Kingsburg Centennial Committee
By John Wright
Former Mayor of Kingsburg
Presented to the Kingsburg City Council
As we start a new year I am reminded that at the end of the month is the annual Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce Dinner and Awards Banquet. If you look back at the history of Kingsburg, you find that the Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce has been a strong participant in the life of the community. Forming as the Board of Trade in 1905, four years before the city was incorporated this institution has remained a community partner in both fat and lean years. I will briefly outline just some of the events from the Chambers past this evening.
On January 19, 1905, a group of local citizens gathered in the Fraternal Hall and adopted a resolution that read: “Resolved, That we now organize a Board of Trade to operate along such lines as shall be for the best interest of all concerned and to perform such functions as are usually provided by organizations of this character, the rules and by-laws of which are to be provided as the membership shall direct.” With dues set at $1.00 per quarter, the “Chamber” was born.
The Board of Trade operated off and on until the Chamber of Commerce was organized on April 1, 1909 at the offices of the Kingsburg Bank. Some of the goals for the Chamber were to promote the need for “a packing house, a cannery, a brick hotel, a park, and a large pavilion.”
At a meeting on April 27, 1911 the name of this organization was changed back to the Board of Trade. The goals of this reorganized group was “to encourage enterprise, promote trade and industry, to procure manufactories, to assist in securing safe and economical but progressive city, county and state government, to exert constant influence for better highways, the improvement and beautifying our city and our homes and the uniting of our people for the promotion of material interests of Kingsburg and vicinity.”
This Board of Trade was pronounced “dead” on January 3, 1912 and a new Board of Trade was organized to take its place. On March 18, 1913 the first annual banquet was held at the Hotel Stone with 90 present for the event. With John Forney as toastmaster, a grand time was had by all.
In 1914 one of the projects was to establish lighting on Draper Street with 24 electroliers (hanging street lights). They established the slogan of “Keep Kingsburg Koming” for the year.
In 1915 a community wide Christmas program was held on December 23rd with around 5,000 persons attending with a large (60 feet tall) tree placed on the vacant corner of Draper and Marion. The Board of Trade continued until 1917 when the institution was reorganized as the Chamber of Commerce.
With World War I on everyone’s mind, the Chamber of Commerce took a back seat and was inactive until 1922. February 12, 1922 was designated as Civic Sunday, 345 members singed up to be Chamber members with $6,000 being raised during the event.
In 1926 the Chamber focused on goals that included summer band concerts, printed literature for distribution, sponsoring clean-up week, working for a creamery for the community and building a wading pool in the park.
In 1928 the adopted slogan was “The Home Of The Peach.” This is the same slogan that the City of Selma used before the current “Raisin Capital of the World” (no I will not comment)
The next major promotion of the Chamber was to market Kingsburg as the “Gateway to Yosemite National Park and the High Sierras.” This project was started in June of 1930 and lasted for seven years when focus was placed on Kingsburg as the “Gateway to Huntington Lake.”
In 1932 the first community wide Dollar Days was started as a trade promotion. In 1933 the Kingsburg Bank failed and the Chamber was instrumental in securing the Bank of America to establish a branch in Kingsburg.
In April of 1936, the Chamber offered its building, across the street form the Depot, to the City for use as City Hall. Before this accepted offer, the City offices were located in the Fire Station at the Down Town Park. The City used the Chamber office space until the current City Hall was purchased in 1939.
In 1937 the Chamber launched a community wide sports program including tennis, night basketball, and soccer. The first Watermelon Festival was a hit with around 3,000 people consuming 6,000 pounds of free watermelon.
In 1940 the Chamber helped sponsored the High School Viking band to a music contest in San Francisco. Also, this year street banners and new Christmas lights were purchased, some that are still being used today.
With World War II the Chamber activities again took a back seat to the war effort. After the war the Chamber became active again.
Fast forward to current times, the Chamber has moved from the Southern Pacific Train Depot, to the Welcome Center (current location of the Home School Center), to the current location on Draper Street. In recent years the Chamber has had many more ups than downs.
In this brief presentation it is easy to see that the Chamber of Commerce has been, and continues to be, an important part Kingsburg. In spite of the checkered past of the Chamber, it has done more for the community than any other one organization. It was the first to sponsor the community Christmas tree and kids party, the Kingsburg display at the Fair, Fourth of July fireworks, Halloween parade, Easter egg hunt, Melon Festival, Swedish Festival, Car Show, Crayfish Festival, street decorations, and (my favorite) band concerts in the park (and others).
Many of these activities have been assumed by other organizations in the community after being started and receiving their impetus by the Chamber. I am proud to be a part of a community that has a Chamber of Commerce that is willing to dream and take chances for the benefit of the community. I am excited to see what they will dream up next. I know we will be a better community because of their dreams and actions.
John A. Wright