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Looking back at 2013

Kingsburg High School’s 106th annual commencement exercise was held on June 6 with 240 graduates.

The new year has started and here is a look back at the top stories in Kingsburg in 2013. January 2013 Mother and son Connie Lunde and Brent Lunde were elected  presidents of local school boards this month. Connie was on the Kingsburg Elementary School District board for 25 years before being elected president of the district. Brent spent six years on the Kingsburg Joint Union School District board and was named board president just hours before his mother. Kingsburg Joint Union Superintendent Randy Morris called the situation a “neat deal,” but the family was all business. Brent said that he and his mother have specific missions for the districts they serve; while Connie is preparing younger students for high school, Brent is getting them ready for college and the real world.

The Kingsburg City Council approved a plan for managers to have a limit on the amount of unused vacation and sick leave hours that can be accumulated. City Manager Don Pauley said the limits were necessary so employees wouldn’t cash out large amounts of vacation and sick time after leaving their jobs. Employees were to use their vacation and sick hours allotted to them for the year or risk losing them when the new year begins.

On Jan. 21, Hardin Weaver began work as a new sergeant by the Kingsburg Police Department. Weaver had 15 years of prior law enforcement experience and worked at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department for 13 years — but he was excited to make the transition to Kingsburg. Weaver called the town “a nice, family-oriented community” and said it was one of his favorite places.

The Chamber of Commerce announced its 2013 award winners at an annual dinner on Jan. 31. Several locals were honored including Pauline Nyberg, Citizen of the Year; Heidi East, Elementary Educator of the Year; and Braden McFarland, Public Safety Official of the Year.

February 2013

Kingsburg local, Edwan Dablan and brother Khamal Dablan of Selma pled guilty to participating in a long-running methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy. Edwan also pled guilty to a charge of money laundering. The brothers faced 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine. The plea agreement required that they forfeit assets that were acquired from drug trafficking or used in the conspiracy, including several vehicles and six properties in Kingsburg, Fresno and Alexandria, La.

The former Del Monte plant building at 1101 Marion St. was sold to Grace Church of the Valley of Kingsburg on Feb. 8. The church was having services temporarily at Kingsburg High School and bought the Del Monte facility to host church activities for its 300 members. Del Monte ceased operations in 2012 after operating in Kingsburg for more than 90 years.

Victor Mansson, an exchange student from Sweden, rejoined the Kingsburg Vikings soccer team after hearing he was cancer-free from local doctors. Having been diagnosed with testicular cancer in August of 2012, Mansson fought through grueling rounds of chemotherapy. He said support from his teammates and the goal of getting back on the field for the Vikings helped him fight his cancer. Coach Ivan Nunez said one of the best moments for him was the smile on Mansson’s face when he received his jersey at the beginning of the new season.

March 2013

This month, six arrests were made by the Kingsburg Police Department for burglary, possession of drugs and stolen property charges.     

Kingsburg High wrestler Javier Gasca III placed third in the 132-pound weight class at the CIF State Wrestling Championships on March 2 in Bakersfield. Both Selma and Kingsburg finished tied for 39th as a team at the state championships.

For the first time since 2006, Kingsburg Joint Union High School District received a $155,000 state transportation grant to buy a new bus. The new bus replaced a 1987 Bluebird with 600,000 miles on it. District mechanic David Ocanas said the Bluebird was a “gross polluter.” He added that the new, environmentally friendly bus is necessary for the district to operate its four routes efficiently.

Lori Willson, Heidi East and Suzan Hernandez were named the Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District’s top employees for the school year. Willson was named Administrator of the Year, East earned Teacher of the Year and Hernandez was Employee of the Year.

April 2013

Four people, including 21-year-old local Gypsie Yanes, died from injuries suffered in a car accident on April 6 north of Kingsburg. Yanes’ vehicle was hit by a pickup truck driven by a Reedley man. California Highway Patrol officials said they suspect that the Reedley man who caused the accident was driving under the influence of alcohol.

On a lighter note, students from Reagan Elementary School came home from California State University, Fresno’s annual Peach Blossom Festival with “Superior” marks. The Kingsburg students presented oral interpretations of poems, short stories or books to judges at the university. Their artistic performances received the highest marks possible at the festival.

Kingsburg farmer Karri Hammerstrom was a honoree of the 17th annual Common Threads award. Common threads celebrates the contributions Valley women have made both in agriculture and their communities. She was one of six San Joaquin Valley women recognized in 2013 for her agriculture, philanthropic and community service.

The city of Kingsburg participated in the national Prescription Drug Take-Back on April 27, collecting about 12 pounds of expired and unused prescription medications at the city’s Police Department. Kingsburg Police Chief Jeff Dunn said that proper disposal of these medications helps reduce medical problems related to outdated medications and is good for the environment. No questions were asked of anyone turning in medications. Dunn called the event “very successful.”

May 2013

This month was all about May events like the farmer’s market and the Swedish Festival. Every Thursday starting May 16, the Kingsburg Farmer’s Market took place in downtown Kingsburg. That first night of the farmer’s market was also the date for the traditional Pea Soup and Pancake Supper, a kickoff of the Swedish Festival. Hannah Duffy was crowned the 2013 queen of the 47th Annual Kingsburg Swedish Festival, which took place on May 17 and 18.

In addition to celebrating Kingsburg’s Swedish ancestry, the Swedish Festival also honored the sacrifices made by Japanese-Americans during World War II. Robert Yano, a veteran of the war and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, was commemorated at the festival.

In sports news, the Kingsburg boys track team ended it’s season on a high note by winning the program’s first Division II Central Section Valley Championship on May 8 in Exeter. With a score of 98.5, the Vikings defeated the Dinuba Emperors by 18 points, ensuring their winning title.

Brothers Edwan Khamal Dablan were sentenced to prison this month after participating in a long-term methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy based in the Kingsburg and Selma areas. Edwan, 37, was sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison while 25-year-old Khamal was sentenced to four years and nine months.

June 2013

Kingsburg High School’s 106th annual commencement exercises on June 6 brought thousands of family members and friends to the campus to cheer on the graduating class. Superintendent/Principal Randy Morris presented the class of 2013 after the 240 graduates were handed their diplomas.

Traver Elementary School received the Support Music Merit Award from the National Association of Music Merchants. More than 2,000 schools across the country applied for the award. Only 66 primary and secondary schools received the honor, with only eight schools from California. The award recognizes schools throughout the United States for their “commitment to and support of music education.”

Tague Jones, an 18-year-old Kingsburg local, died on June 14 in a car accident in Tulare County.

In local government news, the Kingsburg City Council approved a $4.67 million budget to put more cops on the streets on June 19. The budget made room for three part-time police officers to be added to the Kingsburg Police Department. About 48 percent of the total budget was spent on police. The rest was spent accordingly: 13 percent on the fire department, 10 percent on public works, 3 percent on planning and development, 5 percent for community service and 20 percent for city council and administration.

July 2013

Kingsburg welcomed back its annual Independence Day celebration for the first time in two years at the Kingsburg High School football stadium. The event was discontinued in 2011 due to lack of funding, but returned on July 3 with fireworks, food and fun.

Lydia Wildes, a 2013 Kingsburg High School valedictorian, scored a four-year scholarship totaling $20,000 through the Coca-Cola Johnson Legacy Scholarship.

More awards were given this month: Amanda Manuszak, granddaughter of one of the Swedish Festival founders Gunborg Moore, became the third in her family to win the Kingsburg Prize. This prize is  an award given to members of the community who have made extraordinary efforts to preserve and celebrate the local Swedish culture.

After years of waiting, 1,800 single-family homeowners received good news on July 17: The City Council approved spending $2 million to install water meters in homes in Kingsburg.

In more local government news, City Manager Don Pauley retired on July 19. Pauley served 13 years as Kingsburg’s city manager and had 37 years total of city management experience. Pauley said he was grateful for the opportunities he has had to serve the citizens of the community, but that his time had come to move on.

August 2013

August began on a grim note for Kingsburg with the murder trial of Kathryn Ellis starting on Aug. 7. Ellis was charged with killing her husband for financial gain after his body was found almost a year earlier. Within weeks, she was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Meanwhile, Kingsburg residents were gearing up for back-to-school activities. Connecticut native Fred Cogan replaced Randy Morris as the Kingsburg High School principal. Before moving to KHS, Cogan was principal at Chowchilla High School. Cogan earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University, Fresno.

In other school news, the E&e Performing Arts Center moved from Draper Street Theatre in downtown Kingsburg to Lincoln School in order to reach a greater amount of children. Owners Corey and Lissa Engstrom said they were excited to join the Kingsburg elementary schools and share their passion of the performing arts with the students.

A Kingsburg man was put behind bars for a felony hit and run after allegedly killing a 43-year-old Chowchilla man on Aug. 25. Andrew Sanchez, 30, was taken into custody at his home after investigators found his vehicle abandoned at a highway offramp.

But back at school, the Kingsburg Vikings were starting the football season with a bang. The  team won the season opener against the Tranquillity Tigers on Aug. 30 with a score of 56-6.

September 2013

Wrestling twins Marina and Regina Doi returned to Kingsburg this month after a summer competing in the World Cadet Championships in Zrenjanin, Serbia. The seniors became the first sisters ever to medal at the world championships when Regina took second at 88 pounds and Marina took third at 84 pounds. It was the third year in a row the sisters competed in the world championships, but this year they earned their highest awards.

September’s warm weather led to an abundant raisin crop, according to Rick Stark of Sun-Maid Growers. Farmers were more than a week ahead of the pace they were in 2012.

The Public Safety Committee held a meeting on Sept. 26 to listen to the latest concerns of Kingsburg Citizens. What were their concerns? Property theft, robbery or burglary was the main issue for locals. Noisy vehicles, speeding and not yielding to pedestrians were also an concern with citizens. Committee Chairman Ben Creighton, a Kingsburg City Council Member, encouraged people to phone the police when they witness criminal activities taking place.

October 2013

In their first away game of the season, the Kingsburg Vikings football team were victorious when they took on the Coalinga High School Horned Toads on Oct. 4. The final score of the game was 33-0, moving the Vikings to 5-0 winning season so far.

But the Vikings’ winning streak soon ended, however, when they lost a home game against the Paso Robles Bearcats on Oct. 11. This is the first time since 2007 the Kingsburg Vikings football team lost a home game.

Kingsburg High was winning in other respects, though; 2013 graduate Emily Loven received a Best of Show award and a blue ribbon in the Big Fresno Fair art competition. Her winning painting was called “Ground Breaking.”

A new smart phone app, highlighting the city of Kingsburg, was created this month. The app provides residents and visitors with a faster way to keep in touch and discover shops and restaurants in town. Mayor pro tem Michelle Roman led efforts to create the free app. The app is called “Kingsburg, CA -Official-.”

November 2013

 Schuil & Associates, a Central Valley agricultural real estate business celebrated its 30-year milestone this month. The company is headed by brothers Mike, Marc and Rick Schuil and specializes in dairy and farm sales.

After months of searching, Kingsburg hired a new city manager this month. Alexander J. Henderson, former Deputy Village Manager of Bayside, Wis., was unanimously approved at a city council meeting on Nov. 6.

There was even more good news in November, especially for Kingsburg artist Maxine Olson. Olson was recognized by the Madera County Arts Council with a Best of Show award. Her winning piece, a digital photograph of two local dairyman, was among 180 entries from 79 artists in the state.

High school sports had highs and lows this month: While Kingsburg Vikings football advanced to the CIF Central Section Division II semifinals, the Lady Vikings volleyball season came to an end. On Nov. 14, in the quarterfinals of the CIF Central Section Division IV playoffs, the team lost to the Sierra Chieftains.

November was also about getting in the holiday spirit. The Kingsburg Community Assistance Programs and Services (KCAPS) began a toy drive for local children. The annual KCAPS Young Life food drive was also well under way to collect pantry staples for needy families. As far as holiday events, an E&e Production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” was presented.

December 2013

Holiday spirit was still going strong in December when crowds lined the streets of Kingsburg for the Rotary Club’s annual Festival of Light parade on Dec. 7.

Even Sweden got to experience Kingsburg festivities when a DVD called “Kingsburg: Little Swedish Village” was broadcast on a PBS television station in the country. The 30-minute documentary on Kingsburg was created by former Los Angeles residents Brad and Sofie Thornton and was shown part as a history lesson and part as a travel piece. It was broadcast in Sweden five times and reached a viewership of 80,000.

The Launching Pad, a business-plan contest sponsored by the city of Kingsburg, announced its winner on Dec. 17. The winning business was called Mitt i Dalen (or, in Swedish, “Heart of the Valley”) by Kim Regier and Diana Weston. Their business was meant to tie the Valley’s “unique talents and flavors into one place.” The grand prize was $25,000 worth of goods and services.

In other end-of-the-year news, three drug arrests were made in Kingsburg for possession of cocaine and other drug paraphernalia between Dec. 17 and 19. Police said they received reports of “suspicious activity” prior to the arrests.

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