By M. Bilal Lakhani, Lillian Rizzo and Saskia de Rothschild
We are not alone.
Roughly 2,887 miles from Borough Hall, there is another Kings County. It is 14 times the size of ours, it has three state prisons and by our calculation there are twice as many cows as there are people.
Welcome to Kings County, California.
It may share the same name as our Kings County, or as we call it, Brooklyn, but the counties have little in common.
For one thing, California Kings County is mostly rural.
“Kings County along with Fresno County is one of the breadbaskets of the world,” said Monsignor John Coelho-Harguindeguy, who is of St. Peters Catholic Church in Lemoore, an agricultural city in Kings County. Lemoore is one of nine towns that dot the other county of 154,434 people.
Farming is the primary source of business, “but this is changing due to the drought in California,” said Coelho-Harguindeguy. Apart from agriculture, major employers in the other Kings County include the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which operates three state prisons in the County, and the NAS Lemoore, the U.S. Navy’s largest master jet base. (Here, there is an echo. Brooklyn used to be the home of a lot of Naval activity. In 1801, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was founded and it was once known as a major shipbuilding facility in America.)
Unlike Brooklyn, Kings County California is all about the small town feel. “I can’t walk down the street without running into someone I know,” said Mike Bertaina, Director of the Kings County Chamber of Commerce. “It takes me 15 minutes to walk two blocks.” Bertaina claims to know 52,000 of the 54,000 people in his hometown Hanford.
“We’re a very laid back community,” says John Murray, ex-mayor of Lemoore. “The largest mozzarella cheese factory in the country is located here,” continues Murray. “And we produce 10,000 pounds of milk a day in my city alone.”
Politically, unlike Brooklyn, the other Kings County trends toward the GOP. “We’re very excited about Sarah Palin coming to speak at our Junior College,” says Murray. In the 2008 presidential elections, 57 percent of voters in Kings County cast ballots for senator John McCain.
Tyler Braaten, a 19- year-old freshman at West Hills College, spends most of his days hanging out with friends, swimming around in nearby rivers and arranging bonfires. But in 2008, he decided to get involved in politics and joined the Young Republicans of Kings County Organization. “One day, I would love to run for office for my county,” says Braaten, who plans to go to law school.
“If you come over, you’ll be treated like it’s your home town.” That’s a powerful invitation, Brooklyn; Fancy a 2,887-mile road trip?
And here are a few fun facts about your unofficial Sister County….
Fancy a date at the drive-in?
For $8 a car, you can enjoy the county’s unique drive-in.
Ice Cream Central
THE “SUPER OVERSIZE SUNDAE” attracts people from as far as Fresno and Bakersfield. The famous “S.O.S” is the highlight of the 85-year-old Superior Dairy ice cream parlor and it takes at least four people to finish a single one.
Jealous of the Kings County Posse, Brooklyn?
Over in the sister county, parades are an all-year tradition. The Posse, a horse-mounted cowboy collective that represent the county led by their sheriff, are often at the front. To be part of it, you however need your own Palomino horse and silver-mounted saddle.
On Sunday, Kings County is getting ready to run its first ever half marathon. It’s
13.1 Miles and 400 people are expected to be a part of it. The organizer, Ramon
Valdez, is an officer at the Naval base and a runner himself. “ I’m new in town and I wanted to promote an active lifestyle in the area,” he explains.
Cheese is a big deal for both Kings Counties. While Kings in California is home to the factory, Brooklyn is home to many Italian Americans sprinkling it on their chicken parmigiana.
Kings County by the numbers…
To live in the other Kings County means spending half as much time getting to work, seeing few black people, almost no Dominicans, and probably living in a house that costs less.