Inside the making of ABC’s epic new surfing competition with Kelly Slater

Normally, Lemoore, Calif., might seem a strange place to set a surfing competition. After all, the Kings County burg is 100 miles from the Pacific Ocean. But as it turns out, “normal” is not “The Ultimate Surfer’s” style.

ABC’s new reality competition grew out of a meeting of the minds in early 2019 between world-famous professional surfer Kelly Slater, World Surf League CEO Erik Logan, Pilgrim Media Group CEO and Chair Craig Piligian and UFC President Dana White at Surf Ranch, Slater’s artificial-wave oasis in the Central Valley. Production began in early 2020, only to be shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. When shooting resumed last summer, it was in a COVID-19 “bubble” at the ranch. Now the series’ long-awaited debut has arrived, with a two-night premiere beginning Monday.

Surfer and Times photographer Allen J. Schaben captured exclusive images of the making of “The Ultimate Surfer” last March, before the shutdown, and returned to the ranch earlier this summer to photograph the action at the WSL’s Jeep Surf Ranch Pro, where athletes from around the globe showed off what the ranch can do.

Destination California: Explore 90 acres of fun at Jellystone Park in Lodi

If you’re looking to take the family camping, fishing or swimming, you don’t have to go too far from Sacramento. Jellystone Park in Lodi is the only place near Sacramento where you can find over 300 campsites next to a water park, a marina, a golf course and a giant Yogi Bear. Jellystone Park is that perfect summer getaway to make long-lasting family memories.

Patrick Glover started with a friendly welcome and began the tour with a look at one of the park’s 88 cabins. “We are going to check out our Delta Deluxe Plus Cabin over here,” Glover said. “This is glamping at its finest.”  These cabins come with a full kitchen, bathroom, bunk beds, TVs, a master suite and an upper floor for the kiddos. The cozy cabin also has an outdoor hot tub, grill and a fantastic view of a brand-new water park. Up next on the tour is one of the park’s most popular locations, Jellystone Marina.  One of the fantastic things about Jellystone Park is you can take your pontoon boat or your fishing boat out on the Delta and go as far as Sacramento or even San Francisco.

July is one of the park’s busiest times of the year. Between 3,000 to 4,000 people will set up camp over the holiday weekend, and they’ll have plenty of activities ready for them.   “July still falls under our Under the Sea theme, so we have a mermaid coming in,” Glover explained. “We have a bubble parade, and we have a lot of Fourth of July golf cart parades and Fourth of July crafts.”

In other words, it’s pretty hard to get bored at Jellystone Park. There’s no shortage of things to do for the young and the young at heart. “From 8:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., we are just packed full of activities that families look forward to,” Glover said. Melanie Townsend’s favorite activity at Jellystone Park is getting out of the heat and into the lazy river. Jellystone Park has so many great things to do for both kids and adults, making it another great destination in California.

Trail Hopes to Restart Tulare County’s Budding Tourism Industry

If you’re looking for a reason to get out of the house and soak up some scenery, Tulare County’s more than 431,000 acres of orchards offer splash of color this month as we head toward spring.

Last week, Visit Visalia, which promotes the area as a tourism destination, released its 2021 Blossom Trail Map, just in time for the annual springtime event. The seasonal display of brilliant color traditionally begins in mid-February and continues through March, making it prime blossom viewing time in Tulare County. The map is free and can be downloaded on the Visit Visalia website.

In California’s Central Valley, agricultural fields dominate the landscape and Tulare County is the most diversified ag producing area in the world. For Visalia, in Tulare County, those fields that surround the city become awash with color in springtime as the trees begin to sprout their buds. More than 120 crops grow in and around Visalia.

The self-guided driving tour takes visitors through the county just north of the city where almond, peach, plums and apricot orchards burst forth with their blossoms each spring. Along with the colorful orchards, visitors will see other crops like kiwi, citrus, almonds, walnuts, cherries and more. With a variety of orchards and groves, visitors can see many types of agriculture. For those headed to the national parks, we encourage a quick side trip to experience the spring season of bloom. With the Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop, capped with snow from recent storms, the Visalia Blossom Trail is an easy route to take towards the park entrances.

Visit Visalia continues to urge Americans to adhere to healthy travel practices—and a socially distant drive is a great way to stay healthy. The Visalia Cares Stay Safe program has a wealth of resources and guidance to encourage safe and healthy travel, which includes wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, maintaining physical distance when possible and staying home if feeling sick. Visit Visalia is a collaboration of the Visalia Tourism Marketing District and the Visalia Convention and Visitors Bureau (VCVB) dedicated to marketing, advertising, public relations and other promotional efforts that inspire travel to the City of Visalia. Visit Visalia works closely with local lodging properties, restaurants and attractions to foster interest in Visalia as a year-round destination for leisure, family, and meeting and convention travelers.

New electric vehicle fast chargers installed at Tejon Pass Rest Area, throughout Central Valley

The Tejon Pass Rest Area will be the recipient of new electric vehicle fast chargers that will assist drivers of those automobiles traveling through the Central Valley or over the Grapevine. According to a news release from the California Department of Transportation, the charging station is one of nine that were recently installed by Caltrans throughout the state, including nine new stations in the Central Valley. “Fast chargers are essential to continue growing EV adoption in California and meeting our state’s goals for combating climate change,” Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said in the news release. “Expanding the availability of convenient fast-charging stations along state highways is significant for the future of California transportation.”

There are four chargers at the Tejon Pass Rest Area on the southbound side of Interstate 5, a popular stopping point for travelers located about 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 40 miles south of Bakersfield, the news release states. Caltrans District 7 Director Tony Tavares said there will be 18 other chargers staggered 40 miles apart in the region, as Caltrans attempts to reduce “recharging concerns for plug-in EV drivers on long-distance trips through the Central Valley.”

The Level 3 DC fast chargers provide an approximate 80 percent charge in 30 minutes to electric vehicles with fast-charging capability, the news release states. The chargers have universal connectors and are able to serve all electric vehicles on the market, including Teslas with an adapter. The $4.5 million project was funded by Caltrans and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in Fresno, according to the news release.

Here are the new charging stations in the Central Valley, according to Caltrans:

• Junction Highway 58/Highway 184 in Bakersfield

• Caltrans Maintenance Station on Highway 41 and next to I-5 in Kettleman City

• Caltrans Maintenance Station, 805 S. Lexington St., next to Route 99 in Delano

• C.H. Warlow Rest Area NB/SB Highway 99 in Kingsburg

• Philip S. Raine Rest Area at SB Highway 99 near Tulare

• Philip S. Raine Rest Area at NB Highway 99 near Tulare

• Caltrans District 6 Office, 1283 N. West Ave., next to Highway 99 in Fresno


Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore has begun a yearlong expansion and remodel. The $80 million project includes interior and exterior improvements with plans to add 24,000 square feet of additional space and linking current amenities to create a more cohesive campus, according to a news release.

Exterior work will be included in the yearlong expansion project. Part of the plan includes connecting the Coyote Entertainment Center, casino and hotel; creating an easier flow through both the main floor and third floor; an expansive sports bar with indoor and outdoor dining; an extended food court; large high-limit room on the third floor and updated hotel rooms. “We can’t think of a better way to kick off 2021 than to begin our exciting expansion and continue to offer the ultimate experience for our guests,” said Michael Olujic, general manager of Tachi Palace Casino Resort. “These improvements will give Tachi Palace even more of a resort feel, allowing guests to have more fluid movement between our amenities including Coyote Entertainment Center, the hotel, casino, gas station and new offerings. They will no longer have to leave one to easily access the other.”

Tachi palace partnered with Las Vegas Based Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. for architecture and design services. “In addition to connecting all the amazing offerings at Tachi Palace Casino Resort, our expansion will include more, much-needed job opportunities for our community,” said Leo Sisco, chairman of Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi-Yokut Tribe. “We are proud to continue our commitment to our local community, as our economic development projects not only provide a more pleasant experience for our patrons, they also contribute to the betterment of our local area.”

A spokesperson said it was hard to estimate how many jobs the expansion would create in the current environment for the entertainment industry.

Federal government approves Hard Rock casino proposed for south of Bakersfield

The federal government has approved a plan by the Tejon Indian Tribe to operate a Hard Rock Casino resort 14 miles south of Bakersfield. Now it is up to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who must concur with the decision before the plan can become a reality. “From the start of our relationship with the United States government in 1851, our Tribe has fought for a homeland for our people. Today we are two major steps closer to that dream,” Octavio Escobedo III, chairman of the Tejon Indian Tribe, said in a statement. “The Department’s decision enables us to move closer to the promise of self-determination through economic development.”

On Jan. 8, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney signed a record of decision and issued a secretarial decision finding the proposed site suitable for the tribe’s plans and allowing gaming to take place at the location. Newsom must concur with the federal government’s decision, a choice he has a year to make. If he does, the U.S. Department of Interior can take the land into trust and the tribe will finally have a place to call home. “This has been a long but worthwhile journey for the Tribe and its citizens,” Escobedo wrote. “These decisions are necessary and significant steps toward the development of a tribal homeland for the Tribe, which was landless for more than 150 years.”

In its record of decision, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs said the casino near Mettler best allow the Tejon Tribe to be self-sufficient and maintain a stable source of revenue to provide for governmental programs. The bureau also considered several alternatives, including a smaller casino, an organic farm, an alternate site along Maricopa Highway and no action. However, the bureau said the Mettler site best meets the “purpose and need” of the tribe.

At the Mettler site, the tribe plans to build a 166,500-square foot gaming floor, along with an 11-story hotel with 400 rooms. A convention space, event center, restaurants, RV park, and joint sheriff and fire station would also be located on the site, along with housing and administrative offices. The entire complex is expected to support 3,000 full-time jobs. The project has earned the support of many local officials, including the Kern County Board of Supervisors. Officially recognized in 2012, the Tejon Tribe now counts 1,111 people as its members, the vast majority living in the Bakersfield area, according to its website.

The environmental review process for the site has been ongoing since 2016. With the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ determination, the tribe can finally put the long process behind them. Still, it is not known when the casino can be opened or even built. Scott Nielson, a consultant managing the project for Hard Rock said a number of steps still need to be completed before a timeline could be made public. In his statement, Escobedo thanked federal officials for their decision, along with local supporters and the Seminole Tribe, which owns Hard Rock Cafe Inc. The Florida tribe, he said, “stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us to help make our dream of restoring our land base a close-at-hand reality.”,decision%20before%20the%20plan%20can%20become%20a%20reality.

California Supreme Court Gives Favorable Nod to North Fork Rancheria Casino

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: North Fork, CA – August 31, 2020 – The California Supreme Court has ruled that former Governor Jerry Brown acted within his authority when he concurred in a pair of federal decisions in 2011 that led to the approval of two so-called “off-reservation” tribal gaming projects in Madera and Yuba counties. In United Auburn Indian Community v. Newsom, the Court determined that the Governor has the right to concur. The decision will allow the North Fork Rancheria to move forward with the design, financing and construction of its long-awaited and highly anticipated project north of the City of Madera.

“We are thrilled that the Court has finally decided this case in our favor” said North Fork Rancheria Tribal Chair Elaine Bethel-Fink. “Our tribal citizens and local community have been denied the advantages of tribal gaming – billions of dollars in economic benefits and thousands of jobs – for far too long.”

The legal case stems back nearly a decade; the Tribe’s pursuit of a casino nearly two. In 2003, the Tribe penned an agreement with Las Vegas-based Station Casinos to develop a casino. The next year, the Tribe requested the federal government to take the proposed site near Madera in trust for gaming purposes. After a rigorous and lengthy federal review, the Assistant Secretary–Indian Affairs determined that gaming on the land would be in the best interest of the Tribe and not detrimental to the surrounding community and requested the Governor’s concurrence to move forward. A year later, on August 30, 2012, in a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Governor Brown concurred in the determination.

Opponents eventually challenged the Governor’s authority to concur, arguing that California’s Constitution required legislative authorization. In 2017, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear challenges to both projects after two appeals courts reached different conclusions. It then took the Court over 3½ years to rule on the matter.

“While we firmly believe that only federal law controls the gaming eligibility of our trust lands,” said Bethel-Fink, “we are nonetheless delighted to have this long drawn out drama finally behind us — and eager to get going and bring jobs and economic opportunity to our people and community!”


About the North Fork Rancheria
The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is a federally recognized Native American tribe with over 2,200 tribal citizens and government offices in Madera County, California. Since the restoration of its federally recognized status in 1983, the Tribe has established modern tribal governing institutions to improve the lives of its tribal citizens, many of whom have limited access to basic housing, healthcare, business, employment, and educational services and opportunity. The Tribe leverages its limited federal grant funding to operate numerous tribal programs. More information available at

Madera Wine Trail has fresh stories to celebrate Wine Month

Central California’s Madera County is the largest rural county in the state and home to the Madera Wine Trail. The landscape stretches from productive farmlands to rolling foothills and upward into the High Sierra. It’s no mystery why this countryside has been winemaking since the 1800s, the weather is warm, the skies are clear and the snowcapped mountain tops nourish the foothills and central valley.

“Visitors from across the state are taking notice of the amazing adventures they can find in the heart of California. People don’t have far to travel to find outdoor options that give plenty of space for social distancing. Plus, we have sunshine more than 300 days of the year,” said Rhonda Salisbury, CEO, Visit Yosemite | Madera County. “Not only can people play here year-round, but excellent wine grapes grow here, too. Maximizing a trip to Bass Lake, Yosemite or the Sierra National Forest means tasting award-winning wines along the Madera Wine Trail. It adds something special to a getaway.”

“We are proud to continually share the Yosemite regions ‘best-kept-secret’ of the Madera Wine Trail with the world. We celebrate California Wine Month with a short film by an acclaimed videographer all about what makes this historic American Viticulture Area so unique,” said Wendy Eachus, Madera Vintners Association. “Five of the nine wineries along the Madera wine trail have moved tastings exclusively outdoors. All of the wineries are open for curbside pick-ups and private appointments. It’s true, this year, current events are complicated. However, everyone can absolutely enjoy handcrafted wines from Madera’s vintners and dream about their next visit.”

“The major differences between a connoisseur and the common consumer are adjectives. Everybody is an expert at what they like,” said Owner and Winemaker Ray Krause, Westbrook Wine Farm. “I have people that come in and say, ‘I don’t know much about wine’ to which I respond, I bet you know a whole lot about what you like.”

Californians know what they like; beautiful scenic views, relaxing outdoor patios, and engaging conversation over award-winning wines. There is still plenty to celebrate this September. Find it at the doorstep of Yosemite National Park along the Madera Wine Trail.,to%20the%20Madera%20Wine%20Trail.

‘We’re all COVID-free:’ Pro-surfers back in the Valley, compete in WSL’s Rumble at the Ranch for charity

Destination California: Madera Wine Trail is a hidden gem in the Valley

FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Some call it the wine industry’s best kept secret. The Madera Wine Trail in the Central Valley is a unique boutique experience, offering award-winning wines. “The Madera Wine Trail is so important to this community,” said Erica Magarian, the Estate manager at Fäsi Estate Winery. Considered the agricultural center of the United States, the Central Valley has reason to show off its wine growing region in Madera. “We can create wines that are unique — vintage to vintage.  And not only that, we can play around with different varieties that are not as common,” said Shayne Vetter, who’s a winemaker for Toca Madera Winery.

The wineries are on a smaller scale in Madera, giving an intimate feel that wine lovers can take advantage of. “We’re able to be very hands on from start to finish.  Whether that be, as you can see behind me, our vineyard, being very hands on with harvesting all the way through to maybe hand bottling,” said Magarian. “And not only that, you’re going to taste some wines that are a little different in style because we have the ability to be different and not have to follow kind of the status quo,” added Vetter.

Winery staff are rich in knowledge and the area is one of the oldest grape growing regions in America.  The wineries on the wine trail are part of the AVA. “A lot of people don’t realize that Madera is a American Viticultural Area meaning it has some distinction apart from the surrounding areas.” Renowned neighbors, Napa and Paso Robles might be touting best in show, but Madera wines are up and coming–already winning several awards and the county has long been known for its dessert wines and ports. “A lot of wine grape growing regions are known for maybe one or two particular varietals, but here in Madera, it’s very interesting and exciting that we all kind of have our own little niche.  So, that’s very cool.” The Madera Wine Trail is just minutes North of Fresno.