Year In Review
Pictures are worth a thousand words, and 2023 had plenty of them: (clockwise from top left) City of King staff and volunteers pump water out of the street Jan. 9 to help prevent homes from flooding on Villa Drive; Miss King City Stampede 2023 Cristina Balestreri rides into the arena during the professional rodeo event Feb. 24 at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds; a procession of young Catrinas participate in King City’s Dia de los Muertos celebration on Oct. 29; and youth hang upside down on the Fire Ball ride May 19 at the 79th annual Salinas Valley Fair. (File Photos)

As a new year begins, the staff at King City Rustler compiled a few of the top stories that defined the South Monterey County community over the past year. Here’s a brief look at the Year In Review for 2023:


Storms cause havoc

Severe winter storms resulted in road closures, evacuation orders and water rescues in early January due to major flooding throughout the Salinas Valley region. The latest storm, an atmospheric river, followed a “bomb cyclone” that lashed coastal California with heavy rains and hurricane-force winds. Estimated damages exceeded the billion-dollar threshold statewide. Another series of devastating storms also hit the area in March.

Farm Day returns

Hundreds of third-graders roamed the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City to learn all about agriculture during the annual South County Farm Day on Jan. 26. Students from Gonzales, Soledad, Greenfield and King City schools attended the free educational enrichment program taught by members of the local agricultural industry. Presented by the nonprofit Monterey County Agricultural Education, Farm Day gives an opportunity for youth to become familiar with food production and farming.


Mee CEO earns recognition

Mee Memorial Healthcare System CEO Rena Salamacha was included on a national list of 80 influential rural hospital leaders. Compiled by Becker’s Hospital Review, the list includes “executives who put their heart and soul into ensuring their more remote communities have access to the best healthcare services possible.” Salamacha was the only leader from California listed.

Councilmember passes away

King City Councilmember Darlene “Dee” Acosta, who submitted a letter of resignation from the council effective Feb. 14, died that evening after a brief illness. Acosta, 73, was first elected to the King City Council in 2014. Over the past nine years while on the council, she was particularly passionate about supporting programs and services to help youth. She also worked as the South County Prevention Program Manager at Sun Street Centers, an addiction treatment center, for more than 13 years until her passing.

Property in San Ardo remains flooded from recent storms on March 11, with the unincorporated community south of King City under evacuation orders. (File Photo)

MARCH 2023

Art project promotes healing

Salinas Valley Health and Healing Together hosted the Monterey County dedication of the Rose River Memorial art project to recognize the impact of Covid-19 and promote community healing. The renowned Los Angeles artist who co-founded the national effort was one of the ceremony speakers. The March 6 dedication ceremony showcased a wall of more than 2,500 handmade red felt roses created by community members, including hundreds from residents in Soledad and Greenfield, and adhered to nets donated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Fundraiser supports resident

Hundreds of South Monterey County residents gathered to raise thousands of dollars for a good cause while showing what it means to support one of their own. With a turnout of nearly 700 guests, a fundraiser was held March 23 inside the Orradre Building at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City to benefit Rita McCormack Tavernetti, who had primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), a chronic liver disease, and was in need of a liver transplant. Family, friends, neighbors and community members came together to show their outpouring of support and love for Rita. In total, more than $150,000 was raised that night to contribute toward Rita and her future living donor’s hospital and recovery expenses.

Science Workshop receives acclaim

Greenfield Community Science Workshop was honored with the “Excellence in Education” award by the Monterey County School Boards Association on March 30. The Workshop was selected from a list of 27 nominees, established by Monterey County school districts, to be this year’s “Excellence in Education” award winner for having a transformative and significant impact on students’ lives.

APRIL 2023

KCHS senior represents Fair

King City High School senior Kyla Lambert was named Miss Salinas Valley Fair 2023. Over the year, Lambert represented the fair, making appearances at special events and inviting guests to attend the 79th annual Salinas Valley Fair on May 18-21 at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City. She made her first official appearance during the Fair Kick-Off on April 15 at the fairgrounds.

Produce plant reopens

One year after a devastating fire destroyed Taylor Farms’ food processing plant in Salinas, the agriculture company reopened the facility in time for the start of the Salinas Valley planting season. Following months of construction, the foodservice location on Abbott Street was in full operation at the end of April. The Salinas facility is particularly meaningful to the family-owned company because it is where the business began in California nearly 30 years ago and is the foundation that provided the momentum for the rest of the country.

Miss Salinas Valley Fair 2023 Kyla Lambert stands with Cienna Domingos, holding a copy of this year’s Salinas Valley Fair poster, at the Fair Kick-Off auction on April 15. (File Photo)

MAY 2023

Digital education expands

Loaves, Fishes & Computers received a $25,000 Spectrum Digital Education grant for its digital literacy initiatives and refurbished computer program. LFC provides digital skills classes and workshops, and trains volunteers to refurbish donated computer equipment in order to provide low-cost computer systems to in-need residents. With this funding, LFC expanded its digital fluency and digital inclusion initiatives in the rural areas of South Monterey County.

Storm damage soars

This year’s onslaught of winter storms have cumulatively impacted a total of 20,073 acres and created $600 million of damage to the Monterey County agricultural industry, officials announced. On May 12, the County of Monterey Agricultural Commissioner’s Office released the results of a second survey of flood and storm damage impacting local agriculture in March. This followed the first survey that captured storm impacts from January, which totaled $336 million. The second survey shows damages, current loss estimates and projected future losses totaling an additional $264 million from the March storms.

Fair brings ‘Barnyard May-Ham’

Once again the Salinas Valley Fair drew thousands of people to King City for a long weekend of family-friendly activities and entertainment, including its first-ever huge concert headlined by multiplatinum country singer Dylan Scott. The 79th annual celebration featured the theme, “Barnyard May-Ham,” and brought all the classic fun that fairgoers have come to expect over its four days of amusement, May 18-21, at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City.

Leaders dedicate Post Office

State and local leaders came together May 26 to dedicate the King City Post Office in honor of Rudolph “Rudy” Banuelos, a former postmaster and World War II veteran. Banuelos started as a letter carrier and then worked his way up to be named postmaster chief of King City, serving in that role for nine years. A plaque honoring Banuelos, who died in 2021, was installed at the Post Office building at 123 S. Third St.

JUNE 2023

Streetscape project begins

King City Council awarded the bid for implementing the Downtown Streetscape Project to Monterey Peninsula Engineering, which started construction on June 12. The project will expand the corner bulbouts, redesign the medians and add decorative crosswalks on Broadway Street, from Second to Russ streets. Improvements include new landscaping, benches, planters, trees, public art, trash and recycling receptacles and bike racks.

Hartnell receives massive funding

Hartnell College was awarded a $9.5 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s inaugural NEXTGEN program, which was announced on June 20. The grant will fund the project titled, “Hartnell College Learning to Lead: Career Pathways Supporting US Leafy Green Production,” which aims to advance equity in high-skill agriculture occupations for educationally disadvantaged, low-income and Latinx residents. The college and its partners will focus on building and sustaining the future food and agricultural sciences workforce. 

Sun Street completes youth center

Sun Street Centers celebrated the completion of its Darlene Acosta Youth Center in King City with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house. The June 28 celebration marked the final construction phase of Sun Street’s King City campus at 641 Broadway St., providing the community of South Monterey County with addiction treatment, recovery, education and prevention services for men, women and now, youth.

Sun Street Centers staff and guests cut the ribbon to celebrate the completion of its new Darlene Acosta Youth Center at 641 Broadway St. in King City on June 28. (File Photo)

JULY 2023

Leaders discuss justice center

Rep. Jimmy Panetta hosted a roundtable with local leaders July 6 to highlight recent federal support for Monterey County’s Family Justice Center initiative. Family Justice Centers collocate legal and other support services in one location to ensure they are accessible for victims and families. Panetta secured $275,000 in federal support for staffing and infrastructure for the County’s first planned center in King City.

Rodeo attendance rises

Ticket sales for the 113th California Rodeo Salinas’ four performances, July 20-23, totaled 61,771 — up 7.5% from 2022. The 2023 Rodeo’s first performance drew 12,285 people to the Salinas Sports Complex — up 16% over Thursday ticket sales in 2022. The final performance Sunday entertained 16,846 fans at the Complex, where attendance was up 8% over the same performance last year.


Crop report shows upturn

Monterey County’s crop production increased in value last year by more than $500 million despite decreases in both wine grapes and cannabis, according to the county’s 2022 Crop and Livestock Report. Overall gross crop and livestock production was over $4.6 billion in 2022, up from about $4.1 billion in 2021, a 13% increase. That includes over $1 billion in organic crop production.

Alliance on Aging develops action plan

Alliance on Aging received a $200,000 grant from the California Department of Aging to develop a local age-friendly action plan for Monterey County, focusing on the Salinas Valley. The 21-month-long grant — one of 15 awarded across the state — enables AOA, in collaboration with other agencies and organizations, to create a consumer driven blueprint for an action plan addressing the social, medical, transportation, housing and financial needs unique to the Hispanic senior and disabled populations living in the agricultural areas of Monterey County. The plan also includes families and other caregivers in the planning process and focuses on communities made up of people with lower incomes.


Clinic earns award of excellence

Central California Alliance for Health honored Mee Memorial Healthcare System’s King City Clinic with the prestigious HEDIS Award of Excellence. This award was made in recognition of the extraordinary commitment of the clinic team in providing excellent health care delivery in alignment with quality performance standards established by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and the Department of Health Care Services.

Board honors Bracero workers

Monterey County Supervisors Luis Alejo and Chris Lopez conducted a special honoring of living Bracero workers who reside in Monterey County at the Sept. 12 Board of Supervisors meeting in Salinas as part of the first-ever “Bracero History Recognition Week” in Monterey County. The Bracero Program operated between 1942 and 1964 that brought millions of Mexican workers to provide labor in the agriculture and railroad industries, many of whom came to the Salinas and Pajaro valleys. Today, those original Bracero workers laid the foundation for thousands of Latino families in Monterey County.

King City High School Mustang Marching Band performs Oct. 6 during the annual Homecoming Parade. The young musicians were marching — and not riding on a flatbed — for the first time in six years. They also marched in the King City Chamber’s Annual Lighted Christmas Parade in December. (File Photo)


Senator secures funding

Sen. Anna Caballero stopped by King City on Oct. 9 to present a check for $400,000 in state funding to the City of King for improvements to park recreation facilities and to help dedicate the City’s new Quint fire truck with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony. Caballero successfully secured a total of $1.8 million to fund essential community projects in the rural portion of the Salinas Valley. In addition to King City, Greenfield received $1 million for radio transmission and reception upgrades and Soledad was awarded $400,000 for improvements and maintenance at the Soledad-Mission Recreation District. 

Artist installs tree sculpture

Local artist Max Randolph installed a custom 12-foot-tall sculpture of a great oak tree in the historic courtyard of Mission San Antonio de Padua in Jolon. The Mission commissioned Randolph, who runs the art studio Max Randolph Studios in Paso Robles, to build the sculpture in honor of the many donors who donated to support its recent retrofit. Randolph worked closely with the Mission to design a sculpture that would commemorate the donors and the history of the Mission. He began the construction of the Iron Oak sculpture in December 2022 and completed it in October 2023.

Max Randolph installs a custom 12-foot-tall sculpture of an oak tree in the historic courtyard of Mission San Antonio de Padua in Jolon in October. (File Photo)


Donations support families

To support struggling families with Thanksgiving meals and essential services, California Water Service partnered with local legislators and charitable organizations in King City and Salinas on Nov. 9 for the utility’s annual Operation Gobble distribution. Cal Water donated $10,500 and an additional $8,500 in Butterball turkey gift certificates to organizations helping those in need in the Salinas Valley area.

Grant enhances water tests, monitoring

California Department of Water Resources awarded more than $10 million in funding to the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program to support implementation of SVBGSA’s state-mandated groundwater sustainability plans in four subbasins in the region. The grant will fund various regulatory activities, such as groundwater data collection, groundwater model enhancement and community engagement and outreach within four of the six subbasins the SVBGSA manages.


Pinnacles celebrates 10th anniversary

A public celebration took place Dec. 9 at the Soledad Historical Society for the 10th anniversary of the Pinnacles becoming a national park and the 20 years of the Condor Recovery Program. The Pinnacles was established as a national monument in 1908 and became a national park in 2013. California condors are the largest land birds in North America with wingspans that can reach 9.5 feet and can weigh as much as 20 pounds. In 2003, the Pinnacles joined the recovery program and released two captive-bred birds on Dec. 20 that year.

Operation Santa brings joy

Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez and Cal Water once again teamed up with Fort Hunter Liggett to present Operation Santa for the third consecutive year. With support from other community organizations, along with more than 100 volunteers, the heartwarming event took place Dec. 14 at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City. Nearly 500 families were served and 1,500 toys were distributed to children, all of whom were pre-selected based on financial need.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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