Home to Sun-Maid raisins, Swedish pancakes, and Dala horses galore, Kingsburg is California’s Swedish Village. Founded by Swedish immigrants, Kingsburg keeps its cultural charm with water towers shaped like coffee pots, a Swedish festival in May, and a respect for history.
A trip to Kingsburg is full of quirky adventures; it’s home to the world’s largest raisin box, after all. However, to really get to know the town and its history, stop by the Kingsburg Historical Park on Fridays for a tour.
Remembering Local Heroes
The Historical Park runs both docent-guided and self-guided tours on Fridays from 1-4 p.m. The grounds are full of trees and tempting picnic areas, and there’s more antique tractors than I could count.
The docents are well-informed and full of interesting stories, but even a self-guided tour is interesting. Signs dot the area with photos and tidbits about Kingsburg’s famous residents, both past and present. Olympic decathlete Rafer Johnson takes a prominent role in local history: he returns every year to Kingsburg’s Rafer Johnson Junior High to present certificates to the graduates. You can learn about his achievements at the Historical Park; the town is very proud of him.
Sometimes a drive on Highway 99 can trick you into thinking the Valley is full of nothing but fields and gas stations. To avoid slipping into mediocrity, get off the highway and take time to learn about local lore. It’s astounding to me how much Kingsburg has to offer.
Before I took the tour, I wondered how a tiny town could fill two hours of my time. However, traveling from building to building, it’s apparent that there’s a lot going on if you take time to learn. By the way, did you know Kingsburg is home to the inventor of the hula-hoe? If you garden, you know that’s kind of a big deal. If you don’t, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about (that’s what the link is for).
Maybe that’s a bad example, because not everyone tries to murder weeds in their spare time. But trust me, as you tour the buildings you’ll find something interesting. There’s an old church and a Hall of Fame full of treasures from Harry Aslan’s travels throughout the world (who’s Harry Aslan* and why did he travel the world? You’ll have to take the tour to find out). There’s also a general store full of old bottles and cash registers, a blacksmith shop, and a tractor barn.
Peaches Come From A Can
One of the most touching buildings was the Del Monte building. In past years, the Del Monte plant was an economic fixture in Kingsburg, a place where many locals spent bunches of time with peaches. My cousin used to work there in the summers as a teenager and she always came home sticky.
Now the plant is permanently closed, but the Del Monte building holds artifacts from the days of peach canning. Inside, the walls are lined with handprints of the men and women who worked at the plant. There’s even a footprint from some jokester. Combined, the handprints represent thousands of years worth of work, and there’s something poignant about that.
So if you’re interested in local history, or just want to find out what sunk Peter Olson’s ship as he immigrated to America**, check out Kingsburg Historical Park.
Where: 2321 Sierra Street, Kingsburg, CA
When: Tours are Fridays from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. (closed December and January)
How much: $3 for adults and students, 50 cents for kids under 12, and no charge for Society members.
School tours are available for 50 cents a student and a dollar per adult, and group tours for 25 or more persons is $2 per person.
Finally, to schedule a group tour or an event in the Historical Park Hall or grounds, contact Janet Cabral at (559) 869-8320.
*A local grower, packer and shipper of fruits, also the past President of Lions Club International
**A whale rammed the boat
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