by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
You know what a “gottado” is, don’t you? It’s one of those things that are so much a part of living in an area that—if you admit to someone in conversation that you haven’t been there/done that—that person will look at you with shock and amazement and say, “You haven’t? Man, you gotta do it!”
Other people might call it a “bucket list,” but I call them gottados. I started thinking about gottados in January, when I heard a local newscaster admit that he had lived in the Fresno “market” for two years and had never been to the Chaffee Zoo. I started asking people for things to do and places to go in and near Fresno County. I’ve come up with a Top 20 list, although some entries have multiple parts, which actually expands the list to 30. I know my list is not complete, and you may not agree with all my choices, but look upon it as the beginning of a cultural dialogue.
1. Yosemite National Park
2. Kings Canyon National Park/Sequoia National Park: Grant Grove, Nation’s Christmas Tree
3. Forrestierre Underground Gardens
4. Roeding Park: Chaffee Zoo, Storyland, Rotary Playland
5. Downtown Fresno: Meux Home, City Hall, Fresno Water Tower
6. Kearney Park: Kearney Mansion, Civil War Revisited, Scottish Games
7. Woodward Park: Japanese Gardens, Woodward Shakespeare Festival
8. Fresno Fairgrounds: Big Fresno Fair, Hmong New Year Festival
9. Greek Food Festival
10. Rogue Performance Festival
11. Mariposa Storytelling Festival
12. Hanford: Hanford Renaissance of Kings, Superior Dairy
13. Fresno ArtHop
14. Fresno Art Museum
15. Endangered Cat Haven
16. Coke Hallowell Center and the San Joaquin River Parkway
17. Sanger Depot Museum
18. Erna’s Elderberry House
19. Gold Chain Theater
20. Valley Animal Center or ASPCA
You may not know all of these places and events, and there are four or five that I haven’t tried, myself. There are some things that I didn’t put on the list, but I’d like to (Blessing of the Grapes, Roger Rocka’s Good Company Music Hall, Serbian Food Festival, Reedley Opera House), but Lorie Ham only has so much room in Kings River Life. You can’t have everything…unless you’re Donald Trump (and even he doesn’t have good hair!).
Here’s what I plan to do: I’m going to take the list in order, a few items at a time, until I’ve gone through all 20. I’ll tell you my thoughts on each place and event, and why I think they are cool. Your job is to comment on my comments, tell me why some things don’t belong on the list, and suggest things that should be added. As a bonus, I might explore some of the add-ons, too. Are you ready to begin? I am:
1. Yosemite National Park: Can anything beat that view on 41 as you come out of the tunnel and get that first view of the Yosemite Valley rolled out in front of you? Of course, I usually take the 140 entrance from Mariposa along the Merced River, because I don’t like driving the switchbacks going down from the scenic point, but that view…you gotta do it at least once. There is so much to Yosemite: waterfalls, Half Dome, trails, El Capitan, meadows, the museum and visitors’ center, ice skating, the Ahwanee Hotel, and thinking “Ansel Adams saw that, too.”
2. Kings Canyon National Park/Sequoia National Park: Grant Grove, Nation’s Christmas Tree—just stand there and look at the trees. You don’t need to do anything else. Stand. Look. Everything else is gravy…and oh! What gravy! These Sequoia trees are to other trees you have known the way NBA players are related to the rest of us mere humans. One of my favorite spots is the Big Stump area just inside the park entrance on 180. Walk down into the basin and see the history of the logging industry written in the stumps and redwood sawdust it left behind.
In December the General Grant Tree is celebrated as the Nation’s Christmas Tree with the Trek to the Tree.
3. Forestiere Underground Gardens: See what a man with a pick and a shovel and a lot of time on his hands can do. I first toured the tunnel complex in 1961, when you could buy memorabilia promoting the creator of the labyrinth as “The Human Mole.” Some people will do anything to get out of the San Joaquin Valley’s summer heat, and Italian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere dug a mile or more of tunnels, some as deep as 25 feet below the surface through hardpan rock, in 40 years to build his home, gardens, fish pond, and a restaurant. This is where I take people that I want to impress with the uniqueness of Fresno, but not my 7’3” brother…any more.
That’s the beginning of our gottado list. Stick with me as we explore the unique experiences of the San Joaquin Valley area—gotta do it.