From quilts, to cats, to museums and beyond, I got to write a lot of great stories in 2017. As a features writer, a good portion of my work is in the light, fun and entertaining, which makes the task of narrowing down the favorites I've worked on a difficult one.
My first favorite story of the year was on local quilter Lanora Frazier, who was so inspired by the historic election of the United States' first black president that she decided to make a quilt featuring Barack Obama and his predecessors. Frazier, who got the idea from her mother, Beulah, expected the quilt to take a year or two to finish, but because her quality handiwork takes time and care, it ended up taking her Obama's entire term to finish. The result is a beautiful love letter not only to the 44th president, but to the country, too.
Having written a lot about the Kern County Museum since starting at TBC Media four years ago, I consider it one of my favorite places in town. In February, it opened its doors to the new Aera Gallery and Welcome Center, moving the entrance to the Chamber of Commerce building. It's a welcome befitting the local gem, and I was happy to cover it.
I also wrote about another favorite place of mine in the community: the California Living Museum, which celebrated 34 years back in May. I grew up going to CALM and have always loved it, but I never put much thought into how it came to be until I wrote this story. It was fun talking to some key figures in the zoo's history as they recalled stories of those early days.
Being a huge animal lover factors into my next two favorites: a feature on SOXrescue, a local group that is saving neonatal kittens and special needs cats, and another on 11-year-old Zane Thygerson, who took his love of dogs to the next level when he wrote "Oodles of Poodles," an illustrated guide on the many varieties of poodle cross-breeds. The stories were fun, and as a bonus, I got to pet a few cats at one interview and standard poodle, Lincoln, in the other. (Cats and dogs should be at every interview.)
Other stories that I've enjoyed writing are ones that take me somewhere fun to experience something new, like the column I wrote on Bakersfield Karting Experience shortly after it opened. I didn't win the race, but I also didn't spin out or crash, which made me feel like less of a loser. This year, Eye Street editor Stefani Dias and I also were able to visit Universal Studios to write about the new light show at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Going to Hogwarts and getting to call it work isn't something that happens a lot, so I really appreciated the opportunity to do so.
In August, I spoke with actress Alison Arngrim, whom you might know better as Nellie Oleson on "Little House on the Prairie," ahead of her appearance at Fiesta Days in Frazier Park. Far from the mean character she played, Arngrim was a delight to talk to, telling me about the ways fans of the show couldn't separate her from the villain she played, why she took that as a compliment and how social media might be helping other actors like her who played love-to-hate characters.
More recently, I enjoyed writing about the creative students in Bakersfield High School's fashion program, who gave our newspapers a great second life as beautiful dresses inspired by big-name design houses like Chanel, Dior, Betsey Johnson, Louboutin and Gucci. The winning look was inspired by Louis Vuitton's "Masters" collection (which featured work by famous artists), and the teenage designers used Picasso's blue period and cubism as further inspiration for their stunning triple-tiered A-line dress.
My last favorite story this year was a bittersweet one: a feature on the Pairs and Spares senior dance group that is coming to an end Friday after around five decades in existence. The people I talked to loved the dance group and the people in it so much, and they were all so sad to see it go. But even though it's ending, it will always hold a special place in their hearts, and I was happy to share with readers what the group meant to the dancers.