News and Information
for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam

  Celebrating 10 years:

March 1995 ~ March 2005

For the past decade,

The Kaweah Commonwealth

has been telling readers

things they won't read, hear,

or see anywhere else!


In the News - Friday, MAY 6, 2005

Star-studded lineup

at Woodlake Rodeo

Professional competitiors, live entertainment,

precision riders, and lots of clowning around

For the 52nd year, it’s time to rodeo once again, Woodlake-style. This weekend’s event, the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Woodlake Lions, has evolved into one of the premier ranch rodeos in the country.
   Why the tremendous reputation and success for Woodlake’s rodeo when there are so many other attractions competing for today’s entertainment dollars? According John Wood, Lions’ immediate past president, Woodlake’s reputation is built on having a great setting, the former Jackson Ranch in Elderwood, and providing non-stop action for fans.

  “The Woodlake Rodeo is great fun for the entire family and features some of the best cowboys that you will see anywhere on the circuit,” said Lynne Arnold, Woodlake Rodeo publicist.
   This year, that star-studded lineup will be one of the best all-time. Arnold said that with Bakersfield also hosting a rodeo during Mother’s Day weekend, some of the circuit’s top competitors will be on-hand at Woodlake.

  “The cowboys really like to hang out in Elderwood and Three Rivers,” said Lynne. “The peaceful setting here is a nice change from the big-city arenas on the pro-rodeo circuit.”
One of the top team ropers, Kyle Lockett, who hails from nearby Ivanhoe, will compete at Woodlake on the heels of his buckle-winning performance at Three Rivers last month. Lockett is the Tie-Down Roping timed-event World Champion for 2005.
   The bull-fighting responsibilities — or more aptly, the distraction of the bulls so the riders can get safely out harm’s way — fall on the broad shoulders of Colby Gines and Jess Griffin. Their lightning speed and daring is a spectacle that, in itself, is worth the price of admission.
   But not withstanding all the cowboy and cowgirl talent and the fun of the mutton-busting contest, there is also great musical entertainment from “Julia” and her awesome band, Viento. Julia, a former Riata Ranch Cowboy Girl, who lives in Kingsburg, caters to a Spanish-speaking audience but her high-energy performances are popular with gringos, too. On the concert circuit, this beautifully talented songstress is known as “La Gringuita Mas Mexicana.”

   Also among the great traditions of the Woodlake event is the contest for Rodeo Queen. This year’s reigning royalty is Kendra Burkheimer. Kendra, 20, of Farmersville is a business major at College of the Sequoias and will be headed to Fresno State in the fall.
   Burkheimer, who graduated from Central Valley Christian High School in Visalia in 2000, was chosen from an impressive field after completing challenges that demonstrated equestrian skills, rodeo knowledge, Woodlake rodeo history, poise, and beauty. She attributes her advantage in the competition to her experience for the past 12 years as a Riata Ranch Cowboy Girl.

  “I will be doing double duty this weekend as Rodeo Queen and as a Riata Ranch performer,” Kendra said. “I am thrilled to represent the Woodlake Lions and have the opportunity to meet all these great people. My rodeo queen experience will help me later on in my career and to grow as a person.”
   Queen Kendra will officially begin her rodeo duties at 10 a.m. by riding in the Rodeo Parade down Woodlake’s main street, the traditional kickoff activity. Hube Wolfe, longtime member of the Woodlake Lions Club, will serve as Grand Marshal.
   Presale discount tickets are available at several local outlets including First Choice Foods and Woodlake Hardware until the rodeo grounds gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday. Adult admission at the gate for each day is $13. Youth ages six to 12 are $8; children five and under are free.
   For driving directions or more information, call the rodeo hotline, 564-8555 or visit the official Rodeo website:

Wet weather

increases fire fuels

New law increases foothills

clearance requirements to 100 feet

   A wet winter and spring in Kaweah Country are producing taller grasses that have area fire officials concerned about what the coming fire season has in store.
   Initially, the wet weather will reduce the fire danger, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is predicting an average year for fires because a lot of areas will still be covered in snow when the summer hits.
   But, as summer progresses, tall grass fed by the wet weather will dry out, putting the foothills at greatest risk for wildland fire. When the weather gets hot, all that vegetation will become extremely flammable.
   Homeowners need to prepare for this volatile situation in advance of the hot weather by clearing brush and grass before it dries out.
   As of Jan. 1, 2005, property maintenance in the foothills got even more strenuous; in fact, clearance requirements were increased more than three-fold.
   CDF personnel will soon be making the rounds in Three Rivers to check that there is now 100 feet of defensible space around houses and outbuildings. Previously, the requirement was 30 feet.
Due to this large increase of property clearance, the CDF will offer a grace period.

  “CDF will allow a reasonable period of time for everyone to come into full compliance out to 100 feet,” said Dave Hillman, CDF unit chief. “If we inspect your property and you’re not in compliance beyond the traditional 30-foot zone, we’ll request that you work toward full compliance. We will, however, expect compliance within the first 30 feet, as we always have.”
   The goal for homeowners, Hillman explained, is to “break up vertical and horizontal continuity of the fuel.” Removing brush beneath trees and trimming limbs to 14 feet will slow down potential fires.

Body found at

3R construction site

   On Wednesday evening, May 4, Fred Tafti, owner of the Indian Restaurant property in Three Rivers, discovered the body of a middle-aged male behind the Sierra Drive restaurant that is currently being remodeled. Tafti, who also owns the Kaweah General Store, called 911 to report the grisly discovery at 6: 40 p.m.
   According to witnesses at the scene, there was no apparent sign of foul play. Personal items, clothing, and several liquor bottles were scattered about the area where the body was found.
Sheriff’s deputies secured the site and detectives worked for several hours investigating the scene. Tafti said no one had been working at the site for the past several days and he believed the victim was a transient who had recently been camping in the area.

  “I just came over to pick up a garden hose that the workers had been using,” Tafti said. “It looked to me like he had been dead at least since yesterday.”
   The identity of the victim was not immediately known. Eric Velasquez, a detective with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, is conducting the investigation.

Rafting season kicks off

with river race

   On Wednesday, May 4, for the second year, a raft sponsored by The Cabin has won the Kaweah River Whitewater Race. The run, which begins after putting in at the Gateway Restaurant just above the bridge, took one hour, 15 minutes, for the winning boat to complete.
   The finish of the race, now in its second year and gaining in popularity, is just below Slicky, one of the trickiest rapids on the Middle Fork. Four rafts, including Petit Pinson’s all-female crew, were entered in the race and completed the series of whitewater challenges.
   At the helm of the winning raft was Aaron Root, who had his crew paddling aggressively from start to finish.

  “The river was noticeably higher this year and we had to work hard every minute of the race,” said Ken Woodruff, owner of The Cabin and one of the event’s boosters.
   There was never a moment to rest for The Cabin’s “Codgers” team as they had only a slim lead on the raft that eventually finished second. That group was within a few seconds of The Cabin’s entry but spilled several of their crew into the chilly waters of the river trying to negotiate Slicky’s upper rapids.
   In addition to Ken Woodruff, the rest of The Cabin’s paddlers were Bill Haxton, Greg Fox, Tod Johnson, and Bill Sullivan. With tongue-in-cheek, they refer to themselves as “over the hill,” even though some of the crew train year-round just for local bragging rights on the river.
   Frank Root, owner of Kaweah Whitewater Adventures and the race’s organizer, piloted another raft but finished several minutes behind his son Aaron’s winning boat.

  “This race is a great way to call attention to the excellent opportunities we have for river-rafting right here in Three Rivers,” Root said. “The season will be extended by the huge snowpack you’ve been hearing about all winter, so now is the time to book a trip. The water is challenging but is not even close to reaching the thunderous flows we will experience after a stretch of some really warm weather.”
   Ideal conditions for river rafting occur each year when the Middle Fork is running in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 cubic feet per second. For Wednesday’s race, the flows averaged nearly 1,600 cubic feet per second.
   Root says he expects the local rafting season to last well into July this year.

  “We haven’t had whitewater like this since the last El Nino year of 1998,” Root said.

Fire station occupancy

tackled at Town Meeting

Local nonprofit groups cooperatively

combine to request building space

   Earlier this week, Supervisor Allen Ishida announced that he would be conducting a Three Rivers Town Meeting on Thursday, May 12. The meeting will convene at 6:30 p.m. at St. Anthony Retreat.
   At the top of the agenda is the dispensation of the building that formerly housed Station No. 14 of the Three Rivers Fire Department. The fire station was vacated when the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Tulare County Fire Department were consolidated into the new state-of-the-art facility that was built adjacent to the Valley Oak Credit Union.
   At least four local groups and the resident deputy sheriff have combined to petition county officials in an effort to be permitted to share space in the building. Among the groups who want to be accommodated are the Three Rivers Cemetery District, Three Rivers Community Services District, the local Tulare County Sheriff’s Volunteer Patrol, and the Community Food Pantry.
   Supervisor Ishida said he would furnish an update at the meeting on what the Board of Supervisors deems as appropriate action in dealing with the vacant property.
   Other topics for discussion are a proposed community visitor center and the official designation of Highway 198 as a “Scenic Highway.”

  “I think the way in which the scenic highway designation is being proposed would be a real benefit for Three Rivers,” Ishida said. “Some commercial areas would be exempt, so it would not place any undo restraints on local businesses.”
   Supervisor Ishida said that everyone is welcome to attend and there will be adequate time to ask questions on any county-related business. For more information, call Supervisor Ishida at 733-6271.

TRUS Foundation news:
Get on board… buy a duck

   The Three Rivers Union School Foundation was developed solely as a support group for TRUS. Each year, the group donates thousands of dollars to the local elementary school to enhance or develop various projects and programs. Currently, the organization has vacancies on its board of directors.
   Board meetings are held at the school on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. Persons interested in becoming involved with the Foundation may call Lee Crouch, president, at 561-3363, or Sue Sherwood, TRUS superintendent, 561-4466.

   For the second year, the TRUS Foundation will sponsor a Rubber Duck Race. Cash prizes will be awarded to the winners — first place, $200; second place, $100; third place, $50.
   The race will commence Saturday, June 4. Ducks may be purchased for $5 each or three for $10.
   Buy a duck or an entire flock from any Foundation member, by calling the phone numbers listed previously, or by stopping in at the TRUS office.


   Local quilter Helen Bauer is creating a Three Rivers-themed quilt that will be auctioned off at the TRUS Foundation’s annual fall-fundraiser dinner. The quilt will be made from various Three Rivers T-shirts.
   Helen is currently searching for additional T-shirts to complete this one-of-a-kind creation, so anyone who has T-shirts with a Three Rivers logo that they would like to donate, they may deliver them to the Three Rivers School office during regular business hours.

Bench mark:

WHS bleachers for sale

   Renovations are ongoing at Woodlake High School’s football stadium. One ambitious project currently underway is the replacement of the bleachers on the “home” side of the field.
   With this replacement comes the opportunity to show support for Woodlake High for years to come. Individuals or groups may purchase a specific section of bleacher in their name or in the memory of a loved one.
   The center section of the new bleachers — the two center rows directly below the announcer’s booth — will be orange. The bleachers on either side will be gray.
   Sponsored by the Woodlake High School Foundation, sections of bleachers are for sale for $225, orange; or $200 gray. The inscription for the plaque should be 30 characters or less.
   For more information or to receive an order form and seating chart to select a bleacher, call Holly Crain-Peltzer, WHS Foundation president, 561-4465.


Raymond Hartwick
1917 ~ 2005

   Raymond L. Hartwick, a former resident of Three Rivers, died April 12, 2005. He was 88.
   Raymond was born March 24, 1917, in Grand Rapids, Mich., to Fred and Frances “Fan-ny” (Brennan) Hartwick. He was raised in Cleveland, Ohio.
   He graduated from the East Technical Institute and the National Radio School and also attended the Western Reserve University in Ohio. In 1941, Raymond married the former Leona Chambers.
   After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Raymond immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as an electrician-first class.
   He was on the USS Marcus Island and at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. After his discharge in 1945, Raymond worked at various highly-classified space and research companies.
   In 1982, Raymond and Leona moved to Three Rivers to be near their daughter, Sharon Bullene, and family and friends David and Jean Strawn. In 1996, they relocated to Visalia.
   In 2002, Raymond was preceded in death by his wife of more than 60 years, Leona.
   He is survived by his daughters, Sharon Bullene of Three Rivers, Susan Hartwick-Sauer, and Joan Aston; son John Hartwick; five grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

Linda Dungan
1939 ~ 2005

   Linda Dungan of Porterville and Silver City died Tuesday, March 1, 2005, of kidney failure. She was 65.
   Linda was born on Dec. 14, 1939, to Harrison and Jean (Miller) Huckaby in Oxnard. As a young child, she moved with her family to Exeter where she was raised and educated, graduating from Exeter High School in 1957.
   In 1961, she graduated from UCLA with her degree in nursing. Also that year, she married her high-school sweetheart, D.Q. “Duke” Dungan.
   For 20 years, Linda was employed by the Tulare County Office of Education as a school nurse.
   Linda is survived by her husband, Duke, of Porterville; three children; her brother; five grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
   In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation, 9221 Ward Pkwy., Suite 400, Kansas City, MO 64114-3367.

10 years ago…

   FRIDAY, MAY 5, 1995— The history of the Redbud Festival was told and a list of local vendors provided.
   THREE PROMINENT THREE Rivers women passed away — Thelma Britten, Jean Caulfeild, and Marion Gray.
   SEASON-TO-DATE rainfall was 28.11 inches. In 1994, rainfall totaled 14.09 inches on the same date.
   THE NATIONAL PARK Service was seeking concessioners to operate commercial facilities within the parks. Separate contracts were developed for each park.
   THE PIZZA FACTORY opened in Three Rivers on May 1.

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