Last week, we looked back at the first half of 2021. Tehachapi and most of the country was still in lockdown with the COVID-19 pandemic during most of that time, but eventually life began returning to normal — or at least a new normal.
Locally, and elsewhere, there continued to be concerns about the virus and variants. But our “look back” is focused on people, community, events and activities other than COVID-19, as reported by Tehachapi News:
• One of Tehachapi's oldest retail businesses — Tehachapi Flower Shop — changed hands July 2 when Sara Frost took over from Kandi Smith, who worked in the shop since 1990 and owned and operated it for the last 15 years. The shop was originally opened in January 1963 by Daisy and Pete Minton.
• The Tehachapi Warriors Booster Club raised thousands of dollars during the annual Ed Grimes Memorial Pancake Breakfast on July 4.
• Benz Bad Bulls attracted a sellout crowd on July 4 and the city of Tehachapi did a Facebook livestream of its traditional Independence Day fireworks.
• Stu Etherton, longtime caretaker of Tehachapi Mountain Park, wrapped up 33 years there when he retired.
• Youngsters filled the arena on the weekend of July 25 with Junior Rodeo competition sponsored by the Tehachapi Mountain Rodeo Association.
• The new Tehachapi Loop Overlook was celebrated in late July with a ribbon-cutting held at the site, bringing to a close a successful four-year project to upgrade the century-old viewing area.
• Friends and family of Daena Eberle, a much-loved teacher at Jacobsen Middle School, gathered in early July to dedicate a garden in her memory. Dean's Garden is outside the new sixth-grade wing at the school. (Eberle passed away suddenly in 2016.)
• After a long closure due to the pandemic, the Tehachapi Museum reopened with new displays.
Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley Nurse Patrick Dunn was honored with The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.
• Dee Zimmerman was introduced as the new executive director of the Family Life Pregnancy Center.
• The Tehachapi Oldtimers Reunion was back in Philip Marx Central Park on the first Sunday in August after taking off a year for the pandemic. More than 425 people attended.
• National Night Out returned to Tehachapi's Philip Marx Central Park on Aug. 3, after a COVID-19-related hiatus. It was sponsored by the Tehachapi Police Department and the Tehachapi Police Foundation.
• First Friday returned to downtown Tehachapi with live music and plenty of art.
• Stacey Peel was installed as president of the Tehachapi Area Association of Realtors on Aug. 6.
• Valley Strong Credit Union relocated its Tehachapi branch to a brand new building at 1002 W. Tehachapi Blvd.
• Assemblyman Vince Fong was in town to honor Jake's Steakhouse as Small Business of the Year.
• The Tehachapi Mountain Festival made a welcome return the third weekend of August with a variety of traditional events.
• “With the hunger that our town has for football it feels great to give our community a win," Warrior coach Kris Kremlin said as Mountain Football racked up an impressive 12-3 victory over Golden West (Visalia) on Aug. 27.
• The California High Speed Rail Authority approved a route from Bakersfield to Palmdale, which runs through an area of the city north of Highway 58.
• Cheers to Charity attracted some 700 people to Aviator Park to raise funds for Tehachapi nonprofits.
• Plans to build a new family entertainment center, including a bowling alley, were announced. The 31,500-square-foot complex will be on Santa Lucia Street, south of Valley Boulevard, owner Kenny Harrison said.
• The Bear Valley Springs Pony Club hosted the 2021 AMA Mule and Horse Show with dozens of mules, donkeys and horse owners traveling from many different parts of the state for the three-day event.
• Former Tehachapi City Councilman James Franklin, 82, and his wife, Karen, moved to the Sacramento area to be closer to their son.
• The city of Tehachapi was busy finishing work on roads throughout the community, including near Tehachapi High School and Jacobsen Middle School.
• Sen. Shannon Grove recognized efforts of Tehachapi blood donors throughout the pandemic, noting that there were more than 850 donors over the past 18 months.
• Dallas DeHart was installed as new president of the Kiwanis Club of Tehachapi.
• Mountain Volleyball opened league play with a pair of victories over Independence 3-1 and Ridgeview 3-0.
• The annual Fiddlin’ Down the Tracks competition returned to Tehachapi.
• The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation took steps to "mothball" buildings at the California Correctional Institution that were part of the original women's prison. The action was part of a state plan to close some prison facilities due to declines in incarceration.
• The Tehachapi Community Theatre returned to the BeeKay Theatre with a live production of “Nunsense,” a show that was previously interrupted by the pandemic.
• Brian Cates, who had been active warden at the California Correctional Institution since July 2020, was officially appointed to the position by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 15.
• Everett Irvin Sims, a resident of Tehachapi since 1940, died on Sept. 19 at the age of 106. In 1982, he won the local "Father of the Year" award. Preceded in death by his wife, one daughter, two brothers and five sisters, he was survived by three children, 10 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and 23 great-great grandchildren.
• Tehachapi resident Paul M. Benz, 76, the founder of one of the largest local companies, passed away peacefully at his home Sept. 23 after battling a terminal illness.
• On Sept. 23, the city of Tehachapi received the Outstanding Transportation Project engineering award from the American Society of Civil Engineers for the Tehachapi Rail Corridor Pedestrian Safety & Enhancement Project, a $2.1 million grant-funded project.
• The Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District filed suit against the City of Tehachapi and challenging approval of the Sage Ranch residential subdivision due to water concerns and alleged violations of the California Environmental Protection Act.
• The iconic cement plant at Monolith, east of Tehachapi, officially changed hands Oct. 1, with Martin Marietta Materials Inc., becoming the fifth owner of the plant since its construction by the city of Los Angeles 115 years ago.
• Revol Greens, operating in the massive greenhouse on the floor of Cummings Valley that previously housed SunSelect Product Inc., began harvesting lettuce in October. About 100 people are employed by the company in California.
• Tehachapi High School celebrated its traditional homecoming, but unfortunately without a varsity football game because the scheduled opponent, Ridgeview, had COVID-related issues requiring the game to be canceled. Taylor Dees was the Homecoming Queen and Elijah Graves was the Homecoming King.
• A student-built airplane had a successful first flight at Tehachapi Municipal Airport on Oct. 10. The multi-year project of the Tehachapi Society of Pilots involved students from Tehachapi High School and Valley Oaks Charter School.
• The Tehachapi Apple Festival returned to downtown Tehachapi for a two-day event after having to take a pandemic break in 2020.
• Major Jason E. George VFW 12114 celebrated its 10-year anniversary on Oct. 23. The post was instituted to honor a fallen hero of our community. Major George graduated from Tehachapi High School with honors, and second in his class from West Point Military Academy. He gave all during his second tour of duty in Iraq in 2009, and is the first veteran to be interned at Bakersfield National Cemetery. The event included Christina's seventh annual Pancreatic Fundraiser. The post's fundraiser previously raised and donated more than $120,000 for pancreatic cancer research.
• The board of Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Parks District decided in October to replace the Tehachapi GranFondo with a smaller, more locally focused event, the T-Town Ride, after the inaugural event was successful the previous month.
• Dr. Sam Conklin, a popular physician who began practicing in Tehachapi in 1969, died on Oct. 26, just days after the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District took action to name its planned community resource center in his honor. Conklin served on the board for many years.
• Halloween events, including a return of the popular Trunk or Treat event downtown (sponsored by the Tehachapi Police Foundation, kept youngsters busy. Events were also held in Bear Valley Springs, Golden Hills and Stallion Springs.
• Tehachapi was shocked and saddened by the death of Ida Perkins, chamber president, on Nov. 4.
• Carl Gehricke was appointed on Oct. 14 to fill a vacancy on the board of the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District, filling a position vacated in August by the retirement of longtime member Dr. Sam Conklin.
• Tehachapi Unified School District completed negotiations with teachers and other school employees and extended its contract with Superintendent Stacey Larson-Everson to July 2025 in November.
• On Nov. 16, all seven members of the Board of Trustees of Tehachapi Unified School District voted to let Gov. Gavin Newsom know the district is opposed to a vaccine mandate. The governor had previously announced his intention to put a mandate in place, but that would not be expected before next school year.
• After much deliberation, the Kern County Board of Supervisors locked in its new supervisorial district boundaries for the next year, retaining similar boundaries and two districts representing East Kern.
• The Tehachapi City Council approved a much more expensive contract for fire services with Kern County on Nov. 15, but also established a two-person committee to explore other options including the potential of reestablishing a Tehachapi Fire Department.
• Josh Pierce, director of community integration at Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley, is named the new board president of the Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council on Dec. 1, with Corey Torres as the newly elected secretary.
• In the face of drought conditions (before the most recent storms), the State Water Project announced it would provide zero allocation of imported water to the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District next year.
• World Wind & Solar, the award-winning company founded by former Tehachapi residents Buddy and Nikki Cummings and sold to Pearce Services LLC, of Paso Robles in 2020, is now known as Pearce Renewables. The company expects its new brand to be fully implemented by January.
• Snow closed roads and schools in Tehachapi the week of Dec. 15, the first of a series of storms related to an atmospheric river bringing welcome moisture to drought-stricken California.
• Nancy Weinstein was elected to the presidency of the Board of Trustees of Tehachapi Unified School District on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Trustee Joe Wallek was chosen to be Vice President and Trustee Jackie Wood will continue as clerk.
• The Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District board of directors took action to save taxpayers $7.6 million by refinancing hospital bonds, the district announced on Dec. 14.
• Wreaths Across America paid tribute to Tehachapi's veterans on Dec. 18 by laying wreaths on graves at Tehachapi's cemeteries.
• There was a big turnout for the Dec. 20 grand opening of Ollie Mountain Sports Park, the newest facility of Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Park District.
• Corey Costelloe was promoted to the position of assistant city manager for the city of Tehachapi.
• The Tehachapi City Council donated $19,000 to Friends of the Tehachapi Depot to allow it to buy an old caboose located near the Depot Museum. The organization will restore the caboose and allow tours in the future.