OAKHURST – Paul Adelizi, President of the Sierra Historic Sites Association, has a passion for history. You could almost call it an obsession. As such, he’s in a perfect position to initiate a collaboration between the Boys and Girls Club of Oakhurst and Fresno Flats Historical Museum.
The inaugural Pioneer Camp begins on Tuesday, July 13 and runs daily from 9 am to 1 pm at the Fresno Flats location through Thursday, July 15. Cost of the camp is $100 per student. At present limited spaces are still available.
A wealth of topics comprise the camp curriculum: weaving, lumberjacking, cow milking and butter churning, old-fashioned games, roping, blacksmithing . . . and chores. Git yer dancin’ shoes on, because the camp also features a country dance.
The idea for the camp has been in the making for years, prior to COVID. Several years ago, Paul, Ken Machoian and Laurie Thiessen worked on a grant application. During that time they developed and honed a vision for the park, which would include a kids’ camp. They discovered along the way that Jen Simmons of Boys and Girls Club actually has experience running camps, and she floated the idea of a Pioneer Camp. A win-win, for sure, for all concerned.
The camp’s primary goal is to provide fun activities for the campers, giving them a vision of 1800’s living in a way that sparks an interest in history, proving that history can be exciting. As many families developed homesteading skills during the long shutdown, this camp can further skills begun during that time.
A stellar troupe of teachers and presenters have joined together to create this program.
Paul, an Oakhurst resident along with wife Sandra for 16 years, taught high school for years and currently is employed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. He heads the team of instructors comprised of Ken Machoian, Jen Simmons, Laurie Thiessen. Additional instructors include current Fresno Flats docents Ian, Kayla, Joey, Rebekah, along with student helpers from the Boys and Girls Club.
Jennifer Simmons, Unit Director of the Oakhurst Boys & Girls Club, has been with the BGC movement for several years and is passionate about mentoring and providing a safe place with ample opportunities for the youth in this community. She has a background in sports and management which is how she initially acquired the Director position. She is equally passionate about teaching life skills and providing extracurricular activities to the youth. She believes that it is our duty as a community to lift up every child and help provide guidance, opportunity and forgiveness in order to create a better society for all of us.
Laurie Thiessen is a teacher, homeschool mom, and Director of Docents for Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park. Intrigued with the stories of the people who lived during the era of Fresno Flats, and has enjoyed helping to develop Pioneer Camp to teach children about the pioneers’ spirit of innovation and hard work.
A junior in high school, Rebekah Thiessen has been a docent for Fresno Flats Historical Park since the age of eleven. She’s come to admire the tenacity of pioneers and looks forward to sharing their stories while teaching participants their qualities and skills, which still have relevance today.
A senior at Yosemite High School, Joseph (Joey) Star has always loved history. Working as a docent at Fresno Flats has allowed him to learn more about his hometown and its pioneers. He looks forward to utilizing his knowledge to create an exciting experience for Pioneer Camp.
Ian Mendonca, also a YHS senior, has grown up with Fresno Flats and naturally grown to love the history of the park. He hopes to encourage the students he teaches to love the area they live in as he does.
Kayla Velazquez is a senior at Minarets High School with a love for history and nature, which she expresses as a docent at Fresno Flats.
Although this is the first Fresno Flats Pioneer Camp, Paul affirms that it will not be the last. He hopes to make this an annual event. Tuition collected for the classes will be split equally between Fresno Flats and the Boys & Girls Club, although, Paul states, the fees this year will likely go toward the student docent program.
Asked if Fresno Flats seeks volunteers, Paul says that is always a need. He asks that those interested contact Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park for further information on volunteer opportunities or to enroll your children in the Pioneer Camp program. Telephone 559/683-6570 or visit their website at FresnoFlatsMuseum.org.