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Drive Beautifully

Discover the Small Town of Gridley…

Right now, throughout Butte County, 4-H members are exercising their market animals, quilters are putting final stitches in masterpieces, and gardeners are coaxing the growth of soon-to-be prize-winning zucchini and tomatoes. Kitchens are strewn with pots and pans as bakers test recipes for cakes and breads, and summer berries are being transformed into sticky, sweet jams.

Next month, the animals will be loaded into stock trailers. The carefully folded quilts, breads perfected through trial and error, pristine veggies picked at the peak of ripeness and sparkling jams will be carefully packed for transport. All will take the best roads to Gridley, where they will be unpacked for competition and display at the Butte County Fair.

The small town of Gridley has been hosting the fair for more than 75 years and has the history, architecture and Americana feel to warrant a visit year-round. Historical buildings hold the stories of this community founded by a sheep rancher and incorporated in 1905 and create such an atmosphere that the Butte County tourism organization dubs it a Gateway to Main Street. The Gridley Museum, housed in a brick building built for the Gridley State Bank in 1909, holds those stories for posterity to make sure people know the origins of this farming town.

“It’s like a little forgotten area off Highway 99 that’s easy to find,” says Lynne Spencer, president of the Gridley Chamber of Commerce. Spencer has lived in Gridley and nearby Biggs most of her life and is a champion of her hometowns, organizing annual festivities such as the Red Suspenders Days in May to support the Volunteer Fire Department and the 4th of July celebration in Biggs, as well as a Winter Wonderland Festival. “We support each other,” she says of the community members of each town. “This area warms my heart.”

“It’s like a little forgotten area off Highway 99 that’s easy to find,” says Lynne Spencer, president of the Gridley Chamber of Commerce. Spencer has lived in Gridley and nearby Biggs most of her life and is a champion of her hometowns, organizing annual festivities such as the Red Suspenders Days in May to support the Volunteer Fire Department and the 4th of July celebration in Biggs, as well as a Winter Wonderland Festival. “We support each other,” she says of the community members of each town. “This area warms my heart.”

The historical downtown of Gridley still holds onto commerce for the town, including a pizza parlor with ice cream, clothing store, auto detailing shop and more. “There are a lot of beauty shops,” Spencer says with a laugh. “We should have the best hair in Butte County.”

If a town can be judged on its Mexican restaurants, Gridley would take home a blue ribbon with Casa Lupe, a family-owned gathering spot since 1971 known for its fresh made salsas and tamales made daily as well as large plates of authentic Mexican dishes. A market next door hosts a bakery and deli for take-out as well a wide variety of fruits, veggies and staples from Mexico.

On Tuesday nights, the community gathers at Rotary Park for a farmers market and live music. When the temperatures soar, people head over to the water features at Manuel Vierra Park. Skateboard Park keeps young people active and entertained while the new gazebo at Nick Daddow Park often hosts free concerts.

The Gridley environs are known for agricultural production and wildlife viewing and are a draw for bird watchers. “A lot of people like to come to Gridley to view the birds at Gray Lodge,” says Spencer. Gray Lodge Wildlife Area is 9,100 acres of land in the Pacific Flyway managed by California Fish and Wildlife that provides water, food and shelter to more than 300 species of resident and migrant birds and mammals. Most who stay the night for early morning bird sightings stay in Gridley hotels.

While Gridley is a town that honors its past, it’s also adapted to the times, opening the Butte Wildfires Distribution Center two years ago to serve all Butte County fire survivors. It started as a relief effort for the Camp Fire, but has grown to support all fires since then. Survivors can find essentials such as food, clothing and household items to get back on their feet after losing a home.

“I’m very proud of my community,” adds Spencer. “I’m proud of our town. If there’s anyone in need, the community always comes together. The community members make it special to me.” •

About Melissa Mendonca

Melissa is a graduate of San Francisco State and Tulane universities. She’s a lover of airports and road trips and believes in mentoring and service to create communities everyone can enjoy. Her favorite words are rebar, wanderlust and change.

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