On Jan. 1, at the stroke of midnight, photographer Nick Smirnoff was in downtown Tehachapi. He reported that Tehachapi welcomed the incoming year with subdued revelry.

A few people were seen walking along Tehachapi Boulevard as midnight approached on New Year's Eve. Several cars stopped by the city's Christmas tree for group photos. No one was seen nearby at midnight, but loud firecrackers could be heard and a few cars blew their horns.

The year 2020 was a tough one, and no one was sad to see it go. But what would the new year bring?

The COVID-19 pandemic was still raging. Vaccines were not yet available. Yet, plenty happened in Tehachapi and was reported by Tehachapi News.

While the pandemic still played a big role in 2021, this first part of a two-part series looks at everything else that happened in the first half of the year from the pages of the Tehachapi News:


• On Jan. 5, Kern County Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuett approved the Cummings Basin Amended and Restated and Physical Solution, an updated water management plan for the Cummings Basin. The action was at the request of the watermaster — the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District. The court determined that the natural safe yield of the water basin — the amount it can be expected to be naturally replenished — is 2,990 acre-feet, about 27 percent less than the amount determined in 1972. The judgment included procedures to allocate the water annually and for all wells to be metered to accurately measure extractions, along with other provisions.

• Although a corporate decision by the Salvation Army eliminated use of the familiar red kettles in front of stores during the 2020 holiday season, the Tehachapi Salvation Army reported a banner season of giving. With help from Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley. The hospital collected more than $10,000 in toys with a drive-through donation event. Toys for Tots also broke a record, collecting more than 805 toys.

• The Tehachapi Association of Realtors helped support local restaurants during the pandemic by initiating a program called "Restaurant Bingo." A number of local restaurants reported continuing impacts on their businesses from the pandemic.

• Tehachapi students and parents took part in the statewide "Let Them Play" movement with a rally in front of Coy Burnett Stadium. At the time, California was one of six states that had not set a start date for a return to high school athletic competition. About 30 students and parents were present.

• A storm on Jan. 25 was not a complete surprise, but brought welcome moisture. Up to that point, Tehachapi had received less than two inches of precipitation for the year beginning July 1.


• Layla Lujan, 16, and Milo Lujan, 14, were named Citizens of the Year for 2021 by the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce and Tehachapi News.

• South Street Digital was named Small Business of the Year for 2021 by the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce and Tehachapi News.

• Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley was named Large Business of the Year for 2021 by the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce and Tehachapi News.

• Luther Girado, the last male native speaker of the Nuwä Indian language, died at age 79.

• Tehachapi Wine and Cattle Company presented the first-ever bottling with the new Tehachapi Mountains designation on its 2017 Proprietor's Reserve Primitivo. The American Viticultural Area "Tehachapi Mountains" was established in November 2020.

• Lady Warriors tennis standout Catrina Hibbard signed a letter of intent to play at Hope International University in Los Angeles on a four-year scholarship beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

• After 22 years of operation to rejuvenate downtown, Main Street Tehachapi's board of directors decided to dissolve the organization. The city of Tehachapi agreed to take over its largest event, the Farmer's Market. Difficulty recruiting board members and volunteers was cited as the reason, along with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and related event restrictions.

• The Tehachapi City Council approved increasing development impact fees for park and recreation facilities. The resolution also included the modification of public impact fees relating to police and civic facilities to provide for annual increases based on the consumer price index.


• Some elementary students in Tehachapi Unified School District schools were able to return to in-person instruction for the first time in about a year.

• Robert J. Jasper, who was instrumental in the formation of Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District and served as its general manager for more than 40 years, died at the age of 82.

• Tehachapi winegrowers took multiple awards at the 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Bringing home awards were Tehachapi Wine & Cattle Company, Triassic Vineyards and Rancho de los Viajeros Vineyards.

• The city of Tehachapi completed curbs, gutters and sidewalks along the south side of West Park as part of a grant-funded improvement project.

• David Butler was named president of Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley. He also serves as president of Adventist Health Delano and splits his time between the two locations.


• After more than a year of closure, the Tehachapi Railroad Depot and Museum reopened April 10.

• Josh Pierce was appointed to serve as community integration director for Adventist Health Bakersfield and Tehachapi Valley. He previously served as the Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley manager of training and development for education.

• Work published in Tehachapi News won awards in the 33rd annual George F. Gruner Awards, which honors the best work in Central Valley print journalism. Freelance photographer Nick Smirnoff took first place in the Sports Photo category for weekly newspapers and first place for News or Feature Photo for weekly newspapers. Reporter Darla A. Baker earned first place in Public Service Journalism and reporter Ron Stapp earned first place for a sports story. Columnist Jon Hammond earned first place for a column about Ramon Burgeis.

• Volunteers with a number of organizations were out in force for an Earth Day week cleanup.

• Korean War veteran Dave Rheinhart was honored with a drive-by caravan parade honoring his 90th birthday on April 7.

• Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley held a groundbreaking for a new state-of-the-art imaging pavilion. The $4 million Jim and Lesa Cyr Family Imaging Pavilion was made possible by a generous donation from the Cyr family of Tehachapi, along with other donations, for a total of $2 million raised by the community.

• Officials with the city of Tehachapi and Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley held a news conference to draw attention to numerous local impacts the state's planned Palmdale-to-Bakersfield section of the state's high speed rail project would have on the community, including, but not limited to, noise. California High Speed Rail Authority officials said the agency is reviewing the city's concerns and, “hopeful we can come to a solution that works for both the community and the project.” (By June 28, it was reported that CHSRA made changes welcomed by city staff, including the adding two sections of sound walls, one in the Ash Village area and one near Arabian Estates. Another improvement was the agency's agreement to lower the bullet train route's height profile through the Tehachapi area and a pledge to accommodate a station that might one day be built in the city.)

• The Kiwanis Club of Tehachapi honored George Novinger for 37 years of service to the community as well as the club's 2021 Distinguished Service Award.


• Making up for missing prom during 2020 because of the pandemic, high school students enjoyed the 2021 prom at Rose Garden Estates.

• Despite being required to have a smaller team and a shortened season, the Tehachapi High School Lady Warriors soccer team went undefeated in league, having only one loss during the season to what was called a friendly game against Garces Memorial High School.

• The city of Tehachapi posted 108 new American flags throughout the downtown area in a display of patriotism that remained up through Veterans Day.

• More than 700 people turned out to watch Tehachapi's Memorial Day parade on May 31, believed to be the largest attendance ever.

• Tehachapi High School's Kennadee Stilson was one of 50 top female golfers from three leagues to participate in the Yosemite League Golf Championships May 24 at North Kern Golf Course, shooting a personal best. She finished in second place in the South Yosemite portion of the tournament.

• After a long COVID-19-related hiatus, the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce and Tehachapi News came together for the 2021 Installation & Recognition Gala at the Stallion Springs Community Center. The Citizens of the Year, Milo and Layla Lujan, were honored; along with Small Business of the Year, South Street Digital; and Large Business of the Year, Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley. Chamber officers were sworn in by Assemblyman Vince Fong. They included: Liz Trejo, board chair; Carolyn Wiles, treasurer; and Stephanie Garcia, immediate past chair; and directors Jessica Davidson, Kellie Dudevoir and Jim Miller.

• Two events were held in Tehachapi to recognize the National Day of Prayer on May 6. About 100 people gathered in front of Tehachapi City Hall at noon that day to pray, and at 7 p.m., about 50 people from different churches were in attendance for praise and worship at Summit Christian Fellowship.


• The Tehachapi Mountain Rodeo Association announced it was nearly done with a project to replace old wooden bleachers at the northwest corner of the Milano Rodeo Arena with a new steel 21-row seating area that will add more than 1,000 new seats. With room for seven additional box seating areas, TMRA Chairman Dal Bunn said this increased the event center’s seating capacity to more than 5,000 seats.

• The Tehachapi City Council made appointments to the board of directors of Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Park District and the Tehachapi Planning Commission on June 21. Ashley Whitmore, airport manager for the city of Tehachapi, earned a designation as a certified member of the American Association of Airport Managers on April 30. Three incumbents — Steve Hamblin, Daryl Christensen and Charles White — were the only three applicants for the planning commission and were reappointed to serve four-year terms to expire June 30, 2025.

• The Tehachapi City Council approved a balanced $27.4 million budget for fiscal year 2021-22.

Adventist Health announced plans for a 10,000-square-foot clinic to be built adjacent to Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley. Construction is expected to begin in 2022. The offerings will range from primary and dental care to medical specialties, such as orthopedics, gastrointestinal care and cardiology.

• After 453 days in stagnant lockdown due to COVID-19, the city of Tehachapi hosted a grand reopening Tuesday morning by inviting local business owners to join them in a symbolic ribbon-cutting. With Gov. Gavin Newsom lifting the tier system and allowing businesses to reopen without restrictions in California as of June 15, city officials were moved to mark this special occasion by celebrating it alongside more than 40 business owners.

• An in-person graduation ceremony, with everyone wearing masks and assigned distanced seating, saw 227 graduate from Tehachapi High School, 43 from Monroe High School and 13 from Tehachapi Adult School.

• Dan Ingram, a Realtor in the area for more than 52 years, died June 12 at the age of 82.

• Claudia Blodget, owner of the popular 5 Hearts Quilt shop in downtown Tehachapi for more than 25 years and one of the first female officers at the Kern County Sheriff's Office, died June 27 after a long battle with breast cancer.

NEXT WEEK: Part two of two, covering the second half of 2021.