Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The Purple Pyramid Band consisting of Madera South High, Desmond Middle School and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School perfom in front of the judges stand.
About 1,600 celebrate Madera
It can be a good day in September when gunslingers launch a shooting spree while walking down Yosemite Avenue in front of 1,600 bystanders — a good Old Timers Day at least.
“That was pretty cool because I like guns,” said 18-year-old Ty Pitman, a Fresno resident who couldn’t remember his last parade. “So that was pretty cool. I’d never seen that before.”
A longtime Madera tradition continued this weekend with a 90-minute downtown parade followed by about an hour of festivities at Courthouse Memorial Park.
“What stood out (in the park) is the trees gone. That was a big subject with me,” said Maderan Aaron Herring, who won a trophy Saturday for “Most Unique Mustache” and as part of the club WFO Racing’s parade entry. “It’s kind of like why’d they take the trees out? But I know we’re in a drought and some of these trees had diseases and stuff. Just the shade. There’s a few safety concerns out here in my opinion … (with) the stumps out here. Maybe they could have barricaded them off a little bit better.”
Other attendees commented on the chopped down trees as well. Nonetheless, Herring “had a great time” with the parade alongside members of his racing “family.” He only wished there had been more entries, a desire echoed by club-mate Joshua Orton of Madera.
“I thought it’s pretty good,” said Orton. “It was a good little turnout, wish there could have been a little more people but still a good turnout. And I always like what they do here — food and walk around, games for the kids, and stuff.”
Friends Briana Andres, 15, and Yjaedi Chavez, 14, took part in the festivities through their church, the River Worship Center, which sold tacos. “I think the parade is cool, because you can see different things ... then after you can come eat and just have a good time,” said Andres, who loved seeing Madera High School’s band, horses and old fire trucks.
“We had a great time watching the parade and … everybody have a great time,” said Chavez. “It was shady but overall it was warm.”
Madera native Magan Valenzuela and her husband sold jewelry as one of more than 30 vendors at the park. She has sold jewelry as a “kind of hobby” for more than two decades at the Old Timers Celebration, as well as at arts and crafts festivals.
“It’s not as busy as it used to be,” she said. “I mean they started cleaning (up the park) like at 1 o’clock. Usually, one time, we were here until 8 o’clock tearing down. So you don’t get the business as you used to — kind of going down. But like I said we’re local and we’re up that street. So we’ll still do it.”
Bob Winslow, Old Timers celebration chairman, has seen a decline in park vendors over the years as well. “I’ve been involved for probably 20 years,” he said. “Going back several years, it’s less than we used to have. We had a total one year, I recall, of 77 vendors.”
The drop in vendors began after the state cracked down on food handling. “It made it more difficult for the small organizations to have all of the required things that they needed to meet the regulations,” he said. “It’s dropped off but it’s kind of leveled off too.”
Sheryl Berry, president of the Madera County Historical Society, noted a growing “lack of participation in the parade and in the park” as well. “Things have changed a lot,” she said. “It was just different (this year). But things change.”
Even so, Old Timers Day remains a living tradition for Madera.
“We hope to keep the tradition going and growing again (even) as it’s declined with some of the vendors, especially food vendors, (and) to try to publicize it as best we can,” said Winslow. “Thank the paper for their help in publicizing this event and Old Timers events during the week. I would welcome any suggestions to publicize the event in any other way from anyone else, and maybe I can put some thought into it and come up with some things too.”