Heritage Day is Saturday: Volunteer of year named, parade and more celebrate Oakhurst history

Vicki Burkhalter, Heritage Day volunteer of the year, has a history of service and continues to volunteer some 500-plus hours a year.
Vicki Burkhalter, Heritage Day volunteer of the year, has a history of service and continues to volunteer some 500-plus hours a year. Special to the Sierra Star

Vicki Burkhalter, Heritage Day volunteer of the year, has a history of service and continues to volunteer some 500-plus hours a year.

After retiring from a nursing career of 37 years, Burkhalter and husband Bill moved to the mountains and the community of Ahwahnee in 2005 from the Pasadena/San Gabriel area of Southern California.

Burkhalter has been actively involved in Kiwanis for over 20 years including current membership in the Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis Club where she has served as president, secretary and bingo chair earning the title of “raffle queen.”

She is a board member of the Sierra Historic Sites Association (SHSA), the current Chair of the Guilds of Valley Children’s Hospital, a six-year commitment. She is a member of the PEO Sisterhood Chapter GZ, Oakhurst. “PEO is a philanthropic organization where women celebrate the advancement of women; educate women through scholarships, grants, awards, loans, and stewardship of Cottey College and motivate women to achieve their highest aspirations,” according their website.

She is also a member of Hearty Girls, a group of friends who gather monthly to craft and donate money to a charity. Recently, they have given to the senior center in Oakhurst to keep the heat on in winter and the air conditioning on in the summer.

“I love to fit in overseas travel, RV trips [she just returned from a 4,000 mile adventure] and anything with a good challenge,” she said.

After specializing in neurology with patients with seizure disorders and brain tumors during the beginning of her career, she then switched to public health nursing with an emphasis on pediatrics. She lived in England for four years, challenging the boards and was licensed there as an SRN, equivalent to an RN. “I worked in neurology, dialysis and transplant as an industrial nurse in a pork pie factory [while in England],” she said.

Heritage Day parade

Burkhalter will be a part of the parade that will kick off the Heritage Day celebration at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept.15. The Yosemite High School Cadet Corps will lead the parade as it travels down Road 426 (School Road) and past the judges’ stand on Road 426. The Eastern Madera County SPCA volunteers are the grand marshals.

Activities, food, music at Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park

Following the parade, activities begin at Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park. Larry Smith will demonstrate wood carving, Jean Smith will showcase the art of tatting. Rebekah Thiessen will teach lessons in crafting handkerchief dolls and her brother will show rope making techniques.

Their sister, Ginnie, and mom, Laurie, will explain a variety of toys and games enjoyed by children in the late 1800s, including Jacob’s ladder, quoits (an American ring toss game) and the game of cup-and-ball, where the player attempts to catch a wooden ball attached to a spindle with a string.

Jim Corey, a retired printer, will be running a handset press and a hand operated printing press, the same equipment he used when he first set up his own print shop. He will be printing bookmarks and talking about local printing history and printing history at large.

Docents will offer tours of the entire complex at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Sal’s Taco Truck will be serving food from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wine and cheese tasting will be offered from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and a chuck wagon dinner of deep-pit BBQ beef, Santa Maria beans, potato salad, coleslaw, dinner roll and cobbler will be served from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dinner tickets are $20 and are available by calling 559-683-3854 or 559-760-9108.

Two bands will entertain during the afternoon and evening: the East Side Ramblers will perform on banjos from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Wack-a-Mole will take over from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Purpose of Heritage Day

“Heritage Day is very significant in raising funds for the upkeep and maintenance of Fresno Flats Historic Park and Museum,” said Tony King, Heritage Day Committee Chair. “That day connects all who attend with the past. People get to see, touch and learn about the heritage of Oakhurst and the surrounding areas as it used to be in the late 1800s thanks to our wonderful volunteers who dress in period clothing. They culture us by performing tours and demonstrations, by artwork and live music and with great food throughout the day. We hope to make it Heritage Day(s), in the future.”

Fresno Flats Historical Park recreates and captures 19th century life in the Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains.

Name change: Fresno Flats to Oakhurst

The name of Fresno Flats was changed in 1912 to Oakhurst, according to Brenda Negley, Parade Chairman and SHSA board member.

“It all started with a stagecoach robbery that occurred in 1885,” she said. “It was believed that a local, Charley Myers, robbed the stage. He was sent to prison, but after two hung juries he was released in 1887. His first marriage ended in divorce. Charley later remarried and eventually moved back to ‘Fresno Flats.’”

“Often times when the words, ‘Fresno Flats’ or ‘Charley Myers’ came up, things were said, like ‘Fresno Flats, isn’t that where Charley Myers robbed the stagecoach?’ Charley’s wife got tired of hearing that. She believed that if the town name was changed she wouldn’t have to hear this anymore,” Negley said.

“Young Mrs. Charley Myers was friends with many of those that hadn’t lived in the area long. She started a petition to change the name of Fresno Flats to the name of Oakhurst,” Negley said. “When she got enough signatures she turned in her petition to Washington. When Washington informed the postmaster of the name change to Oakhurst many of the old-timers were shocked and upset. This was a bit too late, the town has now been Oakhurst since 1912.”

Duo of Yosemite High School seniors to volunteer

Mia Adelizi and Kelsie Wasem are both seniors at Yosemite High School and are working on their senior project together. While senior projects call for 40 hours of community, these seniors plan to exceed that number of volunteer hours with the work they do for Fresno Flats and Heritage Day.

“We are so excited to assist the Fresno Flats Historical Society and in turn help the community,” said Adelizi.

“Kelsie and I have both noticed that throughout the community there is a lack of volunteering and assisting organizations,” said Adelizi. “We thought by helping a local nonprofit organization, and bringing awareness to the lack of volunteering and community support, that we might be able to help the place we both call home. Why not start with someplace we pass by every day on our way to school. We would also like to spread the local history that seems to have been forgotten by the younger generations.”

Fresno Flats is located at 49777 School Road in Oakhurst.

For additional parade information: 559-760-9108. For additional information about Heritage Day: fresnoflatsmuseum@sti.net.

Take a virtual tour of Fresno Flats at: www.fresnoflatsmuseum.org.