year

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

JULY. It was a festive celebration of our nation's independence in July at the Wasco Recreation and Parks District's Red, White & Boom Fireworks Festival.

The event started with a flag ceremony hosted by the Boys and Girls Scouts Troop 950.

A watermelon eating contest and the Toys for Tiger's sponsored ride around Barker Park, where participants decorated their bikes in a 4th of July theme, followed.

Music was by DJ Al Serna, who played popular songs in English and Spanish, added an uplifting energy to the event.

"I am always proud to join in on the fun that brings so many people together."

There was also a swimming component for the kids to enjoy. Lifeguards were on hand to keep the swimmers safe.

A classic car show honoring long-time community advocate Danny Rueda was also part of the celebration.

The festival ended with an explosive array of shining and sparkling fireworks, which dazzled the guests with excitement.

There was a ribbon cutting in AUGUST to celebrate the Poso Avenue High-Speed Rail underpass completion.

The Poso Avenue underpass between Highway 43 and J Street has four lanes with pedestrian access, taking traffic and pedestrians under the BNSF freight railroad and future high-speed rail tracks.

The Poso Avenue underpass is 1,084 feet long, 67 feet wide, and 21 feet below grade.

The underpass was the latest structure to be opened to traffic in Kern County and the sixth structure to be completed in the Central Valley in 2023.

Many people attended the festive event, including leadership from the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the Mayor, Councilmembers, the City Manager and community members.

Mayor Vincent Martinez said, "It's long overdue. It's a good day for Wasco because now we have a railroad crossing, and traffic can flow freely from the West to the Eastside of town."

City Manager Scott Hurlbert said that with the structure's opening, he wanted to thank everyone involved, though there were a lot of technical and legal hurdles.

August was also a month of blessings in the City of Wasco with True Light Missionary Baptist Church and New Generation Church coming together as one to host "Loving Our City." The event united the community to celebrate the message of God.

Pastor Carlos Harrison of True Light said, "We are reaching out to the community because we want them to know they are loved, and along with New Generation, we want to spread that love and message that God cares for our city."

"It is our 8th year doing this. We had the privilege of having True Light working with us as two churches serving one God," New Generation Pastor Francisco Sanchez said.

He added, "We have Hispanics, whites and blacks today. No one cares about your skin color. We're all brothers and sisters in Christ."

The event was Pastor Sanchez's dream. "But I had a lot of help."

There were over 100 volunteers.

SEPTEMBER marked the 55th Annual Miss Wasco Rose Queen Pageant, and it was nothing but spectacular. To an almost sold-out crowd, 15 contestants gave it their all, competing for the coveted title at the Barbie-themed event.

Even though all the contestants shined on stage and gave a brilliant performance singing, dancing, presenting their talent and showcasing their formal gowns, Esmeralda Rodriguez was crowned the 2023 Miss Wasco Rose Queen.

"I'm so excited, happy and so honored. I look forward to all the events and being more involved in my community. I am excited to be a role model not just for the little girls but for the whole community of Wasco," she said.

She added, "The best part of winning was seeing my parents and family so proud of me; all the excitement that came with it was surreal."

"To the other contestants, they all did amazing. I can not wait to see what they will accomplish in the future. I love my Barbie girls."

The 1st runner-up was Madison Martinez, and 2nd runner-up was Addison Vasquez.

Following the pageant was the Wasco Rose Festival, which brought thousands of people out to celebrate the themed "You've Got a Friend in Wasco" event that included many activities for a fun-filled day for the community.

It started with the Reach for the Sky Color Blast Fun Run hosted by the Wasco Recreation and Parks District. Participants enjoyed a 3K walk and 5K fun run around Barker Park, where they were doused with colorful powders.

WRPD Manager Chris Serna said, "It was fun, colorful and bright. We wanted to do it again for a second time. We had such a successful turnout last year, and having this kick off the festival's final day was great."

In OCTOBER, he city welcomed Lionel Lopez Jr. as the new police sergeant for the Wasco Police Department. He is a Wasco native with an unparalleled dedication to public service and a remarkable 32 years of law enforcement experience.

October saw the return of the annual Rotary Club Festival, one of the club's most anticipated fundraisers, with a night of delicious food, camaraderie and philanthropy.

The Wasco Rotary Club has long been a pillar of the community. For years, they have dedicated their efforts to fostering goodwill, promoting peace and serving humanity.

At the festival, residents from all walks of life, city leaders, local business owners and Rotary members came together to support the club's fundraising efforts.

Friends and neighbors dined, laughed and enjoyed each other's company. The event's success was a testament to the strong bonds that unite the people of Wasco and their shared commitment to making their community a better place.

There was a 50/50 raffle; four guests took home $1250 each. They were Christine Beelner, Sunni Dobbs, Cindy Banducci and Sharon and Dale Nicol.

In a momentous check presentation in NOVEMBER, Senator Melissa Hurtado and Assemblymember Dr. Jasmeet Bains celebrated securing $5 million to construct and develop a new Wasco Police Department station.

Through their relentless efforts and dedication to enhancing their constituents' safety and security, they were able to obtain the funds.

"I was excited to join Assemblymember Bains, Wasco residents and community leaders in celebrating this important occasion. The funding secured in the state budget will empower our police officers to continue meeting the City's needs, and we are excited to celebrate alongside our partners with the City of Wasco, the Wasco Police Services Department and Kern County Sheriffs," said Senator Hurtado.

Dr. Bains added, "I am so proud to support Wasco's efforts to establish its own police department. This investment will improve response times and enhance public safety with a dedicated police force sworn to protect and serve the City of Wasco. We made this happen working together with the City, Senator Hurtado and our entire Kern County coalition."

Chief Charles Fivecoat said, "Both Senator Hurtado and Assemblymember Bains know how important public safety is to rural communities like Wasco, and they have shown their commitment by helping to provide this money to help build a new police station."

"The city council has worked with our legislators to make this possible. The new building will provide ample space for our 911 dispatch and the 23 police officers who will work there. I'm very pleased that this collaborative effort will provide a modern facility for our community."

With the $5 million grant secured, the vision of a modern and efficient police department is well on its way to becoming a reality.

In DECEMBER, the Wasco High School varsity football team, coming off of winning the Valley Championship in November as Southern Regional champions, made history by making it to the State Championship.

The Wasco High Tigers saw their season end on December 8, dropping the State title game to St. Vincent de Paul 27-6 at Pasadena City College.

The Tigers played a challenging game, and the contest was closer than the score indicated. Led by Head Coach Chad Martinez, the Tigers sparred with the Mustangs in the first half, holding the Mustangs' powerful offense to just one score.

The Tigers ended the season as runners-up in the Division 6AA of California.

Martinez said it wasn't the ending they had hoped for, but he was very proud of his time for their work and dedication, accomplishing something no other team in Tiger history has done.

"We are still a young team, too, so we plan to be back next year and finish the job we have started."

December wouldn't be complete without a jubilant Christmas celebration, and this year was no different. In a touching display of community unity and holiday cheer, Wasco came alive with the vibrant colors and festive spirit of its annual Christmas parade and tree lighting ceremony.

The event was made extra special with the honored guests, including the new Wasco Police Department and the triumphant Wasco High School and Wasco Bengals football champions, which proved to be a symbol of togetherness and shared joy.

The streets were lined with eager families and enthusiastic spectators who eagerly awaited the procession of dazzling floats adorned with shimmering lights and intricate decorations. Over 70 vehicles, clubs and schools made their way through town.

Next followed the highly anticipated tree lighting ceremony, where the honored guests were celebrated. Miss Wasco Rose Queen Esmeralda Rodriguez presented the Christmas tree light count-down box to Chief Fivecoat and coaches Martinez and Rincon, who lit the tree.

Chief Charles Fivecoat said, "I was absolutely amazed at how many people were out there. It was just wonderful community support. As honored guests, I thought that it was so thoughtful and kind to consider us, and I didn't want to take anything away from the extraordinary performance of the football teams, especially the WHS team going to state. I think that's great."


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