There's not much that can be said about 2020 that hasn't been already. A pandemic dominated the news cycle and put creatives the world over in a tough position, aiming to stay active and engaged with their communities while avoiding a deadly virus.
Kern County had a few notable entertainment headlines early in the year: Kernville's 63rd Whiskey Flat Days and the 10th annual Shafter Colours Festival both were successful in February; Netflix's "The Prom" put out a call for extras and filmed in town (more on that later); the Great 48 Jam brought bluegrass pickers and the Disney fans gathered for the first-ever Mouse-Con in January.
Even before beer rose in popularity during the shutdown, it was already doing well locally with the opening of 2nd Phase Brewing, the first downtown brewery in nearly 80 years that opened in January. Kern River Brewing and Dionysus Brewing were also named to a Los Angeles Times list for top craft beer destinations in Southern California, which proved more of a wish list with many locations temporarily shut down.
Of course, come March, most stories rolling in were about shows and events either postponed or canceled and restaurants and businesses closing temporarily or, in cases like Noriega Hotel, permanently.
It hasn't all been bad news, though, as many musicians, artists, dancers and other creatives have found ways to keep active and connect safely.
Jim Ranger on "The Voice": The New Life Church campus pastor and musician gave Bakersfield (and his hometown of Newport, Ark.) plenty of reasons to cheer this fall when he performed on the NBC singing competition. He finished strong, winning first runner-up and performing "Streets of Bakersfield" with coach Blake Shelton, who seems likely to help with Ranger's career. Back in town, Mayor Karen Goh named Dec. 21 Jim Ranger Day and this is sure to be the first of many accolades for the talented musician.
There was another local performer who made it to the finals on another reality competition. Dillon James, whose real name is Dillon Galanski, made it to the top five on ABC's 18th season of "American Idol" this spring. He performed at "Friendsgiving: Live at the Ryman," a socially distanced concert at the famed Nashville theater that was also livestreamed on Nov. 18.
Also on the small screen: Hall Ambulance paramedic Anthony Dominguez enjoyed a light moment in the spotlight in January when he appeared on Disney+ for an episode of “Encore!” He rejoined classmates from Santa Monica's Pacifica Christian High School to recreate a production of "Ragtime."
ABC's latest reboot of "Supermarket Sweep" featured two Bakersfield natives competing on different episodes. While Kevin Clayton did not advance to the Super Sweep, Ali Kent, who now lives in the Bay Area, won the $100,000 prize with Team Spritz partner Carrie Campos.
Dance, dance: When ballerina Tiler Peck returned from New York to stay at her parents' home in Bakersfield, no one would have judged her for taking it easy. But that's not the way for a trained dancer, who held classes via Instagram, worked on Zoom with students at Garces Memorial High School, where mother Georgia teaches dance and sister Myka is principal. In May, she gathered fellow New York City Ballet performers and peers from other troupes across the U.S. and world for a tribute to front-line workers on Instagram set to Broadway star Sierra Boggess' performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the musical "Carousel."
She also performed as the special guest artist for the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra's 2020-21 season opener, "Tiler’s Serenade" that aired Oct. 9 on KERO-TV 23.
Bakersfield City Ballet dancers, who had been unable to publicly perform in a theater most of the year, found a way to bring dance to the community this fall. The premier preprofessional ballet company held Curbside Ballet, which consisted of 17 brief outdoor performances in neighborhoods and open spaces in November and a few others in December.
The dancers are already in rehearsal for the next Curbside Ballet season in February.
Kern Dance Alliance also learned to pivot thanks to the pandemic.
The nonprofit organization launched "KDA Cares: COVID-19 Support," providing online dance classes by local instructors, assistance in advertising for dance studios, and grants and scholarships to students who still want to pursue dance during this time.
KDA's Digital Pop-Up Series offered free classes for parents and children, ballet technique, mixed level tap, jazz, hip-hop and more.
The Hub hones in on arts: The Hub of Bakersfield, a nonprofit focused on strengthening the city's urban core, put money where its mind is by helping fund a number of creative endeavors. The 13 recipients of its Cash for the Arts grant program in May ran the gamut from murals and music to floral arranging and other hands-on creative endeavors.
And the Hub wasn't done giving: It also provided a Cash for the Arts grant to local band Mento Buru for its “East Bakersfield Christmas,” a six-song EP of reimagined holiday music favorites, in November.
Going virtual: Community theaters and art venues found ways to bring content to the community. Zoom and prerecorded audio and video performances came later in the year. The Empty Space went a bit more experimental with its "Wanderbuhne," an immersive show that had viewers driving to different staged locations in a small range to view a variety of different performances.
Even when the Bakersfield Art Association was able to open its art center during the year, it continued to post images of its shows, featured at the center, Dagny's Coffee Co. and other locations, on its social media.
The Bakersfield Museum of Art adjusted its annual Via Arte Italian Street Painting Festival at The Marketplace to make it safe for artists to work and people to view. It was also able to offer a small Dia de los Muertos event in its garden with six altares and a one-way viewing route.
The museum also held its first digital exhibition, "Memoirs of Illusion," featuring high school students' work from its mentorship program. There were also online lessons, letters from the curator and 65 videos on its YouTube channel.
Other local museums stayed busy making videos highlighting their varied fields of expertise.
Buena Vista Museum of Natural History & Science has put out earth science videos and other kids activities for months. Recently hit hard by a pair of fires adjacent to its downtown location, staff are optimistic to continue providing content to share until they're able to reopen safely.
The Kern County Museum, which has been able to keep its grounds and some exhibit areas open much of the year, has also produced videos, some with historical context and also virtual tours of its 60 buildings in Pioneer Village.
And the California Living Museum featured its many animal residents through keeper videos posted on Facebook. It was also able to modify its very popular annual HolidayLights into a drive-thru experience that has sold out many nights this month.
Not-so-stranded at the drive-in: With movie theaters closed, some sought to fill the big-screen gap with drive-in style events. A grass-roots effort popped up downtown in April but couldn't stay in its spot off K Street and failed to relocate. The Wounded Heroes Fund of Kern County held a couple of screenings at Kern County Raceway Park with food trucks that quickly sold out. Fellow nonprofit Bags of Love Foundation screened "Home Alone" as a fundraiser at Sam Lynn Ball Park. And Carflix Drive-in Movies held screenings in early fall in the parking lot of Dignity Health Sports Complex but technical difficulties may have sidelined it permanently.
Here's looking forward to theaters reopening next year and someone establishing a more stable drive-in situation for classic films in the interim.
Virtual partying: Everybody got acquainted with Zoom this year but it wasn't always enjoyable. People hosted their own virtual happy hours but it's fun to get more people in on the revelry. A couple of bright spots came thanks to events that took the opportunity to combine adult beverages and an online event.
The CSUB Alumni Association took on the challenge of modifying its popular annual Party in the Park event. Converting it to Party at Your Place, organizers packaged party boxes for attendees to take home.
The box included party favors, a plant activity and a wine tasting kit from San Rucci Winery. Winemakers Bill and Anthony Merz are funny in their own right so adding a '70s-themed party to the virtual tasting only amped up the good time.
After the Zoom party, which included live music and a dance lesson, people could watch the video the next day on how to brew the perfect cup of coffee courtesy of Kelly Archer Interiors, which provided its snickerdoodle coffee, and make a mimosa with Moo Creamery's Jessica Pounds. (The box also came with a split of sparkling wine.)
Bitwise Industries, through its event branch Bitwise Pulse, organized two No Place like Home Grab a Drink events. The first, in September, was on tiki drinks, teaming up Bakersfield bar Tiki-Ko with the Modernist in Fresno.
Ingredients for drinks were packaged in a kit available for pickup the day before the event. Participants were guided through the steps and could ask the bartenders questions about the recipes, mixology or their respective bars.
Based on the popularity, a second event was held earlier this month on whiskey drinks featuring bartenders from Old Fashioned Social Drinkery and Lucy's Lounge in Fresno.
With bars likely to remain closed for some time, this would be a fantastic event to keep going. (Tiki-Ko offers drink kits with alcohol and mixers ready to be combined.)