You think nothing happens in a small town? Think again! Living in a small town is amazing.
In addition to attending classes, playing in sports, home and church activities, these young women have taken time to learn new skills that qualify them to compete for the title of Miss Woodlake.
Ms. Vasquez was the first to wow the audience with her version of “Salt and Light.” She sounds like the next American Idol to me. What do you think?
“Salt & Light”
Oh the beauty of our King
You make righteous those who seek
You have written and redeemed my story
Let my eyes see Your kingdom shine all around
Let my heart overflow with passion for Your name
Let my life be a song, revealing who You are
For You are salt and light…
“Salt & Light” by Lauren Daigle
Our new queen and her partner danced a traditional Mexican folklorico dance for us on a very small stage.
Alexis Brogan, the first runner-up to Miss Woodlake recited a poem illustrating her faith in God. Would she be considered the First Princess?
The audience gasped as Odalis Arteaga threw her father to the floor several times displaying her Tiquando ability. She amazed us when she broke a piece of lumber with a kick and a mini-chalkboard with her arm.
Technical difficulties marred the filming of this next contestant. Unfortunately, after the technical difficulties, I forgot to press the record button again. I apologize to Woodlake High School senior, Crystal Zaragoza.
Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, these five young women, mentored by Claudia Cabrera, will become an part of every aspect of the community. They ride in parades, take part in ribbon cutting ceremonies for new businesses and buildings, sell raffle tickets, and attend monthly Chamber of Commerce Board meetings.
All the service organizations in Woodlake sponsor events, and the court will help out with Lion’s Club and other organizations’ Rodeo Week activities, Kiwanis’ July Third Blast, and Woodlake Chamber’s July Car Show in the Park, to name a few.
Sometimes I felt badly for last year’s Queen because we worked her so hard, but when Sonni Hacobian crowned Lizette Castillo, she cried as she shared it was the best opportunity she had.
A beauty pageant displays and requires much more than beauty from its contestants.
Participants work hard, donate much time to the community, and work as team members.
They practice and hone their skills in addition to maintaining good grades in school.
They represent the town of Woodlake for a year in events across the county.
They attend meetings and assist in events doing whatever tasks are assigned to them.
They participate in sports, music, drama, leadership conferences, FFA, Key and Interact Clubs at school providing leadership there.
They are usually active in church or community work
Opportunities abound in a small town. Forgive me as I excuse myself to interview juniors who hope to attend the HOBY Leadership Conference in the spring.
Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce thanks Claudia Cabrera and all the Woodlake High School seniors who participated in this event. We are so proud of all of you.
If you loved this post, please share it as a thank you to the five talented young women who participated in the pageant, and their mentor, Claudia Cabrera.
These two brave vets, Angelica Cabrera & Angel Gomez, came back to Woodlake to start their new franchise business, Goin’ Postal.
Today they cut the ribbon, and made the grand opening official.
The office is beautiful and clean inside, and they will offer a variety of useful services. Since Woodlake is 20 miles from the larger town, Visalia, it will save residents a lot of time if they want to use Fed X or other services.
The new business will also have computers available for people to use, if they need a place to do business.
Angie and Angel offer notary and immigration services as well.
With support of two Chambers of Commerce Angie and Angel hope business will be booming for the holiday season.
Chambers of Commerce welcome the new business.
And finally, they cut the ribbon. Goin Postal has gone public.
My neighbor’s grandfather, Mr. Haury, started the “modern” market in the “resort” town of Woodlake, CA in the early 1900s. In 1961 the Gongs were looking for a business they could manage with their family helping. They bought the market and the theater and hired contractors to begin the remodel.
Another of my neighbors reported that he used to swim in the basement of the theater, so it probably had some structural issues. The senior Gongs removed the deteriorating theater and turned that area into a much-needed parking lot.
What makes this photo fun is that the bench looks at the blank wall rather than at the street.
Gene Gong told me, “We are a neighborhood store.” The Woodlake Chamber of Commerce recognized Gene and Ray Gong, sons of the original owners, who now manage the store for their longevity serving this community with this full-service market and their community service.
Congratulations on your successful business, Ray and Gene Gong.
#blogboost #Woodlakevalleychamber Day 26 Ultimate Blog Challenge
Do you belong to your Chamber of Commerce?
Local artist, Linda Hengst, joined the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce in September 2015 and renewed this September.
The “so what” is that the Chambers of Commerce exist to get the word out about community businesses and support the community to make it better.
So today I’m going to brag about my friend, neighbor, Kiwanian, and Chamber member, Linda Hengst who paints and photographs this beautiful area in which we live. She gave me permission to share some of her work.
Linda’s art brags about our beautiful the foothill communities near the Sequoia National Park.
The Hengsts farm in the Woodlake area. Citrus and stone fruits grow well in this area. These are the views I drive by every day. She works primarily in oil pallet knife paintings as well as water colors, and pen and ink.
This looks like the drive my husband and I took up the Kaweah River. It looks calm here, but with a little snow and rain…
I don’t know where Linda found this rose, but it could be one of the beautiful 217 varieties of roses in the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.
She paints when she travels as well.
Linda’s husband, Robert Hengst, has lived in this area for generations. They often go to a cabin in the mountains and hike where she can paint her favorite views.
Kaweah Lake sometimes fills with life-giving water, and at other times you see the high water lines and the trees that grow under the water. Linda shares local stories as well as pictures of the area.
Most of the time when I visit Linda, I come away with something. Look what I found this time.
If you are interested in purchasing any of these (except #9), let me know. email@example.com
Vote for your favorite.
Want to learn about other businesses in the Woodlake area?
Come to the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce Mixer on Thursday evening, October 28th at 6:00 at the Woodlake Museum 140 N. Magnolia, Woodlake.
Help us welcome new and returning members, and honor the owners of the General Food Store, operated continuously by the Gong family since 1961.
Visalia Taste of the Arts has grown to ten times the number of vendors it had three years ago from 10 to 100 under my friend’s daughter, Carolyn Koontz’s administration. She now moves to a new job at Tulare County Office of Education. Congratulations, Carolyn!
Here are some of the more interesting Taste of the Arts.
Anyone could participate. Kids dug out holes for eye placement, attached all types of hair, legs, and other body parts. Interesting that most shapes ended up being some kind of “animal.”
Green teeth – no problem. They’re bound to fall out anyway.
This gives all new meaning to “We’re having octopus for dinner!”
“Who’s coming for dinner?”
Steps to a Masterpiece
Grab a big veggie.
Grab a carving or poking tool.
Stick veggies on sticks.
Poke sticks into veggies.
Attach little veggies to bigger ones with a toothpick or by stuffing into holes.
Display your artwork at the front table when finished.
Do you have Towne Hall Lectures in your area? Fresno hosts six programs each year at the Saroyan Theater downtown, so a friend and I decided to buy season tickets. Leon Panetta spoke today, the season’s first presenter.
Our moods were cheery as we drove up to Fresno in perfect 75-degree weather, light traffic, and good company. My two friends had never met but quickly learned that their daughters were the two newest employee hires at TCOE, where Connie and I worked for many years.
After hiking up to the balcony, we realized that we had arrived early enough to get third-row seats. So we traipsed down and slid into the best seats in the auditorium.
What a privilege to listen to the former director of the CIA, and Director of Defense for President Obama. Son of an Italian immigrant raised in a walnut grove in Carmel, they used to shake their trees by hand, Panetta and his brother gathering the nuts as they fell. His dad told him that he was well prepared to work in Washington.
“You’ve been dodging nuts all your life.”
A renown physicist presented all over the country. His chauffeur, who traveled with him, complained that he always gave the same speech.
“I’ve heard that speech so many times, I could recite it word for word.”
So, when they went to Fresno. The scientist said, “OK, they don’t know me here in Fresno, you give my talk tonight.”
They exchanged clothes and the chauffeur made the presentation. It went over perfectly. After the speech, someone from the audience asked a detailed question involving formulas.
The chauffeur responded, “That’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard. In fact just to prove how stupid it is, I’m going to let my chauffeur answer it.”
Most Vulnerable statement
“I’ve worked with nine presidents. No, I don’t want to do it again. I don’t want to kiss that much…” (paraphrased)
The government is there to lead, to govern. Leaders have to take risks. The best thing leaders can do when they have a problem is to make the right decision. The second best thing they can do is make the wrong decision. The worst thing they can do is nothing.
There is some low-lying fruit that the president (this one and the next) could pluck and actually accomplish something.
Entitlements – Will it involve compromise? Yes! Will it be popular with everyone? No! Does it have to be done? Yes!
Approve the Supreme Court Justice appointment now. It’s the law. It’s their job.
In a Democracy, you have nice guys, and jerks, the lazy and the ambitious, crooks and honest members of the government. That’s life. Deal with it. You (leaders) have a job. Get it done.
There was time for questions after his speech. He actually answered the questions! That was refreshing. Monica, Connie and I had a great time discussing what we heard. Then we went home and waited for the last presidential debate.
Thanks, Monica, for suggesting that we do this.
What interesting events have you attended recently?
Mark your calendars for October 8th for an entertaining Woodlake Pride evening at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens. Starting at 4:00 pm.
That sounds fun!
Woodlake is a foothill town of about 7,000 nestled in the center a circle of foothills on the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Bravo Lake occupies a large chunk of the heart of the town. In 1912 when Gilbert Stevenson purchased the acres to build the city, he envisioned a beautiful tourist town. BUT Stevenson built a levee around the town’s primary landmark, obscuring it from view.
Whaaaa?? Was he shortsighted or something?
Maybe, but Olga and Manuel Jimenez had some great ideas to beautify the levees.
And the City of Woodlake agreed to it?
You bet. They bought the land.
What do you do with a big lake no one can see?
Worse than that, the area around it was vacant or worse – a weed haven. Manuel and Olga Jimenez change blight into bright and created Woodlake Pride, a service organization to perpetuate the beautiful park setting they created.
A student narrates the story of Manuel Jimenez’s vision for a student community service organization which he called Woodlake Pride in the video Woodlake Pride’s Wonderful World.
The real plan that Olga had was to “grow kids by planting gardens.” They started planting gardens in 1989, but eventually the city purchased 13 acres to turn into the beautiful gardens that we see today. The 1,700 rose bushes alone make this a wonderful world.
“It’s not like Disneyland,” Manuel Jimenez states.
Although it does not feature the number of varieties of roses found in famous gardens like the Boston Rose Garden, everyone marvels at the many varieties of plant life the Woodlake Botanical Garden on the way to the Sequoia National Park. It has become a major draw for sight-seeing.
It is that inspiring tale of what one person, or in this case a couple, can do in a community if they put their heart and soul into it.
“The legacy I want to leave Woodlake is just the beauty. It’s amazing what a seed can produce,” Olga shared.
Brief History of the Pierce Home in Longwood Gardens
William Penn sold George Pierce the land in 1700. Pierce built his home there in 1730.To save Pierce’s Park or Pierce’s Woods, scheduled for eradication at the local lumber mill, du Pont purchased the Pierce home and surrounding acreage. Longwood Gardens became the weekend home of Pierre Samuel du Pont in 1906.
Du Pont, one of 11 children, helped raise his siblings when his father died, and he married late in life. He devoted his life to running the family business, but also managed General Motors in the mid 20th century.
Under his management, GM enjoyed some of its most prosperous years. However, he did not consider real estate a good investment. He was not married when he purchased the nearly 200-year-old home in 1906. It became his pet project after he decided that he could do a better job of designing gardens than his designer.
When he married, he and his wife enjoyed expanding the many features of the home where they could entertain many people. John Phillip Sousa was one of the many that came to the du Pont home in Kennett Square, PA.
Hal did not think this simple home seemed like the home of a multi-millionaire. It was a weekend home that reflects the simplicity of life in 1730. Du Pont felt at the time that he probably made an investment mistake. His motives were philanthropic and environmental. The video you can watch on the du Pont side of the reflecting home connects the pieces of the story.
Pierre du Pont stood tall after his father passed away, leaving him as head of household. How many people do you know would take that responsibility seriously, and finish their education? He graduated from MIT at the age of twenty.
I have a couple of other videos you can watch on YouTube. They need some work. The videographer is not only shaky but talking to herself more than you. It put me to sleep listening.
I hope you enjoyed this short tour of the George Pierce/ Pierre du Pont home.
Thursday’s 80-degree temperature in Woodlake could not have been more beautiful. My mood matched the weather as I drove downtown to General Food Store to meet with Gene Gong, one of the two directors.
Mr. Gene Gong works twelve-hour days, so it’s been hard to schedule a time to interview him. On this perfect day in Woodlake, he was waiting and ready to answer my questions about General Food Store and the grocery business.
What do you want us to know about General Food Store?
“We are a local store,” Gene Gong replied immediately
Next to Woodlake Hardware, General Food Store has been active in Woodlake in the same location longer than any other store. Congratulations to Woodlake Chamber members, directors Gene and Ray Gong, on celebrating the 55th year anniversary of their family-owned and operated General Food Store!
We met in their front office, which is actually open to the public at the front of the store. I work best in private quarters away from distractions. Not these two! They are right out front, nodding to merchants as they come and go, speaking to customers, answering questions – always accessible.
As a small town, Woodlake is fortunate to have two well-stocked grocery stores. Gene likened their store to a corner mom and pop operation. Yes, they know most of their customers, but I remember most corner markets as being dim, dusty, and cramped. General Food Store is none of these.
Shoppers today have lots of options when it comes to shopping, especially for groceries. It seems that everyone is in the grocery business – national grocery chain stores, gas stations, outdoor fruit stands, discount stores, trendy, and bulk stores. There might be an occasional corner market in a large city like the one my first husband’s parents owned in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA.
What does the small-town main street market sell most?
General Food sells time.And time is money! How many people in Woodlake have too much of either of those commodities? I don’t. But I act like I do.
It takes me 20-25 minutes at the most to drive into Woodlake and pick up grocery items and get back home. It takes me 25 minutes to drive to the nearest Save Mart in Visalia, and five minutes to find a parking place and walk into the store. I love Costco, but it takes about 30 minutes to drive there and 25 minutes to find a parking place and a vacant grocery cart, not to mention going through a line to get into and out of the store. Then I have to shop and get back home – 90 minutes at least!
Additional Amenities of Shopping at General Food Store
Wal-Mart sells cheap merchandise but has long lines, a dirty store, filthy parking lot, and crowded rows. Who knows, we might end up being featured on the People of Wal-Mart website, or be standing next to someone who is. Yikes!
Look how spotless everything is at General Food Store in Woodlake. Do you see the reflection of the meat department in the floor? There is plenty of room to push a full-sized cart around without having to pick it up and squeeze past another customer. Yet, there was a steady stream of customers while I was in the store.
It is so simple to shop here. Park right next to the door. Customers walk in, get a friendly greeting, pick up their cart and find things they need. There is no long check-out line. General Food Store customers are back home after shopping and visiting with neighbors in less time than it would take them to drive to Visalia and park their car.
So what if I save $2.00 on a bag of chips at the $300 store?
Items are easy to find.
I’m not a huge drinker, but I enjoy a glass of sweet wine with my husband once in a while. My favorite brand is Barefoot. It’s inexpensive and tastes delicious to me. When I pick up a bottle in Visalia, I have to walk up and down two aisles to find my brand. There it is in the red wines, and again in the white and pink wine areas.
Time elapsed? Five minutes!
All my favorites are together, and they are on special for the same price as I can get them in Visalia. How much time did I just save? About 60 minutes, on one item.
I love to shop for fresh vegetables. There are only two of us at home. Neither of us eats huge amounts of anything. You would not think that to look at my shopping habits.
In Visalia, I go to Costco, walk into that freezing cold room, practically run my cart around the perimeter, and grab a big plastic container of lettuce, one bag of broccoli and one of carrots. The lettuce sits in my refrigerator until half or more of it rots. Ewwwww!
When three-quarters of the bag of broccoli turns yellow, I throw it out. The peeled baby carrots get slimy before we can eat them all. I wash them off, but feel guilty because I don’t want to serve slimy carrots, so I throw them out. Then if I’m fixing dinner for company, I don’t have any carrots to serve. I either have to grab a can of something or send Vince to Woodlake to pick up some fresh vegetables at the last minute.
Vince hates the way I shop. I think I am saving so much money. What do you think?
Mr. Gong said that he stocks things people in Woodlake buy. Customers might not find the newest craze here. Yet, he keeps up on the newest nutrition and food buying trends.
“About six years ago people started using plain yogurt to make fruit smoothies. Woodlake people did not pick up on it right away.”
“Do you stock plain yogurt now? I started eating it about six years ago because a doctor recommended it to help me with weight loss.”
“Yes, now customers are buying enough of it to pay stocking it. But kale is in now, and you might not find that here.”
I bought a huge bag of cut kale from Save Mart in my refrigerator. After talking to Mr. Gong, guilt overwhelmed me and I ate a bowl of kale for breakfast this morning. I fixed it three days ago and stuck the leftovers in the refrigerator because I don’t like to be wasteful. I still have a half bag of uncooked kale in the refrigerator. It is about 2 weeks old. I think I need to rethink my shopping habits.
My husband drinks Lactaid. We go through a lot of it, most of the time. Then we don’t. I won’t tell you what happens to some of our milk. More often we just run out – just before Vince has breakfast at 4:30 am. We did not want to run into Visalia to get a half-gallon of Lactaid. After what Mr. Gong said about trends, I did not think they would have Lactaid, but I was WRONG!
I admit that we eat like gringos. I fix burritos and other Mexican dishes, but I do it the gringa way. However, 80 percent of our town is Hispanic. True Mexicans cook with spices that I have never heard of. My Mexican friends would be ashamed to eat my monster quesadillas. Vince goes to Super Taco if he wants authentic Mexican food. But the Gongs stock for their customers. I could buy eucalyptus leaves if I wanted them. Does anyone have a recipe for them?
Speaking of tacos, unless you are vegetarian, meat is the most expensive item on the grocery list. I eat chicken, chicken and, oh yes, chicken with an occasional filet of salmon and hamburger thrown in. I fix Italian meatballs for my Italian husband, and I do it the Italian way. I forgot to check out the sausage situation at General Food Store. There aren’t many Italians in Woodlake.
There are lots of fresh meat choices. Packages do not come in $30.00 sizes, which reminds me, I need to put my hamburger I bought at Costco in the freezer today or I’ll have to throw it out.
Apparently many customers like baby-back ribs. My husband does.
I believe in supporting Woodlake Chamber members. Mr. Gong has not been a member for several years and he renewed his membership during our visit. He is the first Woodlake grocery store to do so. You all know what this means, don’t you?
Flower portraiture – capturing the beauty of a single bloom
Yesterday Woodlake and Hockessin temperatures both registered 84 degrees. Don’t be confused. In Woodlake that temperature is perfect. Delaware sun and humidity mixed to make salt water spring like a national park geyser from my forehead and nose.
After meandering through Pierce’s Woods and visiting his 1730s home, stifling in the tropical section of the Longwood Gardens Conservatory in Kennett Square, PA, we came full circle in the huge conservatory and found this perfect chenille plant. Better known as Acalypha hispida, conservatory designers saved the best of the 1,100 varieties on the 2,000 acres for last.
OK, that may just be my opinion. By the time I found Princess Hispida, I had already taken 177 pictures, was dripping wet, ready to get out of the Conservatory, and stop somewhere for ice cream. I apologised to the princess for my abruptness, bowed low and snapped pictures for the Streaming Thoughts News.
Accustomed to thousands of daily admirers, she took my blubbering in stride. Her red dreadlocks stood out among the competitors and I circled around to capture the exquisite luxurious locks of her highness in numerous shots.
With so many competitors, you often forget their names, or where they sat, as I did with Princes Hispida. If you know the name of the plant, you can find where it is on the Longwood Garden’s website. I did not remember her name. Lucky for me, Google located a long red fuzzy plant in about .5 seconds. In Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Princess H’s beauty is exotic. In Papua, New Guinea, she and her hardy zone 10 sisters are one in a million.
I wonder if I would look exotic if I moved to Papua, New Guinea. I’ll see if hubby wants to relocate.
I love to walk. Hal, age 91, and I walked for two hours through Winterthur and met a couple who walked there often.
“We walk here and at Longwood Gardens,” they told us.
“Where’s that?” I asked. My mental wheels turned.
“Kennett Square, PA about 15 minutes from here.”
“You’ve never been to Longwood Gardens when you visited before?” Hal sounded incredulous that he could have overlooked something as iconic as visiting Longwood Gardens.
“Never heard of it.”
“Everyone goes to Longwood Gardens. We need to go.”
After years of practicing touring every kind of museum under the sun, the best advice I can give you about touring like an expert is never to think you are an expert. Make comparisons, guesses, then check your facts. If you know you are going somewhere, you can check your facts first, but you’ll probably forget them because you don’t need to know them yet. I love to go in green and come out with more expertise than when I went in.
That being said, you are going to become more of an expert about Longwood Gardens that I was, and can build on the knowledge you gain here.
The Outdoor Gardens at Longwood Gardens.
We arrived at about 11:30, and unlike Winterthur, there were no shady areas in which to walk. The sun warmed us and the water features added humidity to the air.
Pierre du Pont enjoyed water. We came across a lake across from the Italian Water Gardens. Framing the picture on the right is the column of a gazebo. Unless you happen to be a frog, you would not want to jump in and swim in this lake. If you do, you will look like a frog when you come out.
I stood inside the lakeside gazebo to photograph Hal looking at the lake.
What impressed me most about this gazebo was the ceiling’s intricate pattern. Pierre du Pont designed his own gardens and incorporated much of what he learned on his travels to Italy.
With thousands of plants on thousands of acres, it is a photographer’s paradise. I couldn’t click fast enough.
Hal and I wandered into the garden and through the woods until 2:30. We caught the closing chords of the organ concert in the conservatory.
We did not let much grass grow under our feet, but there was some growing over our heads.
The display of flowers on the grounds outside reminded me of Buchart Gardens in Victoria, BC. There is a lot of stonework here in Delaware and Pennsylvania, but this garden is not built into the rock quarry.
Du Pont created the Italian Water Gardens with the most elaborate water show in the world when it was built in 1925-27. He could time the display, much like they do today at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Overlooking the Italian Water Gardens is a Canopy Cathedral. What attracted me were the windows. It was not as grand as the windows led me to believe, but it is worth the short climb to go inside to look out over the meadow.
Much of the wood for this structure came from reclaimed wood. The floors came from a toothpaste factory in Toronto, Canada.
Follow me as I go upstairs.
Finally, we look through the beautiful window panes onto the meadow and Italian Water Gardens.
I hope you enjoyed your tour today of the Longwood Gardens. I’ll take you to other parts of it in another post. Stay tuned.
It was a beautiful September day outside in San Jose, though a little warm. I had a few hours to kill before Leanne Cole’s plane came in from Australia. We planned to meet up at Starbucks. I was so excited to finally meet her in person.
I stayed at the Hilton next to the McEnery Convention Center in downtown San Jose. It was less than a half mile so I walked to the Tech Museum of Innovation. but it was closed for remodeling.
Dang! It was closed for remodeling. Sounds like my house.
Almost across the street near the San Jose State University campus on 110 S. Market Street sat the San Jose Museum of Art. It cost $8.00 admission for a senior, which I thought was pretty expensive, but I love museums, so I paid and walked in.
I walked over to Radio Man’s glass case and stared at him trying to convince myself that this was really an art museum. I had just passed the blue room, which was just a room with a room-sized box lit with a blue light. hmmm.
“First of all, art does not HAVE to make sense,” Radio Man instructed me.
“You just don’t want to analyze how beautiful and artistic I am. You’re a lazy aficionado,” he continued.
I looked down and shuffled my feet. I wanted to turn away, but Mom always taught me to compliment people – no matter what. I stood there staring at his shoes and duck beak hands.
“OK, ok! You are shiny. I’ll give you that!”
“I had braces as a child.”
“You need to try Invisalign. Your bite is off.”
“What do you know? Most people like my smile.”
“Looks more like a grit to me.”
“A grit? It’s a smile. Don’t I have pretty eyelashes?”
I am not usually mean to robots. What’s the use? I moved on, nodding that I liked its eyelashes.
Cherries, sweet goodness, the joys and best of life
If the cherry is on top, all’s well that ends well, right? Life is a bowl of cherries. That is this week’s photo challenge, “cherry on top.” I tried to cherry pick the best photos from my 2016 collection that fit that description.
It was hot July 3rd in the Central Valley. As appointed photographer for the Kiwanis July 3rd Blast, I sought out interesting shots. Sure enough, here was the cherry on top.
She probably did not need to be coaxed to ride in the parade. In a few years, she will probably be Miss Woodlake.
At the Grand Opening of the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, we experience double-vision with this cherry-red cap. Maybe he is reading about the founding members of the Woodlake Lions.
The VIP opening of the Museum was a cherry topping experience for me. Here’s why.
My phone rang. I was about to step back into my tour bus in Hawaii. It was Carl Peden. We had never met, but he donated lots of artifacts to the museum from his time serving the White House as the pilot of Air Force One. On a whim, I asked him if he would be one of the speakers at the VIP opening. To my surprise, he agreed.
At the end of his speech he took off his jacket and handed it to our President, Rudy Garcia, for the Museum. What an electrifying end to his speech!
He proudly pointed out his name on the donor list to his relatives.
On President’s Day, two days later, he passed away. I think this event might have been the last cherry on his cake. We loved having him.
The Tulare County Agricultural Fair is the cherry of all ag festivals. Thousands of ag professionals come from all over the world to see cherries like the one pictured. They probably know what this machine does, too! I just think it’s pretty and red.
Cacti don’t bloom that often, but when they do, they give us a magnificent show. This cherry-picked this photo emerged out of hundreds during the Woodlake Botanical Gardens Berry Festival this May. Beware, do not try to eat it, though!
Las Vegas is hot year round compared to most places. Gelato seemed like the best option for dinner after hubby played a rousing hand of poker all day. Nourishing? Not really. A delicious end to a fun day? Definitely!
Though not overly thrilled with being the cherry in this picture, I was on cloud nine the week we were in Hawaii with my friends Carol, the Eternal Traveler from Australia, and Connie, my friend from TCOE, and their husbands.
You never know how it is going to work out when you put six people who have never traveled together on a week’s vacation, let alone six people, most of whom have never met in person. This Hawaiian trip was more than the icing on the cake. It was definitely the cherry on top!
We all look a little wind-blown. Make-up? Forget about it! Fun? You bet!
Huff, huff, huff! We made it to the top! My cherry-colored hat protected my face from frying in the sun, but held in the heat. Yes, I’m still smiling, but let’s sit down and have a nice cool drink, what do you think?
Near the end of the week, and we are still smiling, but I’m sad inside because it will end soon.
One week out of our lives, such a small chunk, but it leaves lasting memories as bright as cherries on a chocolate soda.
For more cherries, click the icon.
If you enjoyed this, be the cherry on my sundae and please share it. 🙂
Because there is no theme other than odd ball, it is easy to choose pictures ahead of time.
Since there’s no theme but odd, it’s easy to write and schedule this challenge.
Even though Cee makes all her challenges easy because she announces the themes weeks in advance, this one is easy to choose pictures. That earns me hours away from the computer!
Yesterday I went through about a third of my pictures and pulled out 40 that I thought would work. Some of them I took on purpose because they were odd when I saw them. Others are odd because I took them and wondered why!
Even odder, why did I keep them?
Odd Pictures or Odd Thinking?
Now the only decision I need to make is to share the odd pictures or my odd thinking. Which would you prefer?
I’ll do one of each and see which one you like best, how’s that?
This was in my Hawaii pictures from January when we visited with Mr. & Ms. Eternal Traveler, and, of course, Justin Beaver. Maybe Carol knows what this is. Since it was with other shopping pictures we took of the ritzy shops in Wailea on Maui, she might even have a post about it.
By the way, Carol is a famous guest poster, and I just found this published article of hers on Google in the Hiker’s Handbook. Way to go, Carol!
All the explanation you are going to get from me is, “I just think it’s cool.”
Since reputation for having the ability to think is at stake here, I’d better explain myself.
Actually, this picture is unique and well-composed according to my daddy’s teaching. It’s framed with a pretty weed on the left. The gold and brown colors coordinate. And it has a bright rusty contrast.
I’m so defensive…
My reasoning for taking and keeping this
The real reason I took this picture was to help collect donations.
The Woodlake Chamber of Commerce found out this year that they own the sign that sits on CA State Highway 198, the main highway that goes from the coast to the Sequoia National Park. The sign alerts travelers that there is a cute, friendly, cowboy town north of the freeway a few miles with the best fries in the state.
Believe me you don’t want to go to the coast on Highway 198 with a motor home!
Or to the park either, for that matter, the hairpin turns are narrow and mountainous. That means wind and scary drop-offs. We did it at night one time, and I thought my husband would have a heart attack.
Back to the sign.
The Woodlake Chamber of Commerce is NOT wealthy! And suddenly it owns a sign that is falling down, and now we know it’s our responsibility to fix it. We could ask businesses and other clubs to donate, and we will probably do that because signs are expensive.
But now we are fundraising by selling donation tickets to win a trip to Maui – my husband and my favorite vacation spot.
So this is one of the photographs I took to document the need to replace it – as if the fading picture is not enough reason!
So now you have enough evidence to choose.
Which do you like better, odd picture or odd thinking?
If you liked this post, PLEASE share it with your friends.
If you thought it was stupid, share it with your enemies. JK, don’t do that. Just ignore them. Maybe they will go away.
This post has all the clickable links to get back to Cee and see other odd pictures or enter for yourself.
Car shows are still the rage in Central California. They attract car guys and gals with everything from new Mustangs to old beaten-up trucks decorated with suitcases. This was one of my personal favorites.
The Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce Car Show is one of the last shows of the season in the valley where temperatures soar into the 100s by mid-summer.
As participants drove into the western touristy looking town, new downtown sidewalks, streetlights, flags, and a round-about leading into the town welcomed them.
Unlike most shows, this venue is in the middle of the city park right on the grass not on the hot asphalt street. The shopping center across the street from the park provided parking for all the non-exhibiting guests, so streets were clear for registration, which ended at 10:00.
Such a family friendly atmosphere! Everything in the park has been upgraded and is beautifully maintained.
Here are a few tips to make your day more fun that I gathered as I made my way around the park visiting with all the car guys and gals.
Pre-register. The pre-registration line went faster and because it was about 10 cars shorter. Woodlake Valley Chamber volunteers had bags of goodies packed with names ready to go.
Show up early! The best spots under the large trees in Miller Brown Park go fast! On-site registration officially opened at 7:00, but they let us in as soon as they got set up.
Bring a shade canopy, comfy chairs, cooler, and a spray bottle. One woman misted herself as I walked by her trying to grab a corner of her shady spot. Other guests offered me cold water. It was such a friendly crowd.
Don’t forget cash! The Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce had a 50/50 drawing and this year a chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Maui, HI. Donations go for a good cause. The Chamber is raising money to rebuild the sign on Highway 198 that points the way to Woodlake and the many activities sponsored by other service organizations during the year. They also sponsor the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum which opened in February of 2016.
Come with your friends. Groups can park together at the Woodlake Car Show and not by category if they want. Car entries came from Bakersfield, Fresno, Visalia, Porterville, Tulare and many of the small towns in Tulare County. The youngest participant I talked to was a seventeen-year-old cyclist from Woodville.
Leave your pit bulls at home. We did not seem many dog strollers and no doggie messes in the park. The Woodlake Chamber allowed small carry-on dogs in the park.
There were so many prizes. Not only were there about 28 categories of vehicles with three winners in each one. In addition, Miss Woodlake picked her top three winners, and so the did the Chamber of Commerce.
Guy Fieri made diners and dives famous across the United States but does he know about the Woodlake Drive Inn? It’s thriving in the tiny town of Woodlake, CA.
How is that possible? What’s the secret of their success?
Ali credits his success to extending a helping hand and giving back 200% to the community.
Owner, Ali Mohamed impressed me with his devotion to Woodlake.
“Whatever you do for the community, it comes back. If you’re stingy it doesn’t work.”
It was about a half hour before our scheduled interview when I drove down Valencia Boulevard in Woodlake, CA. Hungry from my morning workout, and not able to cook while our kitchen is being remodeled, I looked forward to this interview for more than one reason.
Chicken Strips & Fries!
It was about 12:15 when I arrived, and there was a long line in front of me. I knew from experience it would go fast. However, I was not counting on Ali coming out to greet me. He asked what I wanted and put my order in for me. While I waited for my food, I took pictures for my blog and talked to customers. Everyone in one family liked the same thing I did – chicken.
Out of over 100 items, that was not the consensus. Other top ranking meals were #8, the BIG MEAL, the hamburger special, the pastrami sandwich, grilled cheese, and, of course, sodas.
Waiting on a constant stream of walk-up customers and answering the phone kept the window clerk busy. Several men bustled in the back filling the orders. Guests sat down under the cover of an awning visiting with each other across picnic tables while they waited for their food.
Just like any fast food, it came in a styrofoam container, but it was hot! The fries may be the tastiest I’ve ever had, with just the right amount of seasoning and the perfect crispness. The woman in blue informed me before my meal arrived, that Woodlake DriveInn has the best fries. They visit frequently, and she was right.
When I finished eating, Ali came out to join me at the table.
Curiosity bubbled out of me. “How did you end up in Woodlake, CA of all places?”
Twenty years ago Ali and his brother moved from Yemen to Dearborn, MI and went to work in a factory in Angola, IN, 20 miles south of Dearborn. In their spare time, they worked in restaurants as they picked up English.
Ali’s cousin, Sam, had moved from Fresno to Farmersville and told the brothers that CA was the land of opportunity. They bought the Drive Inn from an Arabian in 2001 and settled in with a plan to succeed.
“This country is amazing. You can be who you are in a free country. In the United States, if you believe you will succeed, you will.”
“We just noticed what people liked and that’s what we served. People order lots of sodas and soft-serve ice cream. And we were friendly. We came out and shook hands with everyone that came.”
The Drive Inn was old in 1961 when it was Floyd’s Drive Inn. He did not know the history of the business, but Ali told me that he had an 80-year-old customer who had worked at the Drive Inn when she was in high school.
When we started, it was just my brother and I and one girl. We worked hard. Now we have six or seven employees.
“My brother wanted to enclose the font, and air-condition a seating area. I wanted to keep it old-fashioned. The community needs something original. We added the awning.”
One customer said, Ali is very friendly. He’s got a great personality.
Her husband added, “And the food is GOOD.”
Ali believes in being generous. A Chamber of Commerce member, he donated a large amount to the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, run by the Chamber. His generosity reaches to other organizations as well. He has a soft spot in his heart for lending a helping hand, especially for the schools. He doesn’t always know why the kids are collecting money, though.
“You can never go wrong giving. It always comes back to you.”
It pays off. A few years ago I did a civics exercise in a high school class. Kids had to list ten things they liked about Woodlake, and ten things they would change. Woodlake Drive Inn was always at the top of their list of things they like about their town.
Ali paid for my lunch and then offered me some soft-serve ice cream for desert. It was so tempting. Even the pictures looked good.
Are you proud of my self-control? I may go back tomorrow, but I’m not telling.
Woodlake is friendly. Woodlake Drive Inn is the place to network.
Yesterday I made a new Facebook friend while I waited for my food.
Today Vince insisted on trying Woodlake Drive Inn after I told him about the food. A cool breeze blew through the shaded area. A couple sat down across from me at the picnic table while we waited for our lunch. They looked vaguely familiar. After talking to figure out why we knew each other, she gave me her card.
Ali left me with this quote before he got back to work.
“If I didn’t work here. I’d still live here. I walk down the street and people don’t turn away. They say hi. I love Woodlake.”
So next time you come to Woodlake head for the old-fashioned burger shack, Woodlake Drive Inn. Guy Fieri would be proud.
What is the favorite local restaurant in your town?
If you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media or email it to a friend who might enjoy visiting Woodlake Drive Inn.
Woodlake True Value Hardware Store Celebrating 100 Years of Continuous Service in 2017.
The day had turned out to be a typical Central Valley day, 104 degrees in the shade, and there was no shade. At 1:40 p.m. I rushed out of my car parked four feet from the new True Value Woodlake Hardware Store entrance for my 1:30 interview with Andrew Dorais and Russ Howard, the co-managers of the store.
A traffic accident on the freeway from Visalia, 20 miles west of town, had slowed me for an hour, so YES, I was late when I got there.
One of our Woodlake Chamber of Commerce Car Show posters had front and center position on the front door.
Yeah! Good advertisement!
The door opened and air-conditioning already started to cool me down and settle my driving nerves. Leanne Jones greeted me with a smile, and Andrew and Russ came out to usher me back to the hardware office for our scheduled appointment.
The City of Woodlake commissioned me to write several articles about the different businesses in Woodlake for their magazine, and Andrew met me on the street the on Thursday, June 30 and immediately set an appointment for the next day.
Both Andrew and Russ have talked to me in the past, so I began by asking them how they were doing with the lofty goals they had set when they began working November 1st. Unlike me and my goals, they have achieved all of them and thank the community of Woodlake for the show of support.
8 Reasons to Shop Local
Woodlake is a bedroom community of Visalia. It isn’t far, but it is. It’s twenty miles, and even farther to the hardware stores in town. Some people might even go to Fresno which is about 45 miles away or Bakersfield – 60 miles away.
NOT ME! I think I’ll stay in Woodlake.
Together Russ and Andrew explained eight reasons to shop local rather than going to Visalia or Fresno for hardware and building needs.
They have what I need in the store for building, decorating, and fixing things around the home.
If they don’t have what I need in the store, I can order online through the True Value online website and it comes at no charge. That’s a big bonus for those of us who live even farther out in the country.
Andrew and Russ brought in a huge selection of off-road vehicles. For farmers and laborers who work ranches that range from 7 to over several thousands of acres, nothing could be more practical. Even kids can help their parents run errands driving these around the ranch.
After remodeling and redecorating, the next major step towards creating a new Woodlake Hardware was restocking and reorganizing merchandise. The isles sparkle with new hardware items, garden supplies, toys and items for the home.
The layout has changed since November. It is brighter with new lights and ceiling. I wandered into the garden section taking pictures. Almost immediately I found the outdoor furniture section. Even the lawn mowers looked pretty, and I hate mowing.
Customer service goes without saying at any business, but it usually goes without saying. Many times I’ve walked into a hardware store, and not even seen a clerk who could help me. Unfortunately, I need a lot of help when my husband sends me to the store for some item I’ve never even seen or heard of before. It’s not a problem here. They all know my name! It’s like going into Cheers. OK, maybe you’re too young to remember that.
They wanted to have a mechanics repair shop for small engines, and now they do. I should have asked more about the kinds of small engines they were talking about.
Finally, the quality of the merchandise brings customers back. As Andrew pointed out, and I have experienced shopping for lumber with hubby, it can take rummaging through a few boards before we find the ones that are undamaged and usable. At Woodlake Hardware we can trust them to have just the best pieces. They stay competitive in price as well, and if we have a large order, they have it drop shipped to our building site.
That’s cool. I bet my husband is regretting the trips to Fresno to pick up flooring during our remodel already. He wanted to save the shipping fee, so he DROVE to Fresno, paid a friend’s grandson to help him, and he tweaked his back unloading the 50-pound boxes. What a bargain!
I bet he’s hitting his forehead and saying, “I could have shopped in Woodlake!”
So if you are thinking of driving to Fresno or Visalia to shop for lumber or hardware needs, outdoor furniture, off-road vehicles, bikes for the kids, STOP. Take a short drive to Woodlake, and check out what is here. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Before I had finished taking pictures one display reached out and grabbed me.
I had looked in Visalia for a couple of fold-up portable chairs for the park. They cost $34.00 at one of the stores, so I passed them up. Woodlake True Value Hardware had them on sale for $10.99. I bought two, and told everyone I saw at the July 3rd Blast to go get one before they all sold out!
Below you can listen to our interview on my first podcast. It is not the best quality recording because I don’t have a microphone, so I recorded this with my cell phone and used Audacity to “Normalize” the volume. You can tell it is not very normal.
It was fairly boring with just voices, (sorry Andrew, Russ and Marsha) so I found this great podcast music and purchased 2.5 minutes of “Cowboy Tears” and cut it into little pieces, and pasted it into Podcast #1.
Anyway, it only took two days to normalize and take out all the “uhms.”
Hope you love it. Don’t worry if you don’t. It’s not all that easy to do, and I’ll get better.
All I need now is a lot more knowledge, better recording set-up, and a deep-voiced announcer saying “Another Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce Podcast,” or something creative.
So, if you like this article, please share it with your friends. If not, share it with someone you don’t like. (JUST KIDDING)
If you do not live in Woodlake, feel free to share about your favorite local shop. You can be your own local Chamber of Commerce. It’s fun! 🙂