Anyone in Bakersfield can imagine the scene: A late-evening party winds down, players gather around the card table, drinks in koozies, and wait to be dealt a hand. Except when this deck comes out, the face cards aren't the standard kings, queens and jokers but rather Bakersfield royalty. We're talking Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, former Mayor Harvey Hall, Sheriff Donny Youngblood, NFL star Derek Carr and even some chuckleheads from local radio as jokers.
That will be a reality come this holiday season with the debut of BTown Cards. In the works since this spring, this deck of locally themed playing cards is nearing final approval to head off to production.
Bakersfield native Holly Aleman, the creative director of BTown Cards, said the idea stemmed from the age-old question: Where should we get dinner?
"We had the hardest time figuring out where to eat. We said there should be a deck of cards with the greatest places to eat in Bakersfield and you could just draw a card."
Although they resolved that meal, Aleman said she still had food for thought.
"It was a random joke but it stuck with me and I couldn't get it out of my head."
She liked the idea of recognizing restaurants but realized there are many other places — and people — that represent Bakersfield in a positive light.
And in light of efforts like Be in Bakersfield, along with art and other local beautification projects, Aleman said she wanted to follow suit.
"Seeing the way art is making a difference in Bakersfield, I wanted to be a part of that."
Dealing with complications after a surgery, Aleman found herself with time to start tinkering around.
She and two other partners, who wish to remain anonymous at this time, started working out the logistics, finding artists both in town and online to depict the locations and local notables both big and small.
Aleman said, "There's a lot of diversity (in the designs) so not everything is the same."
Around 30 people contributed designs, including Aleman, who considers herself more of a self-taught designer.
"I'm one of those people who loves art but thought I didn't have artistic talent to save my life. But I sat next to a graphic designer (at a former job), he showed me some things and gave me some confidence. I learned through co-workers and family that I have a good editorial eye."
Who made the cut? There's still some editorial decisions being made but Luigi's, Dagny's, Woolworth Diner, Fox Theater, Padre Hotel, Meadows Field, Guthrie's Alley Cat, Dewars and the Kern County Museum are on the list.
There are also 15 "wild cards," designs that won't be revealed until the deck is out.
The back of the cards, being produced by well-known U.S. playing card manufacturer Bicycle, will be a pastel version of the Bakersfield sign.
Although some released designs don't have the suit or number on it, each will be a functional playing card, meaning you can play that hand of poker and win with a royal Korn flush.
Most of the living people featured on cards were not consulted in advance of the card designs, but Aleman said they're open to input from them.
Sponsorships are also possible, including with Golden West Casino and KERO Channel 23. Grapevine MSP Technology Services is already on board.
For now, it's about production. Once the set is finalized, it will head to production, with the first sets shipping in late October.
Aleman said she plans to be at the October First Friday downtown to share designs and drum up interest, returning to the art walk in November and December with decks to sell.
Drumming up interest — and pre-orders — is the goal to make the launch successful, Aleman said.
"We wanted to do this for the community and hopefully the community will respond."