Posted by Kim Leonard
This past weekend was so full of stuff to do that I want to start this blog by giving major kudos to anyone who managed to do it all. It was easy to over-commit as one really cool thing was announced right after another. I personally wasn’t even able to make it to everything- my son had his Tae Kwon Do belt test so I had to go good-mommy it up in North Fresno and watch him break boards and stuff.
So what was there to do?
First off, at 10:30 there was the Yellow Umbrella Tour of Chinatown. This is the one I was able to attend, which you’ll be able to tell because I’m about to wax poetic about it. Usually I’m the tour guide for our monthly downtown tours but I lucked out this month. Our group had been asking since late summer for a tour of Chinatown. Even though Chinatown is just separated from our district by railroad tracks I’d noticed that I’ve spent an embarrassingly tiny amount of time exploring it. I was not the gal for the job of telling people about the rich history behind Fresno’s Chinatown. Luckily, the folks at Chinatown Revitalization, Inc. were happy to show of their beloved district. Jeremy of Chinatown Revitalization (and also co-owner of the super cool shop Hoot Nest) agreed to take us on a tour and I was beside myself- I could kick back and act like a tourist for once! Our tour group was huge- there were about 40 of us snapping photos and taking it all in.
Chinatown is the part of town where many immigrants landed once they came to Fresno. The population was varied- it wasn’t unheard of to have a German shop right next to a Chinese shop and then a Japanese shop next to that. What united so many cultural groups was the fact that immigrants were mostly kept on that side of the tracks and not allowed to move and further into town. Chinatown is full of mystery and intrigue, most people know about the tunnels but few have had a chance to explore them. They’re spoken of in the same hushed tones as urban legends even though they’re 100% real. Many of them have been sealed off for the last 50 years because police and property owners feared people would escape and run the length from Kern to Tulare underground to get away. Chinatown Revitalization, Inc. has a pop-up gallery in their space of all of the artifacts found in the tunnels, buildings and even some that have been found in archaeological survey work and they’re dedicated to painting a complete picture of the history of Chinatown. They accept everything from Dishware to receipt books and they’re in the process of collecting an oral history.
After the Yellow Umbrella Tour, Jeremy offered snow-cones from Kogetsu-do Confectionery, a 100 year old business- with in-house hand made fruit syrups! I had a few bites of my mom’s even though I’m not supposed to and it was SO GOOD. (And yes, she comes to all of DFP’s tours. She’s awesome like that.)
At 12:30 a crowd gathered for the Heritage Fresno tour of the Fulton Mall, led by Craig Scharton with historical commentary by Roger Taylor and watercolor slideshow by artist Pat Hunter (one of my favorute local artists!) at Peeve’s Public House. I was really wishing I could be in two places at once for this- just as my son was doing snap kicks this tour was stepping off. Even though I’ve been lucky enough to participate in a few tours of Craig’s in the past I always learn something new and I’d love to have the opportunity to hear about it from Historian Roger Taylor as well. The early days of Fresno are my favorite and I’ve probably over-romanticized Fulton G Berry, M. Theo Kearney, Chester Rowling and all of the other big names that helped form our city into what it is.
Starting an hour before the Heritage Fresno tour and extending on to 3:00 PM was Loft Hop, an open-house event organized by Fresno State’s Urban Entrepreneurship students with the purpose of showcasing downtown living. This new take on the “hop” phenomenon introduced participants to Fulton Village, Bungalow Court, Mayflower Lofts, the Pacific Southwest Building, Iron Bird Lofts, Crichton Place and the M Street Arts Complex.
What was amazing to me was that all three of these events drew larger than anticipated crowds- especially for a Saturday that was shared with a huge event in Clovis- Big Hat Days. The Yellow Umbrella Tour of Chinatown attracted over 40 people (our highest attendance had previously been 17). Heritage Fresno’s tour was given to 90 people. 90! If you’ve ever led a tour you know the thrill (and bit of terror) that comes with giving 90 people your attention as you share history, current events and fun anecdotes. Loft Hop was so inundated with participants that some of the busier spots had a hard time keeping track, but from their records it was upwards (probably way upwards) of 250 people.
Did you make it out to any of these events? All of them? What were your thoughts?