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.
"Many small businesses have struggled to make it through the past year with all of the restrictions put in place by the state," City Manager Greg Garrett said. "We need to celebrate life returning to normal and let everyone know that Tehachapi is open."
Unlike other Kern County cities, Tehachapi held a very public celebration Tuesday.
In his invocation, Mike Safford of Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard Church said, "We stand together, united — one voice, one heart. ... We are blessed to have this reopening so we can return to a life that is more familiar to us."
Corey Costelloe, economic development coordinator for the city of Tehachapi, told the crowd that since the start of the pandemic, the city's focus was on recovery.
"We knew a day like today would happen... We knew we were going to survive this," Costelloe said.
Part of helping small businesses survive was starting the Small Business Loyalty Program and rewarding residents for shopping locally. In addition, the city took the stance of just staying out of small business owners' way, Costelloe said.
"We are stronger than ever, tougher than ever, and thanks to all of you, we are greater than ever," Costelloe said.
Mayor Phil Smith told the crowd that the people of Tehachapi should be proud of the way everyone helped each other out during the pandemic.
"You are the heart of Tehachapi — everyone who calls Tehachapi home," Smith said.
Keith Sackewitz, vice president of the Friends of the Tehachapi Depot, and other docents attended to represent the Tehachapi Railroad Museum, which took a huge financial blow due to the lockdown.
"We lost money over the past year. To be open again puts us in pretty good shape," Sackewitz said.
In the first few days of reopening the museum, Sackewitz said, the museum did "an enormous amount of business."
The museum is now open Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each week.
Doug Jockinsen, executive producer for Tehachapi Community Theater, said he is looking forward to reopening the historic Beekay Theatre with the premiere of "Nunsense," a comedy he is directing.
The opening date is still up in the air pending the board of directors ironing out the fine details that remain concerning social distancing guidelines.
"After 15 months, we are still alive, and that's an amazing thing," Jockinsen said.
Following brief speeches by city dignitaries, the small business owners gathered around city officials and simultaneously cut their ribbons, signifying the end of the coronavirus lockdown.
Opening the ceremony with the Presentation of Colors was the Civil Air Patrol Tehachapi Composite Squadron 46.