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Michelle Brown named executive director of Main Street Hanford

HANFORD — Imagine walking down the street hearing music spilling out of the restaurants, seeing people enjoying the town and the shops and living in a full and vibrant community.

That is what Michelle Brown, the new executive director of Main Street Hanford, envisions for downtown Hanford.

Born and raised in Hanford, Brown remembers in 2004 when a full and vibrant downtown was more than a happy idea.

It was the reality. She worked in the Opera House, which had no vacancies, and she remembers walking down the street hearing the music and seeing people enjoying downtown.

“Growing up in Hanford, my roots are here and downtown Hanford has been the backdrop of many of my childhood memories,” Brown said. “I have lived and worked in downtown Hanford and will always serve as an enthusiastic advocate.”

Brown said that this year she wants her organization to focus on the economic vitality aspect of downtown Hanford. Economic vitality is one of the four points of Main Street America’s roadmap to revitalization. Main Street Hanford is part of the nationwide program Main Street America.

Brown recognizes that her organization is not able to drive the economic development in downtown, but said she wants to help promote and advocate for the existing and potential businesses. Brown seemed hopeful for the future of small businesses in Hanford. “It is hard to be a small business owner, but I feel that we are on a brink of things changing,” Brown said.

Monday, Main Street Hanford held a “Transform Downtown Hanford” meeting, providing a platform to discuss revitalizing downtown and whether direct public offerings, in which the community can invest in the town, are a good option.

Brown said she wants there to be a focus on building a strong community.

Members of the Main Street Hanford board are positive in the appointment of Brown.

“I have been involved with Main Street Hanford since its beginning in 2000,” Jim Castleman, board secretary, said. “Michelle is a great fit and I know she has what it takes to make our downtown a vibrant destination.”

Initially, Main Street hired Brown as the office manager in 2016. She has served as interim director since December 2017.

“Her actions and management skills as interim director speak volumes,” Steve Banister, board president, said. “She will be a great fit for the ‘Refreshed Approach’ Main Street Hanford has been seeking.”

The four points in Main Street America’s approach to revitalization are economic vitality, organization, promotion and design. Brown said the organization here in Hanford has done a good job with promotion.

“I absolutely love my job and I am grateful to be chosen as executive director,” Brown added. “I have a strong board of directors and together we will do big things.”

Chrissakis sworn in as Kings County Superior Court judge

HANFORD — Valerie R. Chrissakis is now Kings County Superior Court's newest judge.

Kings County Superior Court Presiding Judge Donna Tarter announced Jan. 19 that Chrissakis had been sworn in to fill the judicial vacancy left by retired Judge James LaPorte.

Judge Thomas DeSantos administered the oath to Chrissakis in an investiture ceremony, where she was also presented her judge’s robe in a courtroom filled with her family and friends.

On Dec. 22, 2017, in a private ceremony, Chrissakis was sworn in by former Kings County Superior Court Presiding Judge Steven D. Barnes. Chrissakis assumed the bench in Department 8 on Jan. 2.

Prior to her appointment, Chrissakis was employed as a staff attorney at the Kings County Superior Court since 2006. Tarter said whenever a tough question needed research, Chrissakis was the person to go to.

At the ceremony, Chrissakis thanked her husband and children, parents, extended family and colleagues at Kings County Superior Court for supporting her throughout her career.

She was an associate at the Farley Law Firm from 2001 to 2006, at Quadros and Johnson from 2000 to 2001 and at Farley, Seng, DeSantos and Green LLP from 1996 to 2000.

Chrissakis earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Santa Clara University.

First Hanford-Visalia Comic Con celebrates fandom

The Hanford-Visalia Comic is designed for kids, no matter what their age.

“When we’re kids, we all have a little geek and nerd in us and life kind of hardens some people up. But I think there’s still a kid in everyone. Some people keep that in them and those are the people who come out to these events,” says event promoter and Ohana Comic Con co-founder Tom “Ziggy” Star.

Star’s first convention was in February of last year and, along with his crew of six other family members, he has put together 16 events around the Central Valley and Southern California since. Over 30 more are in the works.

Star’s plan is to hit cities and towns that don’t have regular pop culture conventions, which is what brings the show to the Kings County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Feb. 3.

“Hanford has the great fairgrounds and they’ve been nothing but nice over there,” Star says. “The staff has been nothing but helpful.”

Comic cons are a way for fans of pop culture to meet up and celebrate whatever fandom they belong to, whether they be fans of “Dragon Ball Z,” “The Avengers” or “Harry Potter.”

Star says there’s no one type of fan that attends the comic cons and the crowds seem to be a mix of everything.

“There’s the anime people, the sci-fi people, movie fans, Disney fans, it’s a big cross-section,” he says. “And there are always those hard-core collectors.”

In addition to the celebration and socializing, there’s also the matter of collecting and fans are ravenous spenders when it comes to finding that coveted copy of “Hulk” #368 or rare Frodo statuette.

Five Central Valley comic book and collectible shops will have vendor booths at the event including Visalia-based stores GameQore and Collector’s Choice as well as DJ’s Collectible Shoppe, 214 N. Irwin St. in Hanford.

“Cons make for good memories,” DJ’s owner Jason Weihert said. “I know a lot of our customers are going, so hopefully it’s a success. Cons only work if [fans] want us there.”

The DJ’s booth will be selling vintage comics during the event for $1 each. Weihert plans on bringing around 2,000 comics for fans to sift through.

In addition to comics, fans can expect vendors to sell Legos, antique toys, sports and entertainment memorabilia and the year’s most coveted collector’s items: Funko Pop! Vinyls.

The comic con’s main attraction may very well be the cosplay contest, where costumed fans show off their home-made outfits inspired by their favorite fictional characters.

It’s nearly guaranteed that every comic con will have at least one Harley Quinn and Deadpool.

Star says that at last week’s con in Fresno, around 200 costumed would-be superheroes, wizards and aliens entered the contest.

Winners will receive gift certificates to spend with the vendor of their choice at the con.  About $200 in prizes will be awarded. Costumes must be family-friendly, so leave those Vampira costumes at home.

Not content to simply watch the fun while selling comics, Weihert says he’ll be cosplaying as well, but he hasn’t decided on a costume yet. He’s torn between something “Star Wars”-related or everyone’s favorite hockey-masked horror icon Jason Voorhees from the “Friday the 13th” movies.

Weihert attended a screening of “Friday the 13th” at the Hanford Fox Theater last year in costume to take photos with fans and will do so again on Friday, April 30, when the Fox screens the superior sequel.

“It’s fun to [wear the Jason costume] because you don’t see serial killers walking around in Hanford too often,” he says.

In addition to vendors, booths will also be set up for genre celebrities to sell their art, take photos and sign autographs.

Guests include Robert Mukes, who played one of the murderous family members in Rob Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses;” Michael S. Rodriguez, Fresno-based director of the upcoming horror film “Lake of Shadows: The Legend of Avocado Lake;” stuntman Nick Palma, who played Michaelango in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze;” and cosplayers CreepsCreations.

The idea for an affordable, family-friendly comic-con came to him a couple of years ago. An outing to a regional comic-con with his 15 grandchildren set him back nearly $300. And that was just the price of admission.

“I thought, 'there has to be something better.’ I wanted to share with [my grandchildren] my love of ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’ because I’m a geek at heart,” Star said.

His daughter suggested that he take his experience promoting baseball card conventions, which he had done for years, and apply it to comic cons with the mission statement that admission fees would be low and children 12 and under would be free.