How often do you drive through Vinton on Highway 70 and pass the white building with the words Cowboy Poetry in large blue letters and the Sierra Valley Grange in smaller letters? The next time you pass by, take a deep breath and pause the busy thoughts going through your mind. You’re passing a bit of living history.
Historically, the Grange in California was started in July 1873. Less than two years later in 1875, the Sierra Valley Grange was started. It was a place the local community could come together to meet and discuss issues that would improve their lives. The Grange exerted a powerful influence, promoting better farming, cattle raising, constructing local highways and, in 1938, was instrumental in bringing the power lines to Sierra Valley.
Four years after its founding, the local community Grange had the largest membership in California. The large comfortable building that stands today was built in 1931. Ted Ramelli, whose ancestors settled in the valley, states that the Grange was essential as a meeting place for residents to deal with the issues of grazing, water, land boundaries and many more. Today the Ag Commission has workshops to continue education and communication.
According to longtime resident Betty Dellera, the Grange was not “all work and no play.” It was also a place to bring friends and families together for fun, dances, box socials and potluck dinners.
The Grange has been important to Sierra Valley for over 137 years for a multitude of reasons. Recently the community came together in the spirit of caring and concern to raise funds for two families struck by disaster. Throughout the year, this building houses benefits for schools, 4-H and the fire department, and provides space for informational presentations and private gatherings.
For the Grange to keep its doors open, a small group of members sits around old wooden tables the first Wednesday of every month. Like the Grange members many years before us, we plan fundraisers not to “raise the barn” but to keep it standing. The words Cowboy Poetry describe our main fundraiser, done in the spirit of our ancestors and to bring to Vinton talented artists to keep the wonderful stories and songs alive. People come from Reno and other areas every year to share a meal, see old friends and listen to heartfelt songs from our western heritage. We don’t, however, see many of our Sierra Valley neighbors.
We would really like to welcome our local friends and families to this venue to see friends, enjoy great homemade food and enjoy a quality performance that will take you back to the way things used to be. Over the years, our unique hall has heard some great performers: Waddie Mitchell, Belinda Gail, Dave Stamey and Brenn Hill to name a few. As the lights are dimmed, there seems to be a mutual connection between the performers and audience. Numerous performers have said how they “feel at home” and especially enjoy sharing their talents in this old Grange Hall.
We hope you will come to the next Cowboy Poetry in October. Also join us in the coming months for other fundraising events. Dinner/dances, with a live band, will be held once a month. Then watch for information about Sunday pancake breakfasts to be put on by the men of the Grange. You can also support the Grange by becoming a member. The white and blue building needs your support. We welcome our local Sierra Valley residents and hope to see you soon.
For more information, visit sierravalleygrangecowboypoetry.weebly.com. Rich Moore, Grange master/event organizer, is available at (831) 801-3719. Pam Olivieri, event organizer, can be reached at (831) 345-9840. The Grange email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and its mailing address is P.O. Box 15, Vinton, CA 96135.
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