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Arianne Wing is the co-author of “Noodles Through Escargots” and co-owner of the L.T. Sue Tea Room and Emporium, benefiting the restoration and preservation of China Alley.

Kings Art Center Guild hosts annual Christmas Home Tour

HANFORD — Everyone likes to go home for the holidays, but sometimes it’s even better to go to someone else’s home.

The Kings Art Center Guild presents its annual Christmas Home Tour and fundraiser this weekend.

The event, scheduled from 5-7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, invites the public to get jolly by visiting three local homes, halls decked with boughs of holly.

“It takes a special person to open their homes for an event like this,” said guild member Pat Noland.

The three homes welcoming Christmas celebrants and art patrons through its doors are the Sarah A. Mooney Memorial Museum, 542 West D Street, Lemoore; the home of Anthony and Linda Silveira, 501 E. Sherwood Court, Hanford and the home of Tom and Donjia Huffmon, 14180 School St., Hanford.

Out of their home, Donjia Huffmon operates her business, Buttercup’s Painted Cottage. Named for their now-deceased yellow Labrador, Buttercup’s Cottage is a workshop where Huffmon creates one-of-a-kind hand-painted furniture.

She also teaches art classes and workshops with local aspiring artists and hobbyists.

“It was fun,” Noland said about one such workshop she attended recently. “I’d never done anything like that before.”

Between the Huffmon’s home, studio and backyard, Donjia said that visiting their home on the tour will be “like getting three homes in one.”

“Visitors will be able to see where I create my work as well,” she said.

While Huffmon won’t have any art pieces for sale during the open house, she will have many on display that visitors can call about as soon as the next day, she said.

Members of the Kings Art Center Guild, the fundraising arm for the Kings Art Center in Hanford, and other members of the community will serve as captains and hostesses at the three stops on the tour.

“Many people volunteer because they get to see people they haven’t seen in a while,” Noland said. “And, of course, they’re invited to the party.”

Around 6:30 p.m., ticketholders are invited to the Kings Art Center for snacks, beverages, a silent auction and a holiday raffle.

Participants are to visit each of the three homes on their own and can do so in any order — or simply get the most out of one location if they wish.

The money raised by the event will go toward operating the Kings Art Center, which offers classes to children and adults, hosts art exhibitions and other functions. 

Traditionally, 250-300 ticketholders attend the event each year. Tickets are $25.

Toys for Tots campaign winds down

HANFORD — With its campaign drawing to a close soon, the local Toys for Tots program is hoping for another great year.

“This all depends on what the community makes it,” Staff Sgt. Erica Aguilar said.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity that collects and distributes new toys to local children.

Nationwide, the program distributes an average of 18 million toys to 7 million less fortunate children annually.

The local Toys for Tots program covers all of Kings County and the Fresno County cities of Coalinga and Huron. Aguilar said a little over 8,000 toys were distributed in the area last year to children 12 years old and younger.

Aguilar, who is in her second year as lead coordinator, said the program aims to give each eligible child two new toys.

Aguilar said there are many children in need in the community, so she just encourages people to donate before Dec. 5 if they can.

“We’re really busy this time of year and any support from the community that we can get, we really appreciate,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar said toys will be picked up from the various sites on Dec. 5-6 and be distributed at several partnering agencies between Dec. 15-18.

About 1,000 more children have been signed up for the program compared to last year.

Aguilar said the marines love giving back to the kids in the community and said the best part of attending the distributions is seeing the kids’ faces when they receive their toys.

“You see the marines kind of turn into kids again as they see these cool toys,” Aguilar said. “Then to see them turn the toys over to the kids is really cool.”

She said she recommends that adults pick toys that they would have liked when they were younger.

Toy drop-off locations:

  • Above the Rest Barber Shop, 144 S. 11th Ave., Hanford
  • Marciel Mortgage, 722 N. Douty St., Hanford
  • All Valley Printing, 110 W. Seventh St., Hanford
  • Panache Hair Designs, 123 W. Seventh St., Hanford
  • Premier Collision Center, 12642 Hanford Armona Rd., Hanford
  • Keller Motors, 700 Cadillac Ln., Hanford
  • The Remington, 2727 N. 11th Ave., Hanford
  • Bank of the Sierra, 427 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford
  • Rabobank, 218 N. Douty St., Hanford
  • Black Bear Diner, 1790 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford
  • Urban Cuts (located in the Hanford Mall), 1769 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford
  • Lee’s United Gymnastics Academy, 505 W. Sixth St., Hanford
  • Waterdrops Car Wash, 469 N. 11th Ave. or 1931 W. Lacy Blvd., Hanford
  • Kmart, 215 W. Hanford Armona Rd., Lemoore
  • Family Eye Care, 162 W. D St., Lemoore
  • Olam, 1175 S. 19th St., Lemoore
  • Micky’s Bar & Grill, 230 Fox St., Lemoore

There are also several events coming up:

  • There will be a motorcycle run on Dec. 1 from Harris Ranch, 24505 W. Dorris Ave in Coalinga to the Elks Lodge, 200 Cambridge Ave. in Coalinga starting at 10 a.m.
  • Navy Exchange Family Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 8 at Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The OG Style Car Club toy drive will take place on Dec. 15 starting at 10 a.m. at Black Bear Diner, 1790 W. Lacey Blvd. in Hanford. Car clubs, solo riders and bike runs are welcome. The event is free to the public and will include trophies, raffles, a DJ and a visit from Santa Claus. For more information, call 831-1617 or 836-6714.

Toys for Tots was started in Los Angeles in 1947 when Diane Hendricks, the wife of Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks, made handcrafted dolls and asked her husband to deliver them to an organization that supports children in need during Christmas.

When Hendricks told his wife he could not find such an organization, she told him he should start one. So Hendricks and members of his Los Angeles Reserve unit collected and distributed 5,000 toys to children in need that year.

The following year, after seeing how successful the drive was, the Marine Corps Reserve adopted the campaign and turned it into a national community action program. Since then, Toys for Tots has collected hundreds of millions of toys and distributed them to millions of children.

Aguilar said there will be an even greater need next year with the absence of longtime partner Toys”R”Us, so the program is always looking for businesses or organizations to host events. She said marines try their best to make themselves available at every event.

Any local business or organization that would like to be a future Toys for Tots drop-off site can apply online at the Toys for Tots website.

Stocks surge as Powell hints at slower interest rate hikes

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rocketed to their biggest gain in eight months Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hinted that the Fed might not raise interest rates much further. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 617 points.

In a speech to the Economic Club of New York, Powell said that rates are close to "neutral," the level at which they neither hold back growth nor aid it. That might mean the Fed isn't planning to raise interest rates far above their current levels. Powell also appeared to suggest that the Fed might pause its cycle of interest rate increases next year so the central bank can assess the effects of its actions.

That relieved investors who feel the nine-year-old bull market could come to an end if rates rise too fast. Those worries have contributed to the market's big slump in October and November. The other major factor is the trade dispute between the U.S. and China. Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are scheduled to discuss their differences this weekend at a meeting of the Group of 20.

Wall Street has grown pessimistic that the nations will resolve their differences any time soon. Whether they make progress or not, stocks could have a strong reaction to the Trump-Xi meeting.

Stocks rose in morning trading and nearly tripled their gains as Powell spoke. Bond yields slipped and the dollar weakened as investors adjusted their expectations for how quickly interest rates might rise in the future.

After slashing interest rates to zero in 2008 during the financial crisis, the Fed has been steadily raising them since the end of 2015 and it's expected to announce another increase in December. But higher interest rates tend to slow economic growth, and since growth in the U.S. and other regions is already likely to slow down next year, investors are concerned the increases will hinder the economy.

"He's acknowledging that if you make an interest rate move today, you're not really going to feel the effects of it for 12 to 18 months," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Cresset Wealth Advisors. "Global central bank tightening (of rates) was probably the biggest risk that equity investors faced over the next four quarters, so having the Fed chairman come out and suggest they're almost done is welcome news."

The S&P 500 index surged 61.62 points, or 2.3 percent, to 2,743.79, its biggest gain since March 26. The S&P 500 has gained 4.2 percent this week, but would still need to rise another 6.8 percent to return to its record high from late September.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 617.70 points, or 2.5 percent, to 25,366.43. The Nasdaq composite rose 208.89 points, or 2.9 percent, to 7,291.59. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 37.53 points, or 2.5 percent, to 1,530.38.

After an initial decline, bond prices turned higher, sending yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.06 percent from 3.07 percent earlier in the day. It stood at 3.05 percent late Tuesday. The yield on the 2-year note steadied at 2.81 percent.

The dollar weakened, which sent metals prices higher. The ICE US dollar index lost 0.6 percent.

Customer-management software developer Salesforce surged 10.3 percent to $140.64 after its earnings and revenue were stronger than analysts expected. That helped pull technology companies higher. Software maker Adobe rose 7.3 percent to $249.21. Apple jumped 3.8 percent to $180.94 and Microsoft rose 3.7 percent to $111.12.

Tiffany skidded 11.8 percent to $92.54 after it said foreign tourists, especially from China, didn't spend as much at its stores in its latest quarter. That contributed to disappointing sales for the company. Chinese economic growth has slowed since the government clamped down on bank lending last year as part of an effort to rein in surging debt. The U.S.- China trade dispute has also contributed to the slowdown.

Jam and packaged food maker J.M. Smucker fell 7.2 percent to $101.28 after it reported a smaller profit and less revenue than analysts had expected. Smucker also lowered its forecasts for the full year.

Boeing recovered a sliver of its recent losses as investigators in Indonesia discussed their probe into the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8. Indonesian authorities said they are still struggling to understand why the plane crashed. Questions about the crash have pulled Boeing's stock lower. Despite a 4.9 percent gain Wednesday, to $333.50, it's still down 10 percent since Nov. 8, when federal regulators gave an emergency directive telling pilots how to handle incorrect data from a sensor that may have malfunctioned during the flight.

The dollar fell to 113.53 yen from 113.79 yen. The euro rose to $1.1376 from $1.1296.

Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 2.5 percent to $50.29 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, sank 2.4 percent to $58.76 a barrel in London.

Election Update: Cox declares victory over Valadao

Democrat TJ Cox declared victory Wednesday over three-term Republican incumbent David Valadao in the 21st Congressional District race.

“I am elated to announce that we have won the election for California’s 21st Congressional District," Cox said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

The latest ballot counts show Cox leading Valadao by more than 500 votes.

On election night on Nov. 6, Cox trailed Valadao 46.3 percent to 53.7 percent.

The 21st District encompasses parts of Fresno, Kern, Tulare and Kings Counties. Although thousands of ballots remain to be counted, Fresno County has concluded its vote count, and Kings County appears to have only a handful of unprocessed ballots remaining due to signature mismatches.

With only Kern County and Tulare County remaining, Cox leads Valadao by 529 votes.

As of Tuesday, 2,919 votes remained to be counted in Kern County, which has heavily favored Cox over Valadao. 

Kings County processed about 1,500 uncounted ballots since the last vote totals were released in the week before the Thanksgiving Day holiday. All of them were in the 21st because the entire county is in congressional district, while parts of Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties make up the rest of the district.

As of October, voter registration in the 21st was 43 percent Democratic and 27 percent Republican. Despite the numbers favoring Democrats, Valadao won handily in 2016, 2014 and 2012, the year he was first elected.

On Monday, Kern County processed about 8,000 uncounted ballots, nearly 1,900 of which were in the 21st. A little under 3,000 ballots remain to be counted in Kern, where Cox has substantially outperformed Valadao by securing 61 percent of the vote to date.

Cox was well behind when Election Day totals were announced, but by last week had closed his losing margin to 447 votes. Valadao led by about 5,000 on election night three weeks ago, causing analysts and major news outlets to call the race for Valadao.

The California Secretary of State's office puts Cox's vote total at 56,634 compared to Valadao's 56,105, or 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent.

"Voters across the district resonated with our message of expanding health care, creating good jobs, and fighting for our families' futures. I am truly humbled to have received so much support," Cox said.

While Cox has declared victory, ballots still remain and counties have until Dec. 7 to certify results. Updates will be provided over the next week.