By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun
Friday night marked the start of the annual Whiskey Flat Days Mayor Race, and the race is already off to a wild start.
The Kickoff Dinner at Ewing’s in Kernville introduced two new candidates: Pistol Packin’ Patty Frenes and Rescue Ranger Robbie Miller.
Each year, these candidates for Whiskey Flat’s honorary mayor position square off in a fundraising frenzy. The candidate to raise the most funds wins the race, giving a portion to the Kernville Chamber of Commerce and the remaining funds to their charity of choice.
Some of these funds are raised via the sale of “bribes,” raffle tickets that award the winner with a $500 shopping spree in Kernville.
Winners are announced on Sunday afternoon during Whiskey Flat Days, which will take place from February 15-18 this year.
Pistol Packin’ Patty announced that she’s “lookin’ for the man who trashed Kern Valley,” and will be raising money for the Keepers of the Kern. Keepers of the Kern is a local non-profit organization started by brother and sister team Rex and Barbara Hinkey in 2013 in the interest of helping maintain local campgrounds and day use areas along the Kern River that are often overrun by garbage, human waste and graffiti. In 2018, the Keepers won one of three National Wild & Scenic River Stewardship Awards and helped clean tons of trash along the Kern River and shores of Isabella Lake.
Rescue Ranger Robbie will be raising money for Strength of Shadow (SOS) Dog Rescue, a new non-profit dog rescue that came to the Kern River Valley in April 2018. During a 12-year incarceration, Miller made a decision to turn his life around. After completing his GED and becoming a mentor to other inmates, Miller found a friend in his new dog, Shadow, after his release. He made the decision to rescue dogs from high-kill shelters around Kern County and place them with those he believes could use the healing relationship.
“I’m a man who believes in the human-canine bond,” he said.
Both of 2019’s mayor candidates have the benefit of having past Whiskey Flat Mayors on their side. Frenes has the backing of past winner “Better Times Barb” Barbara Hinkey, while Miller has help from FYDO the Fix Your Dog Org co-founder and 2016 winner “The Mountain Mouth” Kate MacDonald.
The wild start to the mayor’s race began only after the Kickoff Dinner, when Miller suffered from an obstruction in his esophagus that resulted in his hospitalization. His initial discomfort turned to emergency when his esophagus ruptured and required immediate surgery. As of press time, Miller was still in an intensive care unit at Loma Linda being monitored but was in stable condition.
In a short video uploaded to Facebook Sunday afternoon, Miller thanked those who had wished him well.
“I ain’t gonna let no food take me out,” he smiled in true Whiskey Flat spirit.
Miller’s partner, Jennifer Haratani, confirmed that while the injury would require them to take Miller’s recovery day by day, he didn’t intend on giving up on the race.
“He’s obviously going to take a few days off, but then he will bounce right back,” Haratani said.