Better a year late than never: Oildorado, celebrating an industry besieged, gets underway in Taft

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TAFT, Calif. (KGET) — It’s Oildorado time again in Taft, but this is a special one and not just because they had to wait six years this time instead of the usual five. The oil industry is under siege in California unlike at any time in its past. 

And though tradition, history and plain ol’ silly fun are on the 10-day schedule, a big dose of education about energy reality is too. The message: Unplug the oil industry at your own risk, America, and you’ll discover just how big a part petroleum plays in your world — well beyond fuel for transportation.

Taft Mayor Dave Noerr wants everybody to have fun watching the parades and participating in the wacky contests but he also wants oil industry folks — of which there are many in this dusty little Southern Valley town — to know America’s need for oil will outlive them all, no matter what Sacramento and Washington may say.

“Hydrocarbons and their contributions to everyday quality of life, safety and health, they have not changed,” he said shortly before Oildorado’s ceremonial noon luncheon was to begin. “People’s perceptions, unfortunately, have. But even the people that are mainly critical of the industry count on the benefits of our industry. Every single day. And I believe what we’re got to do now is, we’ve got to inform those people. As we lay out the facts, the argument will present itself. We just have to make it easy to connect the dots.”

 But enough about reality. Taft has some pent-up celebration mojo after last year’s pandemic postponement. Locals agree that the town needs to enjoy music and dancing and goofy contests again, like the whiskerino competition. Usually the contestants start growing beards and mustaches in January that’ll be judged the following October. This year is different.

“In a normal Oildorado year, they shave the beginning of January,” said Oildorado president Shannon Miller. “And it’s whoever has the best mustache or beard in whatever category you’re in by the time October comes. Well, we have a new category this year, which is you’ve been growing their beard since January 2020 and here we are, gonna be in October 2021.”

Taft is rolling out the red carpet for guests — you’d better believe it. You can even drive out for a visit in an electric car. They’ll let you in. Just bring your credit card, locals suggest. Oildorado, going on until Oct. 17, has enough Oildorado paraphernalia to outfit entire extended families. An early start to Christmas shopping? Ideally, say the organizers.

The oil industry isn’t what it was six years ago but they’re still optimistic in Taft that Oildorado has a future — even if not necessarily oil itself.

For more on Oildorado, visit the website: taftoildorado.com.

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