Sunday, November 1, 2009

The stink over a local orange blossom festival and a fond farewell to Bob Montgomery

 * ... THE STINK OVER ORANGES: It looks like local citrus manager Ben Taft has stirred up a hornet's nest in the small Valley town of Lindsay over his idea for Bakersfield to host its own Orange Blossom Festival. Within a day of Taft floating his idea (read the previous post here) the folks in Lindsay were up in arms, reminding me (and Taft) that Lindsay has had its own orange blossom festival for 77 years and Bakersfield should simply back off. Deanna Pitts, who identified herself as the unofficial historian for the City of Lindsay, asked Taft to come up with another name because "our communities are too close for there not to be confusion." Taft has received literally dozens of emails, some quite nasty in tone, and others imploring Bakersfield not to "steal" an idea that - in their words - has become the lifeblood of the city. Taft is known not only for his quick wit but also for his sarcasm and told me he was moving ahead with a Bakersfield Orange Blossom Festival. He added:

 "And I am sorry that they feel Bakersfield waits in the weeds for the next great idea to escape the city limits just to be stolen by some ne'er-do-well from Kern County."

 Taft added that a simple Google search turns up orange blossom festivals in Riverside, McAllen, Texas, Naples, Florida and a dozen other communities. He added 100 percent of the net proceeds from a Bakersfield event would go to the local Ronald McDonald House and the new pediatric medical center planned for Memorial Hospital. Stay tuned for more fireworks.

 * ... RIP BOB MONTGOMERY: Was saddened to learn this weekend of the death of Bob Montgomery, a longtime Bakersfield businessman and entrepreneur. Montgomery was a founding board member at the old San Joaquin Bank and continued to serve on it until the end came on October 16. He was 89 and a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Bakersfield, which he faithfully attended. Montgomery grew up of modest means on San Emidio Street, graduated from Kern Union High School (now Bakersfield High School), served in the Navy in World War II and later went on to graduate from Stanford University. He founded Montgomery Drilling Co., a dynamic enterprise that stretched from Nevada to Alaska. Rogers Brandon, the American General Media president who was the San Joaquin chairman at the end, described him this way:

 "Whenever I flew with him and we landed, he'd look at whoever he was with and mutter, 'cheated death again.' He loved the bank and was a founding board member. He loved his family and he loved his Stanford."

* ... FORD'S HOT NEW FUSION: Had a chance to test drive the new Fusion, Ford's hot new hybrid that is helping lead Ford Motor Co.'s revival. The car is simply stunning, inside and out. It's no wonder that the Fusion is selling well in this recessionary economy because it gets more than 40 miles to the gallon. Chad Manning, sales manager over at Jim Burke Ford, tells me the Fusion is sitting on the lot an average of 3.4 days before it sells, compared to 63 days for the entire inventory. Said Chad:

 "Our sales rate would be much higher but the inventory from the factory is limited. Hybrid Fusion production is at capacity and we have much higher demand than the supply fills."

 Local car dealers have had it tough in this economy, along with the rest of us, and we'll never be out of the woods until credit eases and folks start buying new cars and homes again. Here's hoping the Fusion helps lead us out of this mess.

 * ... US AIRWAYS  MAKES MORE CUTS: I read with some trepidation a report in the Wall Street Journal that US Airways is cutting back on a number of routes and laying off another 1,000 people. The story did not give many details but let's hope the popular Bakersfield-Phoenix flights are not affected. Meadows Field already looks like a ghost town during part of the day, and this is something we just don't need. Speaking of Meadows Field, Mel Atkinson of the M.D. Atkinson commercial real estate company told me he spotted ex Meadows general manager Ray Bishop in Rapid City, S.D., of all places, where both were making airline connections. Bishop left Bakersfield to run the airport in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.


Rachel Legan said...

Rico...Just wanted to say I love your blog.You're the man! I read it every single day just like I do the Cal!There is just so much great info.You and Lois Henry are def on the ball with the blogs.

Anonymous said...

No offense to Mr. Montgomery, a fine man, but could you get the name of the high school -- "Kern Union High School" -- correct?

Richard Beene said...

So noted and corrected. Thanks for pointing it out.

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