Throughout its history, many colorful characters have called Kern County home. On Feb. 9, The Arts Council of Kern will bring 11 of those influential and interesting individuals from days past to life as they share their stories during Stories on the Sidewalk, a walking tour through a two-block span in downtown Bakersfield.

The idea stemmed from Beth Pandol and Tracy Kiser, who wanted residents to hear about their county’s historical residents straight from their mouths.

The diverse cast consists of Bakersfield founder Col. Thomas Baker; feared Chinatown gangster-turned-Bakersfield-businessman Carlie Ping; Flossie Haggard, mother of Merle Haggard; outlaw Dick Fellows; Tejon Ranch owner Truxtun Beale; Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren; aviator Pancho Barnes, who broke Amelia Earhart’s speed record; William and Amanda Pinkney, who were likely the children of slaves; Madge the Madam, a notorious madam during Kern’s Tenderloin era; Alfred Harrell, founder of The Bakersfield Californian; and Larry Itliong, co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union.

“The character selection was fun,” said Pandol. “There were so many to choose from. Kern County is ripe with amazing people, colorful characters – some operating within the law, some not so much.”

The project is brings local actors and writers together, working collaboratively to breathe life into the characters while creating something that is informative and entertaining. The writers consist of James Burger (Baker), Robert Byrne (Beale), Stefanie Dias (Ping), Chris Dison (Itliong), Rossely Harmon (Barnes), Lois Henry (Madge), Runa Lemminn (Alfred Harrell), Jennifer Self (Flossie), Tayci Stallings (the Pinkeys), Mandy Wallace (Fellows) and Martha Warriner (Warren).

“Being the Arts Council, we wanted to focus on artists in this area,” said Lemminn, media and outreach specialist for The Arts Council of Kern.

The project even received a $3,000 grant from California Humanities, a nonprofit that promotes and funds humanities-based projects across the state.

“That grant is highly competitive and I’m excited that they see the significance of this in our community,” said David Gordon, executive director of The Arts Council of Kern. “The education and the civic pride, the connection to our community and the arts in this new way, it’s very encouraging.”

The tours last about 90 minutes, taking place every 10 minutes starting at 11 a.m. The last tour will take place at 1:30 p.m. Groups will be limited to about 25 people and have their own tour guide.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at www.kernarts.com.

The tours will not only shed light into Kern County’s history, but showcase downtown Bakersfield as well.

“I am looking forward to hearing the voices with these performances,” said Gordon. “Downtown is sometimes quiet on a Saturday morning and to hear a series of performances out in the open and to hear groups of people talking about what they just saw or what they’re about to see. Groups of people touring downtown, groups of people like you see at the Louvre or you see at the Getty – these groups of people going on a tour to learn something. That’s what I hope for the day.” 

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