Year in review: 2019

Man and Woman of the Year

Photo by Anna Kopperman
January, 9 2019; Pictured above is Judy Dempsey and Tony Moors receiving their award from the KRV Chamber.

On January 7, Tony Moors and Judy Demspey were presented with the 2019 Man and Woman of the Year awards which were given by the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce during their awards ceremony dinner at Paradise Cove. This marked the 32nd annual award given to these exemplary citizens for their outstanding service to the community.

Christina Denys stated that Moors is a champion for those on the fringes of survival, both human and animal. Former KRV Chamber President Judy Hyatt described Dempsey’s dedication to the valley being essential to the functions of many volunteers’ events in which she has been a key player behind the scenes.

Wild West Daze Rodeo

Photo by Christopher Morley
February 20, 2019; A competitor in the roping competition winds up during the two day Wild West Daze Rodeo.

During the ‘Wild West Days’ Rodeo on February 16, Charlotte Hafenfeld took first place above her brother and second place winner Ward Hafenfeld in the Junior Barrel Races. On February 17, Charlotte Hafenfeld took first place, over her other brother Gus Hafenfeld, who took second place in the Junior Barrel Races. Winner of the Senior Barrel Races was Kristina Wada. In the Team Roping competition on Sunday, February 17, first place went to Jay Alexander and Will Larsen. In a close second was Jace and Derik Mcullar. Coming in third was Rocky Stone and Mark Mace. Some participants wore dated clothing to coincide with the Whiskey Flat’s Days. There must be something in the water at the Hafenfeld house.

Saying ‘YES’ to student empowerment

Photo by Elise Modrovich
March 6, 2019; Left to right: Pardae Tuttle, Molly Watson, and Brooke Watson were selected to participate in the second Kern Y.E.S. program.

A high-school program for freshman and sophomores had a “life changing experience” for three Kern Valley High School students. The second Kern Youth Empowerment Summit, also known as Kern Y.E.S., was put together in collaboration with the Rotary Clubs of Kern County and was held at the historic Fort Taft. This was the first time that the Kern River Rotary Club had participated in the program. Pardae Tuttle, Molly Watson, and Brooke Watson were chosen to participate after a lengthy application process that included submission of resumes and face-to-face interviews with a four-person selection committee.

Retrieval temporarily closes down canyon

Photos courtesy of CHP Bakersfield CHP Bakersfield temporarily closed Hwy 178 through the Kern River Canyon on Tuesday, April 16, to retrieve a truck that had tumbled down the side of the road. CHP noted that the driver had suffered only minor injuries, as he had been wearing his seatbelt during the incident. The road was opened again shortly after the vehicle was retrieved.

CHP Bakersfield were dispatched to retrieve a Ford 150 that had veered off of the road. CHP temporarily closed down the Kern River Canyon in order to quickly remove the vehicle which had undergone considerable damage during its tumble down the side of the road. CHP noted that the driver had suffered minor injuries. He had been wearing his seatbelt during the incident. The road was opened again shortly after the vehicle was removed.
CHP Bakersfield made use of a crane to remove the vehicle which lifted the roughly 4,500 lbs. vehicle to the road where it was then hoisted onto the bed of a tow truck. The driver made no comment.

A proactive season

Photo by Ashley Fike
May 1, 2019; Each year the Search and Rescue’s Kern River death toll sign at the base of the Kern River Canyon is updated.

Pictured above is Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Sergeant Steve Williams with the KCSO Search and Rescue who is making changes to the death toll sign on April 29, 2019, which is displayed at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon. The sign that greets drivers as they enter the canyon is to remind patrons of the river to take every precaution there is to ensure the safety of themselves and their family. As of the beginning of the year, 298 people had been declared dead from injuries sustained from the Kern River. In the past, the KCSO Search and Rescue made updates to the sign on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend.

Shake, rattle, and roll

Left photo courtesy of Katie Patrick / Right photo courtesy of Lisa Brunson Walker Left, the Lake Isabella Vons faces some serious cleanup after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake strikes on the morning of July 4. Right, the Kern River Canyon faces even more serious cleanup on the evening of July 5 after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake knocks rocks loose into SR 178.

Rattlesnake battle, toddler wins

Photo by Kelly Harris
June 19, 2019; The hand of Levi Harris grows engorged from the venomous bite of a Rattlesnake.

Levi Harris was bitten by a Rattlesnake on May 11. Harris was only 18 months old at the time when he was attacked on his front porch. His mother Kelly Harris heard him scream from inside her home. Harris and her husband, Jesse Harris, rushed Levi to Kern County Fire Department’s Station 76 where he was then taken by Liberty Ambulance to the Kern Valley Healthcare District. Levi Harris was administered anti-venom approximately one and a half hours after being bitten which is well within the six hour mark recommended by doctors. Harris was taken by ambulance to Lauren Small Children’s/Memorial hospital for further treatment.

Body identified as McFarland City Manager

Photo by Ruthann Smith
August 7, 2019; KRV-Search and Rescue recover the body of McFarland City Manager from the wreckage of an SUV submerged in the Kern River.

On July 28, Kern County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a body that had been recently discovered submerged within an SUV was that of McFarland City Manager John Wooner. Wooner, who was 57, had been missing since May and was last seen alive at Hillcrest Memorial Park. The California Highway Patrol reported that Wooner had been driving at an unknown speed in an unknown direction and made an unsafe turn which caused Wooner to leave the roadway and tumble down the embankment to the Kern River where his vehicle subsequently submerged below the water. His initial disappearance is still under investigation.

Fire ignites hay bales at feed store

Photo by Jake Lee Green
September 18, 2019; Todd Noble, owner of Kern River Feed and Hay, stands before a hay fire which ignited and destroyed nearly 700 bales of hay intended for sale.

A fire that had destroyed nearly 700 bales of hay at the Kern River Feed and Hay was contained by multiple crews from the Kern County Fire Department. Attempts by employees to subdue the fire with extinguishers were unsuccessful. The apartment complexes behind the feed store were reported as having minor damages from heat and smoke. Residents of the apartment complex were evacuated. It is still unknown how the fire initially started. Employees explained that as they were moving their delivery of hay bales the stack ignited and quickly consumed a great deal of the bales.

Community effort provides
resources for homeless

Photo by Jake Lee Green
October 2, 2019; Valerie Emenheiser shops for clothes at the First Baptist Church of Lake Isabella free store.

On September 26, multiple agencies from the Kern County area hosted a joint-effort Homeless Pop-up Resource Connect Day in front of the Web Recycling Center in Lake Isabella. Information on health care, legal services, financial advice, housing, food, haircuts, clothing, shelter services, education, transitional living services, and foster care were provided to the public at various stations. Local agents of these organizations spoke to the public about how to engage in programs that are meant to help stabilize folks looking to pull themselves out of homelessness or poverty. Food was provided by the First Baptist Church of Lake Isabella.

Tricia Maki honored as ‘Ranger of the Year’

Photo by Jake Lee Green
November 6, 2019; Tricia Maki, pictured above, was selected as Ranger of the Year by the National Forest and Recreation Association (NFRA).

District Recreation Staff Officer Tricia Maki of the Kern River Ranger District was chosen by the National Forest and Recreation Association to carry the title of the 2019 Ranger of the Year. Many locals described her as being an excellent choice for the position. Eric Mart, President of California Land Management nominated Maki for the award. Luther Stephens from Whitewater Voyages highly recommended her as well saying “She has been an absolute pleasure to work with.” District Ranger Alfred Watson was also supportive of her nomination. Maki received her award at the 2019 NFRA Conference and Trade Show in Reno, Nev.

It’s official: Grocery Outlet is open for business

Photo by Jake Lee Green
December 18, 2019; Members of the community, dignitaries, and various organizations gathered in line for the grand opening of the Grocery Outlet.

The Grocery Outlet that had been under construction for the past several months opened its doors on December 12. Owner and operators Stayce and Janet Roberts handed over checks to several organizations as gifts to the community just before the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place. The crowd that had gathered around the side of the building, some of which had camped out the night before, waited for their chance to be a part of the first 200 customers in the newly opened Grocery Outlet. The first 200 customers received gift cards ranging between five and two hundred dollars.