Mammoth Orange almost ready for operation
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Fossil Discovery Center Director Michele Pecina stands with the Mammoth Orange, which is almost completely restored. The center recently held a celebration to honor Madera Rotary members Don Warnock and Steve King for their work in restoring the Orange.
Madera County’s Fossil Discovery Center’s Mammoth Orange is almost completely restored. The center honored Steve King and Don Warnock recently for their commitment to the Orange.
“These two gentlemen are from Madera’s Rotary,” said Michele Pecina, director of the Fossil Discovery Center. “They’ve devoted countless hours over the past three years to restore the Mammoth Orange. That Orange is about 90 percent there. We wanted to honor them for all of their work to make it happen. They donated a lot of their time and got other community members to donate many of the materials. We are very close to having it fully restored.”
The center held a celebration to honor King and Warnock for their contributions on March 21.
“That evening, we served wine out of the Orange for the first time,” Pecina said. “We had a crowd of about 130 people. The community came out to honor these two gentlemen for all of their efforts. We got declarations from legislator’s offices for each of the gentlemen about their community service. Everyone was appreciative. The community was pleased to see the Orange almost there.”
Pecina said that the top half of the Orange is the original from the Highway 99 location and the bottom half was reconstructed by King.
“The original person that had the idea to restore the Orange was Lori Pond,” Pecina said. “She passed away, but she was the one that went into Chowchilla to buy it. It was officially designated to us and brought to our property. It kind of sat there and was in bad shape. The Rotary’s decided to restore it.”
The Orange will also host a celebration today with a plaque from the Clampers.
“They have a monument for the Orange that’s going to be dedicated,” Pecina said. “It’s very exciting. People are going to be very impressed with the Orange.”
Pecina envisions the Mammoth Orange as another tourist attraction to the Fossil Discovery Center. She would like someone to come in and operate the Orange while the discovery center is open.
“We are looking for a vendor,” she said. “We would like a vendor to take over serving food from the Orange. This would be based on a contractual agreement. If we can get someone to run it as a hamburger stand signed off by the county, we would have it as a place to sell hamburgers. I’m picturing it like a Thursday-Saturday kind of advertisement to come to the Orange and the Center. We would like a sign, but that’s another thing to pay for.”
Currently, the center is only open on Saturdays, but the Orange can help expand the hours.
“Having someone run the Orange might help increase the hours of the center,” she said. “The hope is to get a percent of their profits. That would be in the contract. It would be mutually beneficial to both facilities to have it as a tourist stop. People can have a quick bite to eat and come into the center. If that happens, I can see it going on for a long time.”
In addition, Pecina is working to build an Indian village on the center’s property as another attraction to bring people in.
“We are starting an Indian village,” Pecina said. “I’ve sent in a grant request to the state to build a Native American Indian village. We have these plans. In the meantime, we are going to have special events at the out of the Orange until we get to that point.”
Although the center is open on Saturdays, they do host school children during the week.
“We’re pretty active in what we are doing,” Pecina said. “Right now, we are serving a lot of valley school children. We get about 100 kids a trip from the Central Valley. They come in to learn about the fossils. We have in our building, the mammoth tusk that was found at the landfill. That’s a Columbian mammoth.”
When the Orange is completed and the center is up and running, Pecina said that the Fossil Discovery Center will be one of the top attractions in the Central Valley.
“Madera County has something significant,” she said. “We have a top educational facility. It’s not duplicated in the Valley. I think we are in the top five attractions in the Valley. I’m in a group GFAMES (Greater Fresno Area Museum and Educational Sites group). We meet once a month and talk about what’s happening at our places. We’re interested in starting a tour bus situation in 2023 where Valley residents can see nice places to visit in the Central Valley. They don’t have to travel. They can see some really significant things here in the Valley.”