The sky's the limit when it comes to this weekend's Shafter Centennial Celebration. Among the activities set for the four-day extravaganza is a parade, which kicks off with a high-flying salute from a returning resident.
"It is really exciting to me," said centennial organizer and City Councilwoman Cathy Prout. "There will be a flyover of a PT-13 training plane that was stationed at Minter Field in World War II. Several of our local pilots will fly by after him."
Saturday's parade will start with an a cappella version of "The Star-Spangled Banner," then the flyover and a lineup of floats, flag girls and descendants of well-known local families serving as grand marshals.
"Families that have been farming and have different generations will have floats," said centennial committee member Alana Henry. "People you haven't seen in years like Mert Wiedmann. He ran Stringham's Shafter Drug Store. It was the oldest pharmacy in Kern County. That was the drug store in town. His son Ted and his (grand)daughter Angie -- there were four generations of pharmacists."
Kicking off Thursday with the Gaslight Melodrama production "Shafter Showdown," the centennial runs the gamut from a tractor pull and fireman's muster, to an alumni tailgate, barn dance and time capsule ceremony.
"We've done an event that includes something for everybody," Prout said. "They can say, 'I remember when Shafter had its 100-year celebration. This is what I saw or this is what I participated in.' We'll only do it one time."
First up in that exclusive lineup is the Gaslight show, which artistic director Michael Prince said has been in the works for a year.
Stan Wilson, curator of the Shafter museum, "gave me volumes of information about Shafter's history," Prince said. "We used as much as we could in the show without bogging it down with historical facts. Plus, we kind of made up a few of our own."
"Showdown" is set 100 years in the past at the Green Hotel, the establishment built in 1913 to house prospective land buyers in the burgeoning community.
"An evil railroad tycoon (played by Don Kruszka) has come to town and plans to steal the mayoral election from the current mayor (Charlie Gamble) so he can buy up the city of Shafter and wipe it off the face of the Earth."
Beefing up the show's Shafter pride is area resident Cheryl Toews, who plays the sheriff's (Jay Campbell) do-gooding "sweetie pie." Toews lives in Shafter with husband Randy and is musical director of Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church, where Gaslight musical director Warren Dobson serves as the accompanist. (Dobson will open the show with a musical performance from a Shafter group.)
Although talk of the elusive Shafter panther has died down, "Showdown" pays tribute to another four-legged destructive force that has the benefit of actual documentation on its side.
"There was the plague of the jack rabbits," Prince said. "I think that was in the '40s. From what Stan told us, they took over the town. They had to summon up parties of children and townspeople to deal with them."
Cutting the muster
Speaking of teamwork, the fireman's muster on Saturday will put five-member groups to the test with displays of strength (pulling a fire hose cart), speed (passing water in a bucket brigade) and strategy (using a fire hose to move a suspended weighted ball).
Like many of the weekend's activities, the muster has a long history in Shafter, Prout said.
"Years ago, when Shafter had volunteers that ran the Fire Department, they would have opportunities to have musters. They would run for two days and would compete against each other. Everything was timed."
So far, eight teams of contestants 12 and over have signed up to compete -- but there's room for more.
"You get hooked when you're watching. And they'll want to have a try. They can sign up (Saturday)."
Prout also expects a good turnout for Friday's tailgate, which is an event in itself since an anticipated football game was unexpectedly rescheduled.
"We were on a bye and we went ahead with the tailgate. They can have their tour of the campus, park, have food and entertainment. And the fireworks."
The display will be brief -- "Someone said, 'Don't blink or you might miss it' -- but it's 10 minutes, a little while."
Traditionally after home games, teens head out to "fifth quarter," a gathering with food, basketball and other games. That experience will be replicated Saturday with the activities at the Mennonite church.
The youth event takes place around the same time as the barn dance, which is for guests 18 and up, at the Farmers Cooperative Gin.
Henry, who was in charge of planning the dance, said Bakersfield's Arvizu Brothers will perform, followed by a DJ later in the evening. Beer will be sold for those 21 and over, and Tita's Taco Truck from Buttonwillow will offer tacos, tortas and pupusas.
"There will be something unique. We'll have commemorative mugs for $5 with the centennial logo, 16-ounce mugs. We will have them at the dance and, if there are any left over, they will be available at city hall."
Prout also said a memorabilia booth will be set up, selling items ranging from shirts and mugs to a deck of historical playing cards, local calendar and throw blankets based on a work by Deanna Nelson.
"She did that as a picture for City Hall," Prout said of Nelson. "It depicts so much of Shafter -- cotton gins, oil, flags are important, Mexican dancers, harness racing."
Mural tells the story
Another artist's view of what put Shafter on the map is on display in a two-walled mural along Highway 43 by Chuck Caplinger of Twentynine Palms.
"It's an exciting focal point. He just completed that at the end of last month. It took him 10 weeks. ... What's exciting about it, it depicts the early history of Shafter, the Green Hotel and more."
To capture new memories, the city will install a time capsule in the Police Department lobby on Sunday.
"It's to be opened in 25 years. In 2038, the city will be incorporated for 100 years. We're putting in a (2013) yearbook, letters from families, a proclamation, a lot of our information on the centennial. They (people) can open and add to it."
Prout said they're working on an addition to the capsule: a project put together in 1991 by sixth-grade students.
"In our depot, in the safe, they have a little metal box. ... They can't find the key, so they're trying to figure out how to open it."
The contents remain a mystery even to the teacher whose class put it together.
Even if memories falter, Shafter's celebration ensures that the town's legacy lives on.
While describing the barn dance, Henry may have summed up the entire celebration:
"It's going to be a great time for people to reconnect with old friends -- and make new ones, too."