Looking back at 2019 in South Valley

The final year of the 2010s in the South Valley was marked by milestones, farewells and even a world record.

Gavilan College, one of the most entrenched institutions in Santa Clara County, reached 100 years, and kicked off a year of special events that will culminate in the graduation of its 100th class in May 2020.

Gilroy’s performing arts scene suffered a loss in 2019 when Kevin Heath, the executive director of the Gilroy Arts Center, announced his retirement. Fortunately, South Valley Civic Theatre acquired Heath’s Limelight Actors Theater, which was set to end after 10 years.

Rebekah Children’s Services’ Culinary Academy hit a decade this year. That translates to 1,100 young people served, many of whom have found careers in the food world.

In this final issue of the year, South Valley magazine is looking back at five of the top stories from its pages in 2019.

Theater leader leaves Gilroy; company acquired

Kevin Heath’s departure from the Gilroy Arts Alliance almost spelled the end for Limelight Actors Theater, the resident theater company for the downtown arts center.

But Morgan Hill-based South Valley Civic Theatre swooped in and acquired Limelight, assuming management on Dec. 1.

Heath announced that he would retire from the center on Nov. 27 and close Limelight Actors Theater, as he and his husband, theater company co-owner Alan Obata, moved from Gilroy to the Sierra Foothills.

For the past nine years, Limelight Actors Theater has staged shows at the Gilroy Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St. 

South Valley Civic Theatre plans to retain the features of Limelight, such as the small cabaret theater experience and the option for attendees to bring their own dinner.

The theater company, which wrapped up its 50th season in 2019, has its roots in Gilroy. In 1969, Gilroy Community Theatre was established by a group of residents and volunteers. It was not until 1985 that it changed its name to South Valley Civic Theatre and expanded performance locations beyond Gilroy to include Hollister and Morgan Hill.

Educational milestone

Speak to anybody in southern Santa Clara County, and chances are they either attended Gavilan College or know someone who has.

2019 was a chance for alumni and former teachers and staff to get together and reminisce about their time at the college, which turned 100 this year. 

The college’s sold-out gala in early September kicked off a year of special events that will lead up to its 100th graduating class in May 2020.

Guests at the gala took a nostalgic stroll down Sycamore Lane, where stations were themed to each decade featuring food, wine, music, students in period costume and more.

Success through food

For a decade, Rebekah Children’s Services has been helping young people find a passion, and careers, in food.

Rebekah’s Culinary Academy marked 10 years with its annual fundraiser, Pop-a-Cork, in May. 

The Culinary Academy has helped 1,100 youth ages 15-25, find a career and the life skills needed to become successful. It trains young people, many of whom come from a background of abuse, homelessness or other traumatic experiences, in the ins and outs of cooking and running a professional kitchen.

The academy’s bakery Kneaded can be seen catering a variety of events in the South Valley, with students who completed the program running the operation.

Ostrich farm opens

Here’s a funky story that doesn’t happen often.

The Gilroy Ostrich Farm, the only such farm dedicated to the world’s largest birds on the Central Coast, celebrated its grand opening in August.

Located on Pacheco Pass Highway near the intersection of San Felipe Road, 20 ostriches have a home on 114-acre property. The farm has proven a hit with families, as children marvel at the 9-foot-tall birds that can weigh more than 300 pounds.

Owner Dan Nelson is embarking on a new venture with the ostrich farm. It’s also unique to the area, as the closest farms are located in Los Angeles and Solvang.

“I love animals,” he said in an earlier interview. “I wanted to open something to the public that would be educational not only for kids, but for adults as well. There’s nothing like this in South County.”

Record-setting run

Ann Marie Cody set another Guinness World Record, this time at Morgan Hill’s Wildflower Run in March.

Pushing a triple stroller with her three co-pilots (two boys and a girl), Cody set a new world record by completing the 6.2-mile course in 47 minutes, 10 seconds, earning the “Fastest 10K Pushing a Triple Pram (Female)” title.

Cody, who lives in Sunnyvale, already holds the record for best time in a marathon and a half-marathon pushing the triple stroller.

The run returns March 29, 2020. Who knows what record Cody will be running for next?

Erik Chalhoub
About Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub is the editor of South Valley. Prior to joining the magazine in March 2019, he worked for seven years at The Pajaronian in Watsonville, the last four as managing editor.