Community Celebration

Mountain Heritage Days pulls town together and honors Oakhurst's 100th birthday

Carmen GeorgeSeptember 20, 2012 

Lifelong resident and area pioneer Harold "Pee Wee" Westfall attended Mountain Heritage Days Saturday for the same reason he does most every year -- it helps "pull the community together."

Those watching the Mountain Heritage Days Parade Saturday might have seen him waving from the driver's seat of a 1929 Chevy convertible with wife Sonja and lifelong friend Roy Bissett and his wife Barbara.

The four, and 20 other people that are descendants of early pioneers, were named grand marshals of Mountain Heritage Days. This year's event also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the town's name change from Fresno Flats to Oakhurst.

"It's home to me, it always will be," said the 73-year-old of why he's lived in the area his whole life, only leaving briefly to serve in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. "I have a family cemetery right over the Mariposa county line and that's where they are going to plant me."

For longtime residents like Westfall, the history celebrated during Mountain Heritage Days is still very much alive.

Westfall's family has been around since 1854, when they first homesteaded on Triangle and Westfall Road. His ancestors include one of Madera County's first sheriffs, Sam Westfall, and his grandfather owned the Laramore House (now at Fresno Flats Historic Village & Park) where his aunt was also born. The U.S. Forest Service's "Westfall Station" was also named after his relative, Eldridge Westfall.

"It's just been home, so I just stayed here and went to work at Sierra Telephone for 32 years," he said. "I couldn't have worked at a better place than that."

"The really important part about Heritage Days is its theme -- 'Saving the past for the future,'" said Sandy Brinley, parade chairperson and chairperson of the Oakhurst 100th Year Anniversary Committee, which is still seeking items for a town 'time capsule,' to be buried in December. "Having the pioneers in the parade was kind of a highlight ... it made it a lot more special."

"The parade is always fun," said Coarsegold resident Kelly Peck and owner of Oakhurst's Stay Fit For Life, whose daughter Dora participated with the Minarets High School Marching Band. "We kind of laugh because it's the same people every year, but that's a good thing. It keeps us a small town -- it keeps us connected."

The "Best of Show" parade trophy went to the Mariposa County High School Band, one of the most decorated marching bands in the country, who sang and played "Hey Baby" by Bruce Channel.

Other events included the Sluice Box Derby, won by 7-year-old Jedidiah Becker with a time of 17.2 seconds, and a wood carving contest by the Central Sierra Woodcarvers, won by Oakhurst resident Larry Smith.

Twenty vendors set up booths at Fresno Flats and 139 items were donated for the silent auction. This year's celebration raised about $5,000 for Fresno Flats Historic Village & Park -- run completely by volunteers and community donations.

"Having all the service organizations out here this year has added a lot, along with all the vendors," said Sandy Edmondson, president of Sierra Historic Sites Association. "They are invaluable really, we can't say enough about how happy we are they are here."

"I grew up here and I loved participating in the Mountain Heritage Days events when I was a kid -- the demolition derby and horse rides -- and seeing all my friends and family. I don't want it to wither away," said Russell Truelove of Oakhurst. "I want to support it ... I want to help keep it going for my family and friends."

When asked about 100-year birthday wishes for Oakhurst, Truelove's 11-year-old daughter Amanda said she hopes the town never turns into a big city.

"I just like it small," she said. "I just like that you always see people you know, and everyone says hi and is nice."

Mountain Heritage Days Parade winners

Automobiles – Antique Car
1st: Bill Keil
2nd: Coarsegold Historical Society and Museum
3rd: Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce

Automobiles – Classic Cars
1st: Don Ashton – Volunteers of the Year
2nd: Mobilgas Special
3rd: Jeff Barker

Automobiles – Clubs
1st: Mountain Road Rattlers

Automobiles – Other
1st: Soroptimist of The Sierras
2nd: Living Way Church
3rd: SPCA Eastern Madera County

Automobiles – Political
1st: Madera County Board of Supervisors
2nd: Republican Party of Madera County

Automobiles – Public Safety
1st: CDF Fire Stations and Madera Co. Volunteers
2nd: Sierra Ambulance

Band – Junior Riding
1st: Mountain Area middle school bands

Walking Band
1st: Yosemite High School Band & Percussion
2nd: Minarets High School Band

Equestrian – Hitch Drawn Vehicle

1st: Keep Driving Alive - Miniature horses

Equestrian – Mounted Group
1st: Ronna Adler
2nd: The Grove – Ahwahnee Chapel
3rd: Coarsegold Rodeo Royalty

Float – Charitable Organization
1st: Oakhurst Mountain Lions Club
2nd: Little Church on the Hill
3rd: Caring Veterans

Float – Non-Commercial
1st: The Constitution
2nd: Golden Chain Theatre
3rd: Yosemite Youth Football

Float – Commercial
1st: Bass Lake Duck Tours
2nd: Yosemite Bikes & Sport
3rd: Bed of Roses Bed & Breakfast

Marching Unit – School Organization
1st: Yosemite High School Color Guard
2nd: Yosemite High School Cadet Corps

Marching Unit – Scouts
1st: Boy Scout Troop 341/Pack 341
2nd: Girl Scout Troop 4641

Miscellaneous – Other
1st: Elks Lodge # 2724
2nd: Mid Sierra Loggers Jamboree Queen

Historical Theme
1st: Fresno Flats Yellow Wagon with Pioneers

Best of show - Mariposa County High School Band

Best Commercial Entry - Sierra Telephone, Then & Now

Parade trophy sponsors

Hal & Phyllis Waksdal, Carl & Fran Metzler, George & Bea Walden, Ron & Sherry Colgate, Robin Underwood in memory of Tommy Underwood, Dan & Sally Walker (Dan's Auto), Patrice Jensen (Architect), David Nemeth (Ameriprise Financial) and Sandy Brinley.

Sluice Box Derby placing (overall)

1st: 17.2 seconds — Jedidiah Becker, age 7
2nd: 17.3 seconds — David Engstrom, age 10
3rd: 17.4 seconds — Russel Warmerdam, age 14, 17.8 seconds — Cole Kraus, age 4, and Wyatt Becker, age 9
4th: 18.1 seconds — Matthew Shapiro, age 10
5th: 18.7 seconds — Jubalee Becker, age 5
6th: 20.6 seconds — Kylar Brasher, age 9, 20.9 seconds — Emily John, age 8
7th: 21.7 seconds — Hope Sanchez, age 11
8th: 22 seconds — Brad Jones, age 10
9th: 22.2 seconds — Bethany Sanchez, age 9

3Sluice Box Derby sponsors

Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis Club, Yosemite Bank, Oakhurst Feed and Pet Supply, Sierra Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, Sierra Historic Sites Association, Bank of America and United Security Bank.

Other volunteers and donations

Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis Club: provided hamburger and hot dog lunch and money donation to Sierra Historic Sites Association.

Sierra Sunrise and Sierra Noon Rotary Clubs: barbecued steak and salmon dinner.

Soroptimist International of the Sierras: provided lemon cakes for dessert.

Oakhurst Elks Lodge: donated baked potatoes for dinner.

Sierra Telephone: purchased meat and salmon for Saturday's dinner.

Vons and Raley's: provided wine and cheese for reception.

Yosemite High School Interact and Key Clubs: helped serve dinner and sold popcorn and lemonade.

Children's Museum of the Sierra: children's games.

Central Sierra Woodcarvers: held the carving contest.

Golden Chain Theatre: short performance of 'Fastidious Finagling Fiasco Fixing Fresno Flats.'

Chamber Maids: song performance Saturday.

Yosemite High School girls volleyball: cakewalk.

Vision Academy of the Arts: children's art.

Mountain Bear Fan Club: Donation to Sierra Historic Sites Association.

Mountain Community Women: Donation to Sierra Historic Sites Association

Road Rattler's car club: transported some of the Oakhurst pioneers named grand marshalls.

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