Chamber president gives state of Kernville address

Orion Sanders addresses chamber before Kernville Chamber of Commerce election

Photos and Story by Catherine Stachowiak

Orion Sanders, president of the Kernville Chamber of Commerce gave his State of Kernville address, Monday May 20, at the monthly chamber meeting.  

The meeting also entailed an election to fill four board of directors seats.  There were only four people nominated for the seats and they all won.  The board members voted in were: Gary Ananian, Beth Niehaus, Orion Sanders, and Tawnya Torgl. 

“Welcome everybody. It’s been an interesting year. In the beginning of our year last year, in June, we endured rebuilding after the last year’s flood and storms,” Sanders said.  “We rebuilt and it’s back to normal for the most part.”

Sanders delved into the main concern of Kernville businesses, saying, “We’re still facing some challenges as we try to regain access for our tourists that is vitally important to replace a sense of safety. But the fire season coming up is our biggest concern. At times it’s difficult to understand these processes that the county and everybody is going through; prioritizing repairs and understanding why our safety, I think, is not on top of the priority list. Right now if we had a fire between Kernville and Wofford Heights that took the road out, we would be kind of stuck.”

Sanders assured the board and chamber that he had been talking to authorities, attempting to attain answers regarding Sierra Way, the thoroughfare between Weldon and Kernville. “We’ll continue to work in support with those agencies and hope for a quick completion. I know it’s been dragging on and it’s definitely a thorn in everybody’s side,” he said.

Regarding membership, Sanders said the Kernville Chamber of Commerce continues to build value for local businesses, including the business guide, member spotlights, the chamber website, a renewed effort to maintain the chamber’s calendar of events, and annual advertising opportunities.  The chamber printed almost double the amount than the previous year, and increased distribution, including at motels.  The chamber distributed the guide at a tradeshow in Long Beach, introducing many potential visitors and reintroduced past visitors to the valley.

Sanders said one huge challenge for the recreation and event center was making tremendous effort to rebuild the encampment. The whole property of the Whiskey Flat Days Encampment for reenactments is 34.67 acres, which the chamber has been turning into a park-like setting. 

The chamber is building a new concession booth at the rodeo grounds.

“We replaced the well, the casings were old and failed. We just did that with mayor money from the last Whiskey Flat Days. And we’re in the final stages of revising our conditional use permit to include the community dog park as well.  This year we’ll complete the return calf-roping lane in the rodeo arena, which has been temporary for a long time. This year we plan to get that completely welded in and solid in place,” Sanders said.

The chamber also plans to continue its Adopt a Bleacher program and hold a painting day this fall.  “We’ll try to increase the number of corrals, because high school rodeo needs about another 60 corrals to accommodate high school rodeos coming in the future.”  Sanders said that rodeos have been bringing in temporary corrals to accommodate.  Increasing the number would definitely make the chamber money in the future.

The chamber plans to hold a workday at the Bike Park, in Kernville Saturday, June 8 at 8am, for repairs and upkeep.  They need volunteers for this project and are providing lunch, according to the chamber’s Facebook page.

The chamber plans to add wrought iron railing to the front of the Chamber of Commerce building, add a handicapped parking space, and devise a fundraiser to repave the parking lot at the chamber building. Sanders expected the project to cost $50,000 to $60,000.

Orion Sanders giving his State of Kernville Address

The chamber office has been water damaged, on one wall, which the chamber will repair.  And the chamber plans to frame some Whiskey Flat Days artwork.

Regarding Kernville Fall Festival at Circle Park, Sanders said, “We had record breaking people there Saturday for the contests.”

Sanders said the Boo-tacular Fun Run, which Sarge’s Wreath’s 4 Vets and OnPoint Gym organized was financially successful and should continue next fall. 

“Farmers market is going well. I’ve noticed there was more vendors on a regular basis,” said Sanders.

“Christmas at Kernville we had our first tree lighting ceremony, and it was huge. There was a ton of people there,” Sanders said. “Trish and her team did a really good job decorating.”

Regarding Whiskey Flat Days, Sanders said,  “I just signed an agreement for the logo, at a venue down in Los Angeles. So our trademark for Whiskey Flat Days is complete.”

The chamber plans to search for grants for recreation and parks.