The fun just never stops

Vacaville’s reputation as an any-excuse-for-a-party town is well on its way to recovery, despite a few years in the doldrums.

A recent headline in the newspaper said it all: “Ceremony set to celebrate overcrossings.”

The Onion Festival may be gone forever. And Fiesta Days is looking more than a little ragged around the edges, but Vacaville will always have its overcrossings. Now’s the time for each and every one of us to pay tribute to our big, lovable concrete pals who make it possible for us to cross busy Interstate 80 without getting chopped off at the knees by a Chevy Cavalier.

Admittedly, the celebration of overcrossings referred to in the headline applied only to the official dedication of the new and improved Nut Tree and Leisure Town Road overcrossings. These kind of events keep the mayor out of trouble and gives California Highway Patrol officers something to do instead of frittering their time away chasing inoffensive felons and uprighting the county’s daily harvest of overturned cars.

And that’s all well and good, as far as it goes. But celebrating Vacaville’s unique overcrossings could be so much more.

Think about it – when was the last time you actually walked up to your favorite overcrossing and said, “Thank you.”

Chances are, it’s been quite awhile.

Sad, isn’t it? But with a little community spirit, some funny hats and, perhaps, some lively tunes from North Bay Opera, we may soon be able to thank our overcrossings in a big way while becoming the envy of other Bay Area communities that have lots and lots of overcrossings but haven’t yet realized how important they are to a healthy lifestyle.

Yes, I’m talking about the community celebration that’s going to put us back on the map – “Vacaville Overcrossing Days.”

Sometime after the last sprinklings of pixie dust fall to the ground during Merriment on Main and Mayor Len Augustine tosses out the first jalapeno pepper of Fiesta Days, we can set aside a weekend to celebrate our outstanding overcrossings from Pena Adobe to Midway Road.

This will be the one weekend of the year when we can all get together and pause to recognize the importance of overcrossings while enjoying ourselves with exciting games and themed activities – cement-mixer derbies, 5-overpass runs and spirited center divider dachshund races (the CHP is sure to love the latter sport).


And unlike some of the subjects of past community celebrations – the onion industry, for example – our overpasses are not likely to pack up and move to King City. Nor are they likely to be kidnapped by fun-loving but misguided celebrants.

C’mon, Vacaville, now’s the time to celebrate the best overcrossings anywhere. Pick a date, festoon your favorite cement truck with red, white and blue bunting and strap a keg of Budweiser on the back while you’re at it.

And if you don’t know how to drive a cement truck, fake it. Chances are, nobody’ll notice…

Originally published November 19, 2006

The Old Nut Tree Dairy Farm Stadium

‘Save the Nut Tree!”

“Save agriculture!”

“Save the Steelheads!”

These are all familiar themes here in S’lano County, where men are men and women drive tomato harvesters to the bowling alley on Friday nights.

Unfortunately, none of these rallying cries seem to inspire the collective imagination for more than about 15 minutes every six months or so.

Vacaville’s historic Nut Tree site – once the toast of Northern California travelers – has become a haven for itinerant jack rabbits and seasonal tumbleweed infestations. The Solano Steelheads haven’t picked up a baseball bat since August and agricultural land is being gobbled up by rampant residential development and fast food restaurants.

Even dairies are having a tough time finding a home on the bucolic county’s sprawling pasturelands. Cows, it seems, smell funny and sometimes make noises that could lower neighboring property values …

Just about everyone seems to agree this is a sorry state of affairs and there’s plenty of head shaking around the bar at TJ’s Tavern. But nobody’s ready to step up to the plate with the kind of good old American know-how needed to save any of these endangered S’lano County treasures.

There is hope, though, if we move quickly and decisively to preserve the region’s unique heritage.

The trick will be to combine all three of these beloved local institutions into one self-supporting enterprise that will be attractive, fun and educational while paying for itself and providing milkshakes for thirsty children everywhere.

If we play this right, the old Nut Tree will be alive, well and bigger than ever before.

Yes, it’s time to open the doors on The Old Nut Tree Dairy Farm Stadium – bring the cows and the baseball fans will follow!

This is really a very simple concept. Kids like baseball and ice cream and cows. Parents like anything that will keep their kids away from drugs and automatic weapons. And senior citizens like anything that will keep their grandchildren away from hard time in San Quentin State Prison.

Think about it – what could be better than a colorful demonstration dairy (i.e.: ice cream tastings, cow-milking contests and a bully-go-round) at the site of a low-mileage baseball stadium?

The possibilities are endless. Do this right and everybody goes home happy with one of those goofy little milk mustaches.

Admittedly, we might have to change the name of the Solano Steelheads to the Vaca Vacas or the Gorgeous Guernseys, but it’s a small price to pay for saving the Nut Tree, agriculture a nd minor league baseball in one master stroke.

Throw in some comely milkmaid tour guides, book weekend concerts by the Beverly Beer Bellys and offer udder-shaped hot air balloon rides in the springtime and Vacaville will once again be pulling in wide-eyed tourists from Antioch to Arbuckle.

Please, don’t fall all over yourselves thanking me. Seeing the smiles on children’s faces when they stream through the gates of The Old Nut Tree Dairy Farm Stadium will be thanks enough …

Originally published November 17, 2002

This could be our last chance …

A little over three years ago I modestly proposed a surefire way to put Vacaville back on the map and keep it there for all eternity (or at least through the following July).

The plan was simple: Form a limited partnership, amass a war chest of, say, $500, and split the funds to make down payments on both the weed-choked Nut Tree property and the mediocrity-choked Oakland Raiders.

Voila! With a little work and some creative financing we’d have had the Nut Tree Raiders and Vacaville’s future would have been shining brighter than a Suisun City saloon siphon.

Unfortunately, we were only able to raise $3.79 from Vacaville’s notoriously tight-fisted investors and the rest is history. The Nut Tree became the Fish Bowl and the Oakland Raiders marched proudly into the playoffs again. Our window of opportunity slammed shut with great finality.

Bitter but unbowed, I’m willing to give Vacaville one last chance for glory. We may no longer have the world’s biggest Wooz. We may no longer have the world’s biggest Safeway. And we no longer have the world’s largest pumpkin, but we may be able to lay claim to the world’s biggest squid if we move quickly and decisively.

Go ahead, say it: S-Q-U-I-D. It sounds like victory. Now try saying B-I-G S-Q-U-I-D. Sounds even better, doesn’t it?

And Vacaville’s newest symbol of success is just waiting for us to scoop it up and bring it home. All it will take is guts, brains and plenty of salt water.

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

According to the Associated Press, a new, bigger-than-the-average-Toyota species of mystery squid has recently been discovered “in the cold, inky black three miles below the surface of the ocean.”

Hey, this already sounds like fun, but there’s more. It’s goofy-looking, has bizarre, 20-foot spidery legs and a little pin head. Best of all, there are plenty of them down there and they’re not an endangered species.

And, they’re everywhere. These colorful and collectible cephalopods have been sighted in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico and nobody, but nobody, has laid claim to them yet.

All we need to do to capitalize on this truly unique and obviously adaptable ocean life is to dredge a 15,000-foot-deep lagoon adjacent to downtown Vacaville’s celebrated CreekWalk, fill it with fresh seawater and then go squid hunting.

Sure, it’ll cost a little more than the Oakland Raiders would have three or four years ago, but it’ll be well worth the initial outlay.

We’ll have the SquidWalk, Calamari Corners and the Tentacle Festival – a triple crown of deep-sea fun right in our own back yard.

Remember Squidley’s, the fabled Vacaville restaurant that was far, far ahead of its time? It could be back, bigger and better than ever (more cocktail sauce, garcon!).

Don’t let this chance slip by.

Weigh anchor and hoist the mainsail – all we need do is dare to be great …

Originally published February 3, 2002