By D. Beasley
In the days of the wild, wild West, Kernville was originally called Whiskey Flat.
In 1864, the name was changed “to the less wild and wooly name of Kernville,” the Kernville Chamber of Commerce said on its website. But each year, Kernville returns to its roots with the Chamber’s Whiskey Flat Days, an event that stretches back to 1957. It’s a three-day event held on President’s Day weekend in February.
Each year, there is an honorary mayor of Whiskey Flat, a competition not for votes but for the candidate who raises the most money for a nonprofit organization.
Last year, the effort generated nearly $100,000 for nonprofits, Chamber board member Gary Ananian told the Kern Valley Sun.
“We get anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 people in town for that,” he said. “There are vendors, there are carnivals, there are games, there’s music. It’s all of Kernville. All the streets are closed off.”
Plans are still underway for the event in 2021, although that could change depending on COVID-19.
“We’re not sure yet,” Ananian said. “The county will make that decision. It’s still four months away. A lot could happen between now and then.”
He is optimistic that Whiskey Flat Days will go on.
“It’s an outdoor venue,” Ananian said. “ Everyone is outdoors.”
With hopes that the event will take place, the Chamber is continuing to recruit candidates for mayor of Whiskey Flat. The winner is the candidate who raises the most money for their designated nonprofit. But even losers win, Ananian said.
“Regardless of whether you win or lose, you’re still raising money for the nonprofit,” he explained.
Ananian noted that the event is also important to the Chamber’s work year-round.
“It’s a huge revenue maker for the Chamber,” he said. “We raise money from the vendors and that funds the Chamber to stay open year-round and put on more events. It pays for the Rodeo Grounds, the baseball fields, all that stuff to remain open and maintained year-round.”
Ananian is himself a past candidate for mayor. He lost but still raised nearly $6,000 for the Kern River Conservancy.
Anyone interested in running for mayor should contact Ananian at (818) 984-8505. Candidates are required to get a letter from the nonprofit authorizing them to raise money for the organization. The Chamber will vet the nonprofit to make sure they are an active tax-exempt organization and then approve the application, Ananian said.
“We’re looking for nonprofits,” he said. “We encourage anyone with a valid 501(c)(3) to apply.”