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Fresno Flats Hires New Docents, Holds Old-Fashioned Barn Dance

OAKHURST — Not far from Yosemite, one of the area’s most treasured other parks is celebrating its golden anniversary this year. At Fresno Flats Historic Park, stakeholders behind the scenes have chosen the milestone as the perfect time to bring new life to the landmark establishment.

The official birthday party is on Heritage Day and will be marked by an extra-special parade on Saturday, Sept 21 — save the date. In the meantime, there’s still plenty to celebrate with a full roster of planned community activities and a bunch of good news.

Fresno Flats has a rich tradition of student docents helping out (Dec. 2018). Now, they’ll have a chance to get paid thanks to a grant and community donations. Photo by Paul Adelizi

Summer Student Docent program

Celebrating its 50th year as a nonprofit, Fresno Flats’ directors recently received a grant from the area’s local tourism board, Visit Yosemite | Madera County. The purpose of the grant is to hire two high school summer docents and the organization’s board of directors has announced that the mission is accomplished. The names of the students will be announced at a later date.

“We’ve just received a $1,000 Tourism Improvement Grant from Visit Yosemite | Madera County and our goal is to raise a total of $5,000 this summer to initiate a summer student docent program,” says Paul Adelizi, Fresno Flats board member and regular volunteer on the grounds, at events and even writing grants.

The grant will fund up to eight hours per week. The organization’s goal is to raise an additional $5,000 in community donations to provide 40 hours of employment each week, hiring two students who will assist with leading tours and operating the museum and gift shop. The funds will be used strictly for student salaries, say directors, and the program will offer valuable employment and experience for youth while helping share rich local history with the public. Students will start in the next couple of weeks, working weekends.

A GoFundMe account has been established to encourage donations in support of the high school docent project. Another way to help out is to join the Sierra Historic Sites Association.

“We are hoping to get matching funds from the community to pay a student at least halftime,” says Adelizi.

Come meet Charley Huddleston, one of the newest docents at Fresno Flats.

Senior Community Employment program

“We also will have a senior worker through the SER Jobs for Progress program. Hopefully we will have the park staffed a significant amount of time through the summer.”

Adelizi says they’re also organizing a volunteer docent gang to help supervise and fill in the gaps ahead of the busy season. The popular park sees thousands of visitors each year, many of them schools and other groups. The venue is home to events including everything from family parties to multi-day community festivals, and is a hub of activity every season of the year. All of this is done on donations and with the help of volunteers.

First Friday Lecture

Fresno Flats Historic Park invites the community to get the history behind the Sierra’s oldest logging company by attending the First Friday lecture on June 7, as Scott McGee gives a talk and presentation on the Sugar Pine Rail Road.

“Its history is a popular subject in the mountain area,” says event organizer and historian Brenda Negley. “Topics will include a brief history of the company, railroad and logging operation and the 54 mile flume to Madera.”

Doors open to the Cunningham Schoolhouse at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. Seating is limited, so organizers ask that you arrive early if you don’t want to stand in the back. While the event is free, donations are gladly accepted to support Fresno Flats and its historical research.

First Friday lectures continue — stay tuned for more.

Country Dance and Barbecue

Get ready for a good time as Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park opens up for an old fashioned Family Barn Dance with live music and a professional caller on June 14 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. There’s a cost of $5 per person with a maximum of $20 per family.

The park will host Evo Bluestein from ‘Fresno’s first family of folk,’ say organizers, a gifted instructor who will make everyone feel at home as he teaches and calls the steps for fun, easy-to-learn dances with live music. Bluestein is a talented musician and clogger who plays many instruments and guarantees a good time for newbies and regulars “from 8 years old to ancient.”

While on site, be sure to check out the park’s beautiful restored wagon and take a tour of the historical buildings.

Volunteer opportunities and training

With all of this good news coming out of Fresno Flats, community help is still needed every day.

“If you are not able to donate, please consider volunteering,” says board member and volunteer Sandra Adelizi. “There as so many opportunities for getting involved, from being a docent yourself to helping with our Heritage Day and Parade. We’d love to have you. Come join the team!”

Volunteers Laura Huddleson and Laurie Thiessen are helping to train and coordinate docents. The next volunteer docent training is on Saturday, June 8  from 10 a.m. – 2 pm.

Fresno Flats Historical Park and Museum is located at 49777 School Road, Oakhurst, CA 93644 and is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Phone (559) 683-6570

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