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July 2, 2022

About Town, Week of Oct. 21

Oct. 25, 2019

Tarmo Hannula: Twelve wildland fires are burning around the state, forcing widespread evacuations, destroying scores of homes and buildings, closing freeways and roads and sending herds of firefighter strike teams to out-of-county responses. In Sonoma County, 21,900 acres have burned in the Kincade Fire. Forty-nine homes have been destroyed, CAL FIRE said, and the 15-square-mile fire is only 5 percent contained.

Halloween decorations are sprouting up all over Watsonville. I walked past a home on East Fifth and Jefferson streets and its front yard was ablaze with dramatic and frightening décor. Skulls, daggers, skeletons, tombstones—get ready, especially if you’re strolling by after dark alone.

A Halloween decoration dominates the front yard of this home on East Fifth and Jefferson streets in Watsonville. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian


I saw that a crew was inside the former Van’s Shoes, 114 East Lake Ave, tearing out walls and reshaping the place. There were a few trucks out back that had signage: Echo Hardwood Floors. A man inside said the floor store was in the works. No opening date was available. Van’s moved a few months ago just up the street to 260 East Lake Ave.

Oct. 24, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: I ran into a man who was cleaning the city plaza early Wednesday morning named Juan. He said his duties for the city include a morning sweep of Watsonville Plaza. Juan said he was saddened by how much trash built up each day around the small park; drink cups, fast food wrappers, cans, bottles, cigarette butts — and there are trashcans dotted throughout the plaza. He said a lot of the trash comes from students during the lunch rush. Inside of 10 minutes Juan had the plaza looking sharp, with the early morning sunlight slanting through the trees, the morning dew glistening across the grass.

Game three of the World Series will open tonight in Washington D.C. The Washington Nationals clobbered the Houston Astros 12-3 last night. The Nationals now lead the Series, 2-0


The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County has blackened 10,000-plus acres and is at zero percent containment. The fire, northeast of Geyserville, started Wednesday night and has now destroyed numerous homes and outbuildings. The entire city of Geyserville is under mandatory evacuation. The blaze is burning along the Sonoma and Lake county line. A strike team from Santa Cruz County packed up and sped north early this morning to help battle the fire. Weather officials say shifting winds will shove the sooty air over the Bay Area by Friday morning.

I’m still amazed at how empty downtown Watsonville can be in the middle of a pleasant sunny day. I’ve been walking the downtown corridor a lot lately, since The Pajaronian moved to Brennan Street in July. Yesterday around 12:30 p.m. I hit the streets and, at one point, I glanced along the sidewalk toward the plaza from East Fifth Street and there wasn’t one person visible, anywhere, except for those in a few passing cars. No pedestrians at all. The lunch hour, dead.

On that walk, I went into the Watsonville Public Library and ran into my friend Dave Miller in the New Arrivals section. He recommended a few books on the shelves and it was refreshing to catch up before we both ran off to other things. That’s when I caught up with librarian Susan Renison. She was tangled up in preparing for the 8th annual Day of the Dead Family Crafts event that runs this evening from 6-8 p.m. on the 4th floor of the Civic Plaza Building in the Community Room. It will also be held at the Freedom Branch, 2021 Freedom Blvd. Saturday from 1-3 p.m. Both events are free.

Oct. 23, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: A fire broke out in an abandoned home at 21 Arthur Rd. Tuesday around 1:30 p.m. When Watsonville Fire crews arrived they were met with heavy white and brown smoke spilling out of roof eaves and vents. The single-story home had sheets of plywood nailed over the windows and an abandoned, beat-up red sedan was parked in the overgrown driveway. No injuries were reported. Firefighters had to saw open a large hole in the roof to allow trapped heat and gasses to escape as others charged through the front door with a fire hose. Kirt Vojvoda, WFD Division Chief, said the fire had worked its way into the attic. The cause of the blaze is still under investigaltion. Just after 7 p.m. the same day the fire rekindled. A neighbor called 9-1-1 to report white smoke coming out of the roof. Firefighters got a quick handle on the problem.

In a split 3-2 vote, according to our sister paper, the Hollister Free Lance, the Hollister City Council decided to bring back the famed Hollister Independence Motorcycle Rally next year with a five-year contract with Roadshows Inc.

The motorcycle rally will be held July 3-5 in downtown Hollister. Last year the city did not contract with a promoter, but instead several events were held on private property throughout the city, according to Jaqueline McCool, a reporter with the Free Lance. Hollister has been dubbed the “birthplace of the American Biker” after the 1953 movie, “The Wild One,” featuring Marlon Brando as a biker, was filmed there. The rally was canceled in 2018 after the event lost its sponsor.

I went into the Stop & Shop Family Bargain Center, 18 East Lake Ave., Wednesday. I got to talking to Carl Miller whose family has run the place for the past 12 years. I noticed the store, situated in the former Pajaronian building, features, among tons of other used clothing articles, hundreds of cowboy and cowgirl boots. Miller told me they all come from Texas, where his crew picks up a lot of their products. Miller made sure I got a good photo of the latest Halloween decorations they had painted on their front window.

A customer strolls into the Stop & Shop Family Bargain Center, 18 East Lake Ave., Wednesday. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Oct. 22, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: Though our weather will cool a bit today and into Wednesday, the heat will be back on parade Thursday and Friday with temp’s in the upper 80s and low 90s inland. Meteorologists are predicting gusty winds up to 30-40 mph Thursday and Friday, and possibly stronger in the mountains, adding to a fire danger warning.

Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasting has opened a new branch in the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center. They started roasting coffee in 2012 and have several locations in the area. Hidden Fortress opened in Watsonville three years ago on Hangar Way and offers a wide range of organic coffee drinks, cold drinks, pastries and sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. Owner Amelia Loftus said her business also offers fresh coffee through mobile coffee servers at four farmers markets. Her husband, Patrick, who is heading up the new Cabrillo College location, said business is a little slow right now, since the business only opened at the start of the fall semester.

“People are slowly picking up on the idea that we are here and can now be a regular part of their days,” he said. “We’re looking into expanding our hours into the evening, but we’re just taking this one step at a time.”

They offer the typical menu of espresso drinks, cold drinks, sandwiches, pastries and other eats and there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.

A new branch of Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasting has opened at Cabrillo College Watsonville Center. —Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Hollister City Council heard pros and cons about the city sponsoring the annual Independence Day Bike Rally. The event was made famous by the Marlon Brando film, “The Wild One.” Since then, the Bike Rally has transformed Hollister around the Fourth of July into a motorcycle haven, with thousands of motorcycle riders pouring into the small town. Hollister’s motorcycle rally will return in 2020 after a vote by the city council Monday night gave way for the return of the on-again-off-again event. The 3-2 in favor vote opened the door for a five-year deal with promoter, Roadshows Inc.

Governor Gavin Newsom has launched a probe into why gas prices are so high in California. Many Bay Area service stations are asking $4.35 a gallon for regular. Just a few months ago some prices around the Central Coast dropped to $3.17 while some stations along Freedom Boulevard were in the $3.30 to 3.49 range. Newsom’s attorney general is now investigating why California’s gas prices are so high, pointing to a recent report suggesting that big oil companies are “misleading and overcharging customers” by as much as $1 per gallon, according to the AP.

This morning I took the 69A METRO bus from Santa Cruz to Watsonville. I grew up taking city busses so they’re not foreign to me. My wife Sarah and I have taken busses all over Spain, Amsterdam, Rome, China, Brazil, Mexico, Hawaii and around the mainland U.S., and have found them to be consistently useful. Since I’m a newspaper hound I brought the New York Times along for the ride this morning. Taking the bus offers a whole different window to the world that, let’s say, driving with the doors locked and the radio on does. I saw older folks getting on with walkers, wheelchairs and canes. Several younger folks strapped their bikes onto the front of the bus rack before hopping aboard. I saw young professional people riding the bus. Hotel maids, a waitress from Applebees, a few house painters, farm workers, retired folks and drifters also shared the ride with me. I noticed that the entire atmosphere on the bus can change in an instant when we pull up to a stop like at the Capitola Mall and a new influx of people climbed aboard. Some folks know each other and jump right into conversation when they meet up. One mother got on with a 15-month-old girl. They sat right across from me and when the girl spotted me, she instantly threw me a giant beaming smile. That made the trip worth it. I caught the 69A a block from my house and it dropped me off a block from The Pajaronian. And since I’m 65, every ride I take is only $1. I couldn’t drive it for that.

October 21, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: I stopped by about 20 artists’ studios over the weekend during the annual Open Studios Art Tour. The variety was astonishing; from photography to concrete sculptures, painting, prints, drawings and encaustics, to metal, wood and glassworks. In each studio, I was fortunate to meet the artist and learn about their approach to creating art. On top of that, I met a number of visitors who were also making the rounds, which gave the whole thing an extra boost. At the 17th Avenue studio of Ronna Schulkin, I ran into Rowland Rebele, a man who, among other things, is a huge benefactor for a number of community organizations, like the Roland and Pat Rebele Family Shelter, and a ton of art programs. Though brief, it was a tremendously engaging conversation and full of laughs and surprises. Roland extended lavish praise for my wife’s cooking column, The Mixing Bowl, and went on to say he and his wife, Pat, have relished the articles and photos for years. 


Overnight road closures at the fishhook, the connector between Highway 1 and 17, will continue from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Thursday for road repairs.

Be braced for more above seasonal average temps. A stubborn high-pressure ridge is hovering off the California coast, keeping cooler air at bay.

A crew of Caltrans workers has been repairing a pedestrian WALK/DON’T WALK sign on the corner of Main Street at West Beach Street. One worker said they had to move the signs a bit because trucks making a turn from Main on West Beach commonly hit the lighted sign.

Caltrans workers repair a pedestrian sign on the corner of Main Street at West Beach Street. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

I wandered through the Pajaro Valley Gallery, 37 Sudden St., this afternoon and got a jiffy tour by artist Judy Stabile of their latest show, “Mi Casa es tu Casa.” The exhibit, which opens Wednesday and runs through Dec. 15, is Pajaro Valley Arts’ annual exhibit inspired by Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a traditional holiday in Mexico that celebrates ancestors and others who have passed away. Altars (ofrendas) are built in homes and public spaces to honor and remember the dead. Various schools, individuals, organizations and others have come together to each offer their own version of altars for the show. The reception is Sunday from 2-4 p.m.

To see last week’s About Town click here.

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