Category: Quality of Life

Madera Drive-in Reopens to Sold-out Crowd

MADERA, California (KSEE) – The Madera Drive-in reopened to moviegoers Friday to a packed audience. Vice President of Operations Bob Gran Jr. said they were just about to kick off the season when the pandemic hit. “We’ve worked hand in hand with the Madera County Health Department to mitigate all those measures against the virus,” he said.

The more than 300 car capacity lot has been cut to about 200, allowing at least ten feet between vehicles. Markers for social distancing were placed leading to the now outdoor snack bar and everyone is asked to stay inside their vehicles unless they have to get out (then masks are required). Despite all the new rules, the crowd still came. “Oh, it’s going to be a sell out,” Gran Jr. said. He was right, a line of moviegoers wrapped around the block. Among them was Ralph Westcott, who says the rules are worth the reward. “This, not having to set anything up yourself at home, it’s just the family time,” he said.

“It is nice to see them reopen – especially with a lot of people taking safety precautions, so that way we’re still conscious of other people’s health and safety, so that’s why I think this is way better than sitting in a regular movie theater,” said Erica Chuvichien. Gran said he wants everyone to willingly comply with the new guidelines, but they will be enforced, and people who don’t follow will be asked to leave. “If you can, please wait until we return to normal. You can come out and enjoy the normal drive-in experience. Right now it’s a special drive-in experience,,” Gran Jr. said.

This week the theater is playing Trolls World Tour and Doolittle on side one, and Knives Out and the Hunt on side two.

https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/local-news/madera-drive-in-reopens-to-sold-out-crowd/#:~:text=MADERA%2C%20California%20(KSEE)%20%E2%80%93,season%20when%20the%20pandemic%20hit.

Plant sales increase as more people take on gardening

Throughout the Central Valley nurseries are deemed essential because they sale fruits, vegetables, and outdoor plants. With numerous businesses temporary closed to stay at home restrictions, more and more people are turning to gardening swamping local nurseries with their business.

https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/plant-sales-increase-as-more-people-take-on-gardening/

Virtual wine trail in Madera County brings community together

Madera County is home to a variety of wineries like Toca Madera Winery, which are now coming to you with virtual tastings. “We’ve turned into a virtual winery basically. So virtual tastings on Instagram and Facebook on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday at 5. We do private virtual tastings and doorstep delivery has become our thing,” said Shayne Vetter, a winemaker for Toca Madera Winery. Vetter says they’ve seen a lot of support from local wine drinkers. People purchase their estate wines, tune-in and drink up.

https://www.yosemitethisyear.com/eventdetail/15081/virtual-wine-tasting

New bookstore to open in downtown Hanford

A local business owner is turning the page and opening a brand new bookstore in downtown Hanford. Running a business isn’t new for Janie Isidoro. She’s been managing a shop in Visalia, but as an author, she always dreamed of owning her own bookstore one day. “I’m a writer, so I had my books on my shelf, but then I started bringing in other books as well,” said Isidoro. When their building was sold, and they had to relocate last November, Janie decided it was time for a new chapter.

Kernville, Bakersfield breweries combine for five medals at nation’s top beer festival

Kern River Brewing Co. has developed an impressive array of award-winning beers. A pair of Kern breweries took home an extraordinary five medals at the Great American Beer Festival last weekend in Denver — a testament, the local winners say, to the county’s sophisticated approach to beer-making. Kernville’s Kern River Brewing Co. took home two golds and two silvers, as well as the Brewery Group of the Year honor, while Temblor Brewing Co. in Bakersfield won bronze.

Signed State Budget Delivers Millions for the Valley

Friday, June 28, 2019

Funding included for Career Technical Education, Safe Drinking Water, and Valley Fever

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) issued the following statement regarding Governor Newsom’s signing of the 2019-2020 state budget:

“Governor Newsom’s first state budget reinforces California’s commitment to supporting working families, small businesses, students, seniors and veterans.  This budget builds record reserves for a rainy day and pays off debt while doing more to shore up working families and tackle challenges of affordability and quality of life,” said Assemblymember Salas.  “This budget invests in the Central Valley by addressing the healthcare workforce shortage, allocating $2 million to support valley fever research and providing millions to address safe and affordable drinking water.  The budget also includes funding to help train, grow, and support our workforce and students by expanding workforce development and youth leadership programs.”

State Budget Includes:

  • $2 million to the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical Center to support valley fever research
  • $12.5 million General Fund one-time for safe drinking water in the Central Valley, including $2.5 million to bring communities like Arvin into compliance with safe drinking water standards
  • $705,000 for three Independent Living Centers (ILC), including ILC of Kern County
  • $40,000 for the California Central Valley Economic Development Corporation
  • $1.1 million for planning of Bakersfield College Delano Center: Learning Resource Center Multi-Purpose Building
  • $1.6 million for planning of West Hills College Lemoore Instructional Center Phase 1
  • $12 million over three years for the Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative

 

The main budget bill – AB 74 – can be found here.

Valley Fever Funding

“We are grateful to Assemblymember Rudy Salas for authoring this legislation and bringing critical funding to Kern County – where it is needed the most.  As Medical Director for the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical, I am honored to lead our clinical team as we continue our mission to increase education and awareness for the public, patients and health care providers; provide the best patient care available and promote research that includes epidemiology, clinical drug development, prevention, immunology and immunizations.  The $2 million in funding will directly help the patients we care for every day at the Valley Fever Institute.” – Royce Johnson, M.D., Medical Director of the Kern Medical Valley Fever Institute and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Kern Medical

“Every day at the Valley Fever Institute we care for patients fighting Valley Fever.  The $2 million will benefit countless people in Kern County and beyond.  We are grateful to our dedicated legislators for supporting this critical funding and working with us to ensure the health of our community.” – Russell V. Judd, CEO, Kern Medical

 

Dolores Huerta and Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center’s Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative (YFCEI)

“We are grateful that the legislature and the Governor have made it possible to expand the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center’s Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative (YFCEI) to reach more underserved youth throughout California, with a focus on youth engagement, youth empowerment and leadership development utilizing the philosophies of non-violence advocates.  The leadership training that the youth receive will be magnified tenfold as the youth take the lessons learned to address and resolve the many issues that they are confronted with in their respective communities.” – Dolores Huerta

This funding supports the YFCEI’s efforts to serve young people in 12 counties throughout California over the next three years.

 

Independent Living Centers of Kern County

“We want to express our gratitude and dedication to Assemblymember Salas and his staff for the work they have done to maintain equal base rate funding of all Independent Living Centers in CA.  These continued funds come directly to Kern County and stay in Kern County to support the needs of all people with disabilities.” – Jimmie Soto, Executive Director of the Independent Living Center of Kern County

 

California Central Valley Economic Development Corporation

“The California Central Valley Economic Development Corporation is excited about this unique investment to further business development in the Central Valley.  We greatly appreciate Assemblyman Salas championing this effort, and look forward to the development of new and expanding businesses as a result of this program.” – Lance Lippincott, CEO and President of Kings County Economic Development Corporation

We anticipate additional funding for the Central Valley as the Governor signs the remaining budget trailer bills.

https://a32.asmdc.org/press-releases/20190628-signed-state-budget-delivers-millions-valley

$30 million boutique hotel planned for Three Rivers

It was standing room only at the Three Rivers Memorial Building on Wednesday evening, as more than 100 locals turned out to discuss the future of the small foothill community during a town hall meeting.

Much of the debate centered on a proposed 200-room, $30 million “luxury lodge” off Highway 198 and Old Three Rivers Road.

District 1 Supervisor Kuyler Crocker said the town hall meeting was intended to educate residents and hear their concerns.

“We are much closer to the starting line than the finish line here,” Crocker said of the proposed hotel. “Now is the opportunity to learn and give feedback.”

Dubbed Sequoia Resort and Spa in preliminary site plans, the boutique hotel would feature striking, earthen architecture and offer guests an experience directly inspired by the backdrop of Sequoia National Park.

Because the land is already zoned for hotel construction and abides by the Three River Community Plan, principal partner Guatam Patel could legally begin construction without public hearing.

However, Patel told the packed room he is committed to incorporating community feedback into the project’s design, having already sunk 2.5 years and more than $500,000 into finding an appropriate site.

“We are committed to having a local flair to this. That’s where modern hotel design is going,” he said. “Guests don’t want to sit trapped in their room for three nights. They want to go out and experience the local spots.”

The flair will cost you: Rooms at the resort are expected to run at least $300 a night, Patel said.

That was great news to at least one Three Rivers hotelier, who offers a comparatively humbler — and affordable — stay at the Sequoia Motel a mile up the road from the proposed resort.

“It’s not going to compete with us,” said Chris Schlossin, who opened the 12-room motel 23 years ago. “Three Rivers doesn’t have anything of that caliber. It would be a little glowing star on the map.”

Competition

For Schlossin, Airbnb is a much bigger threat to business.

Large groups of tourists rent out vacation homes on the app for rates at which local lodgings can’t compete. The county presented a draft short-term rental ordinance that Schlossin hopes will remedy the situation with occupancy limits on Airbnb homes.

Neither Airbnb or Sequoia Motel is likely to compete with the luxury project Patel envisions, however.

“It’s a high-end place. That’s something the county doesn’t have,” Schlossin said. “It’s encouraging that they’re reaching out to the community. You gotta give the man (Patel) credit for being a good neighbor.”

Patel committed to incorporating local businesses into the hotel’s operation, so long as they “meet a high operational standard,” including a restaurant and retail space. He hopes that the resort could be a draw during the off-season, benefiting local businesses.

“You only have three-to-four months to make your money here. If they could improve business during the shoulder months, that would be wonderful,” Schlossin said.

The bulk of the 102,000-square-foot project will be built offsite, so builders can erect the building in Three Rivers in a matter of days, minimizing disruption to the environment and neighbors, Patel said.

Housing for the hotel’s estimated 30 employees will be included with the project, so as not to further crunch Three River’s long-term rental and housing market.

He also addressed community concerns surrounding water and the area’s fickle water table.

“This is the water nobody else in the community wants, but that we will use and pay dearly to use,” Patel said, pointing to a state-of-the-art company the developer hopes to partner with to treat water and manage effluent.

Besides water, many residents were concerned about the possibility of a rumored incentive to build the $30 million hotel project in Tulare County.

Last year, the Sierra Star reported that Madera County supervisors cut Patel a deal to move ahead with a similar hotel project in Oakhurst, near Yosemite National Park.

The incentive took the form of a 50% rebate on the hotel’s transient occupancy tax over 25 years. TOT is a tax levied on travelers who stay at a hotel for fewer than 30 days.

The rate varies by county. In Tulare County, the TOT is 10%.

Crocker said the county hadn’t settled on a number yet and discussions with developer Patel Group were still ongoing.

“I understand why (the county) would (offer Patel) a deal for an upscale development, but it’s still frustrating that other hotels have to pay the full tax. We didn’t get any breaks,” Schlossin said.

The supervisor pointed out that such arrangements were common and would benefit both the county and the developer, providing financial incentives to build while capturing tax revenue that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

“The TOT rebate is favorable to attract business and generate long-term economic activity and taxable commerce,” Crocker said.

Some at the town hall questioned whether that tax should be used to benefit only the Three Rivers community, rather than the county’s general fund.

The argument was a no-go for Crocker.

“While Three Rivers does generate more TOT tax, other county communities generate much more sales tax or property tax and we don’t give them special treatment,” Crocker said. “I’m not going to write a blank check to Three Rivers or any other county community.”

The supervisor pointed to a $400,000 restroom project and expansion of the Three Rivers Historical Museum slated to be completed by the of the year.

The project was paid for out of the county’s general fund, Crocker said.

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/local/visalia/2019/07/26/30-million-boutique-hotel-planned-three-rivers-despite-concerns/1827892001/

The water park is coming, so are the jobs. Work under way at Manteca’s Great Wolf Lodge

 

Great Wolf Lodge is bringing a water park back to Manteca, CA. An update on the indoor water park resort and hotel project that is expected to bring 500 to 600 jobs to the Central Valley city.

Yes, the water slides are still coming. So is the hotel. Plus a family entertainment center. And restaurants. But before any of that arrives, expect between 500 and 600 jobs to come to Manteca.

A small-scale village in the form of the Great Wolf Lodge is rising in the Central Valley city just off Highway 120. A representative from a highly anticipated water park resort gave a public presentation at Manteca City Hall on Thursday evening to a packed crowd.

The 500-room, six-story structure is on track to open in June or July of 2020. Construction has been under way since groundbreaking last November. The structure looms large, visible from the freeway next to the Costco and Big League Dreams center.

Steven Jacobsen, vice president of domestic development at Great Wolf, updated the audience on the project’s progress and sought to reassure citizens that the resort would be a good and welcoming neighbor once it opens.

“We’re all about families. And we’re all about providing an opportunity for families to spend time together — quality time,” Jacobsen said. “We’re about creating an incredible experience so the average family can go with family and loved ones and have a great time.”

The new development will feature a connected hotel, indoor water park and family entertainment center. Jacobsen boasted of more than 50 activities “under one roof” at the resort. They include numerous water slides, wave pools, a lazy river, shopping, multiple dining options, bowling, arcades and even an interactive adventure game.

Great Wolf operates 17 resorts in North America, making it the largest indoor water park company on the continent. Besides its upcoming Manteca location, it has another set to open this fall near Phoenix, and one each planned for England and Mexico. The Midwest-founded and based company expects to see 8 million guests through its property next year.

But it was the Manteca project that was front and center Thursday night. The public presentation addressed some of the most pressing concerns about the project from area residents, including access to its lauded indoor water park. Shortly after the development was officially announced last August, some in the area complained the water park would only be open to hotel guests and leave locals high and dry.

AA Great Wolf 02.JPG
Family entertainment center under construction at the Great Wolf Lodge Resort in Manteca, Calif., Thursday, July 11, 2019. Andy Alfaro AALFARO@MODBEE.COM

Jacobsen reiterated the company’s reasons for its hotel guest-only policy for its water park — safety and overall park enjoyment — but also introduced a new day-pass pilot program the resort has rolled out recently. At other properties, the company is testing passes to allow non-hotel guests to use the water park based on occupancy levels.

“We don’t want you to stand in a Disney line at Great Wolf,” Jacobsen said.

The company is still evaluating the day-pass program, and prices are flexible based on dates and occupancy. Jacobsen wouldn’t give a price range for the passes, but a look at the July day-pass rate at the three closest Great Wolf resorts in Southern California, Washington and Colorado put the fee mid-week at $65-$80 per person and weekend rate at $90-$110 per person.

When compared to booking a hotel room, which has two days of water park access for all of the registered guests included in the rate plus free parking, Jacobsen told the crowd that for a family of four-plus, it typically pencils out better to rent a room instead of doing the day passes.

AA Great Wolf 06.JPG
Workers move a section of the water slide during construction at the Great Wolf Lodge Resort in Manteca, Calif., Thursday, July 11, 2019. Andy Alfaro AALFARO@MODBEE.COM

Jacobsen also couldn’t give a price range for the Manteca rooms, as they change depending on the day of the week, season and overall occupancy. But in Anaheim this month, rooms start at around $329.99 for a standard and $629 for a premium suite. The largest rooms in the resort will be able to sleep up to 12, and multiple different kinds of rooms and packages are available. Jacobsen also stressed that the Manteca site will not have minimum night stay requirements for hotel guests to use the park.

Still, for folks who don’t want to book a room, the lodge still has public areas that are accessible to non-hotel guests. Those include the restaurants and all of the family fun center, which will have an arcade, bowling alley, games and more.

And for those not looking to stay or play, the lodge could become their work as Jacobsen revealed the complex would hire between 500 to 600 full-time and part-time jobs. Positions will range from lifeguards to waitstaff, engineers to hotel clerks. Jacobsen said they are teaming with the City of Manteca to help publicize the positions.

Great Wolf rendering.JPG
A rendering of the Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca which will include a 6-story, 500-room hotel, family entertainment center and 95,000 square-foot indoor waterpark. Gensler GREAT WOLF RESORT

There will be a job fair in the city about 30 to 45 days before its opening next summer. So job seekers should be on the lookout for information around April and May of next year. Jacobsen said the job fair would ensure that Manteca residents “got first crack” at employment.

The managerial positions should be hired 30 to 45 days before the site’s opening, and then the bulk of the remaining staff should come on board about two and a half weeks out. No other job descriptions, salary information or employment requirements have been released yet.

Jacobsen and city staff also addressed some logistical concerns from area residents, including traffic on Daniels Street. City Manager Tim Ogden assured attendees that the road, which currently stops at the Great Wolf construction site, would be extended to McKinley Avenue on the west side of the project. That work should be completed by next February, months before the opening.

https://www.modbee.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/biz-beat/article232523217.html

Fresno has some of the best farmers markets around. Here’s where to find them

 

One of the best things about Fresno? Its farmers markets.

Since we feed the nation with what we grow here, it’s no surprise we have some pretty awesome markets.

Sometimes walking through a Fresno farmers market is a sensual experience.

There’s so much to take in: Piles of glossy vegetables, new fruits you’ve never seen before and bundles of mint and basil so fragrant they deserve a vase in the middle of the dining room table.

Mid July is like Christmas when it comes fresh fruit. So many are in season: peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, figs, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe and more.

If you’re a baker, this is your chance to make something photo worthy.

But even in the dead of winter, farmers markets here carry a surprising amount of produce, like hearty dinosaur kale and rainbow chard.

Our farmers markets often carry things you can’t always find at the supermarket: Unusual varieties of pluots (a cross between apricots and plums), heirloom tomatoes with streaks of green and red, yellow raspberries, curly garlic scapes, taro root, and lately, lemon cucumbers – little round cukes that taste like their name.

Part of the fun is not being afraid to ask a farmer what something is or how to prepare it. Then you can impress your friends and family with new and different flavors.

Whichever farmers market you choose, bring lots of small bills and plastic bags.

Our list of markets below covers Fresno and Clovis, though there are certainly many more in outlying cities. Some are seasonal and some are year round. Most markets accept the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card or the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Kaiser Permanente Fresno Farmers Market

When:From 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, March through November, starting at 9 a.m. from December through February.

Where: Fresno Medical Center, 7300 N. Fresno St.

Contact: (559) 448-4128.

Details: With all kinds of vegetables and fruit for sale, there are also baked goods, handmade soaps, and flowers. Food trucks and other vendors are there, including Spoon & Fork’s Filipino food, Raw Fresno and Ohana Pantry selling its acai bowls.

Manchester Center Farmers Market

When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays, year round.

Where: In the parking lot at Manchester Center, at Blackstone and Shields avenues.

Contact: (559) 360-1377.

Details: With lots of fruit and vegetable vendors, you’ll also find puppet performances for the kids and the Fresno County Bookmobile is there the first Friday of every month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lots of Mexican food vendors serve burritos, tacos, Mexican seafood dishes, fruit cups and aguas frescas.

The Market On Kern

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays, from May to October.

Where: Kern Street, between M and N streets, in downtown Fresno.

Contact: downtownfresno.org or 559-490-9966 ext. 221.

Details: This seasonal market has live music or a DJ each week. It has vegetables, fruit, fresh-squeezed juices, honey and prepared foods like Kettle Corn, Casa de Tamales and vegan friendly Rappit Up!

Old Town Clovis Farmers Market on Fridays

When: 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m Fridays, from May through September.

Where: On Pollasky Avenue, between Third and Seventh streets.

Contact: oldtownclovis.org or (559) 298-5774.

Details: This huge farmers market is as much about entertainment as it is about food. There is live music and lots of vendors selling all kinds of vegetables and fruit. Plus there locally made goods like soaps and garden items like succulents. Plenty of food trucks show up and you’ll also find shaved ice, and vendors like the Butternut Baking Co., which sells cookies and other baked goods.

Old Town Farmers Market on Saturdays

When: 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays year round.

Where: Pollasky between Fifth Street & Bullard Avenue.

Contact: oldtownclovis.org or (559) 298-5774.

Details: This is a year-round market that’s smaller than its Friday-night counterpart. It features plenty of fruit and vegetables, including strawberries, along with herbs, fresh-squeezed juices and fresh flowers. Prepared food is also for sale including tamales, baked goods and other snacks.

River Park Farmers Market on Tuesdays

When: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays year round. Once a month, the market celebrates one food, with quadruple the number of mobile food vendors that day and expanded hours from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. those days. The next one is “peach palooza” on Tuesday, July 23.

Where: River Park between Yoshino’s and H&M.

Contact: www.riverparkfm.com or (559) 994-9292.

Details: This market has grown substantially in recent years. In addition to local farmers selling their fruit and vegetables, you’ll also find live music, free bounce houses and handmade items. Several food trucks and vendors participate, like cupcake truck the Cupcake Route, Quesadilla Gorilla and Tako Korean BBQ.

River Park Farmers Market on Saturdays

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year round, Saturdays.

Where: River Park between Yoshino’s and H&M.

Contact: www.riverparkfm.com or (559) 994-9292.

Details: Started last year, the market has vendors selling fruit and vegetables, including Asian veggies, and nuts, jams and jellies. Expect prepared foods like fruit cups and carne asada tacos and elote (corn with cheese and chile powder) from Sanchez Corn.

The Farmers Market at Saint Rest Plaza

When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the second Saturday of the month through October.

Where: Saint Rest Plaza, Elm and Reverend Chester Riggins avenues in south Fresno.

Contact: (559) 420-0760.

Details: The youngest farmers market around, this one at the newly constructed Saint Rest PlazaOoooby sells its organic produce and fruit, along with a farm called Peach on Earth selling stone fruit. A group of kids called the Sweet Potato Club is also selling its sweet potato goods, including milkshakes.

One or two food trucks are usually there and the market is looking for new vendors.

Tower Farmers Market

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays, May through September.

Where: In the parking lot of Detention Billiards, 750 E. Olive Ave.

Contact: (559) 633-9895.

Details: Fruit and veggies are for sale, with other vendors selling their goods.

Valley Fresh Farmers Market at Valley’s Children’s Healthcare

When: From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays, year round.

Where: Valley Children’s Hospital, 9300 Valley Children’s Pl, Madera. Take the Children’s Blvd. exit from Highway 41.

Contact: www.facebook.com/ValleyFreshFM/ or (559) 994-9292.

Details: This market has veggies and fruit, but focuses more on prepared items, like honey, fresh-cut flowers, and food trucks. Expect to find vendors like Rita’s Italian IceThe Quirky Cafe and Roma’s Italian Street Cuisine.

The Vineyard Farmers Market

When: From 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays

Where: At 100 W. Shaw Ave., its on the northwest corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues, tucked behind Eyeglass World.

Contact: https://vineyardfarmersmarket.com.

Details: One of the bigger markets around, this market has almost everything grown here sold by the farmers who grew it. That includes stone fruit-like peaches, plums and nectarines, all kinds of berries, artichokes, herbs, flowers, fresh-squeezed juices and greens. You’ll also find honey, jam, bread from La Boulangerie, knife sharpening and coffee available by the cup or the pound. Various food vendors attend the market too, including Casa de Tamales.

On The Road: Agritourism — discover the history of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

By Tim Viall, Special to The Record
Posted May 13, 2019

Residents of San Joaquin County live in, arguably, the most productive agricultural region in the world. But, as cities expand, farming and food production is pushed further each year into the countryside; many residents seldom think where that food on the table comes from, much less how it is harvested and produced.

To understand the agricultural underpinnings of our county, make your first stop the San Joaquin Historical Museum at Micke Grove Park south of Lodi. The museum story begins with an expanded Native Peoples Gallery, offering insight into the Native Americans who have been living in what is now San Joaquin County for more than 13,000 years.

The museum traces the Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people, all with rich cultures and lifestyles. Native peoples here put up the greatest resistance to the Spanish-Mexican missions and fought battles with the largest army formed in Spanish-Mexican California. Videos bring to life the intricacies of traditional basket making, acorn preparation, deer hunting and native life.

An interactive circular display allows visitors to listen to recorded messages. In one recording, Glen Villa Jr. (Northern Miwok/Plains Miwok) tells about the First People and a traditional creation narrative. Another recording shares a traditional Yokuts story, told by Sylvia Ross (Chukchansi Yokuts), a third of the Indian freedom fighters led by Estanislao, for whom the Stanislaus River and county were named.

These exhibits work well with the other exhibits in the Erickson Building, and visitors can go in chronological order from the Native peoples who first inhabited the area, to an exhibit on the early trappers and the founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Continue on to an exhibition on the early American settlers, then on to exhibits on the Gold Rush, a hands-on children’s gallery, and the adjacent Weber Gallery.

The Innovators of Agriculture exhibit features the development of intensive, irrigated agriculture in the county beginning around 1900. Six crops are the focus: dry beans, asparagus, cherries, walnuts, canning tomatoes and truck farming (growing of fruits and veggies, trucked to local markets). If you want insight into why our county is so ag-centric, start at this museum wonder! The museum is kid-friendly, with lots of “hands-on” options, and scores of huge tractors, harvesters and vintage farming equipment to wow even young visitors.

Expand your agri-history tour with a visit to the California Agricultural Museum in Woodland, north of Sacramento and just off Interstate 5. Gene Muhlenkamp, a docent since 1996, took two hours to show my friends and I through much of the museum. Its collection stems from that of the Heidrick Brothers, farmers who built a substantial farming empire west of Woodland beginning in the 1930s. Inventive, they often concocted their own machinery to solve farming challenges and began an extensive collection of vintage and noteworthy agri-machinery.

The museum offers a unique collection of tractors, artifacts and interactive exhibits telling the history of California agriculture. Implements date back to the Gold Rush era and follow California’s evolution from horse-drawn ag machinery to steam-driven and then on to fuel-powered machines. Wander the collection of wheeled and track-type harvesters, tractors, combines, trucks and photo galleries. You’ll even find a Ford Model T roadster converted to a farm tractor.

Museum items with a Stockton connection include an old Samson Sieve-Grip tractor, built in Stockton in the early 1900s, several huge Holt tracked-vehicles, built for the U.S. military in World War I to haul artillery pieces and take the place of horses, killed all too often in action. The huge Holt tractor, armored for wartime, has a number of dents in its armor from bullet strikes.

A monster-sized Best steamer seems almost too large to be true, dwarfing my friends who joined for the tour. A giant Holt harvester (made in Stockton), all of wood and timber with iron fittings, was once hauled through fields with a team of two dozen horses and mules, before steam power would replace the horses.

A display of vintage John Deere tractors, meticulously renovated, lines one long wall; down the center of the museum march a line of a dozen Caterpillar tractors, used both on the farm and in the construction industry. A midsized Fordson tractor, nicknamed the “Snow Devil,” is equipped with spiral-ribbed pontoons, used to navigate deep snows of Donner Pass to haul five tons of mail during winter’s harsh storms.

Museumgoers with kids will find a special play area designed to hearken back to simpler times when child’s play required imagination. Kids can play corn hole, and enjoy the carousel and pedal tractors. A team of docents will tour you through the 45,000-square-foot museum gallery, noting that each tractor, wagon or harvester all have their unique stories.

For more information: The California Agriculture Museum, 1958 Hays Lane, Woodland, (530) 666-9700, http://Californiaagmuseum.org, open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum, in Micke Grove Park, 11793 N. Micke Grove Road, Lodi, http://sanjoaquinhistory.org, (209) 953-3460, open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.