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SSJID pulls out all the stops for centennial celebration
Maria Gully gets ready to serve up the SSJID centennial cake. - photo by HIME ROMERO
The South San Joaquin Irrigation District is pulling out all the stops to mark a major historical milestone.

That red-letter day, after all, is a milestone that happens just once – the district’s centennial birthday.

Some parts of this historic celebration have been launched months back, leading up to the official celebration on Wednesday, May 27, at the SSJID main office at 11011 East Highway 120 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Thursday evening, a major stop in the celebration preparations was pulled when SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields gave an overview of the district’s history and some of its highlights to a full room at the Manteca Historical Museum. He was the featured guest speaker in the Historical Society’s monthly program which is open to the public.

“Very informative” was the audience’s consensus about Shield’s thorough presentation which was complemented by the museum’s SSJID photographic display that served as the appropriate backdrop for the evening program.

“The district has accomplished a really great thing here. You, guys, who have been here and supported the district really should be the one to get the cake,” said Shields, referring to the SSJID birthday cake that was served with punch to all the guests at the conclusion of the program.

While Shields touched on all the major aspects of the district’s history, its water rights, dams and reservoirs, he especially sang praises – even waxed poetic – for the Goodwin Dam, how it was built and the structure’s overall integrity.

“It’s a phenomenal facility. To me, it’s one of the finest pieces of public art in Northern California,” he said of the dam which was completed in 1913, one year earlier than the three years it was originally estimated to be built.

“It’s a fabulous public architecture,” Shields added, and described the “movement of the water” spilling over the gigantic concrete structure as “just beautiful, …like Niagara falls.’

“It’s extraordinarily functional but so aesthetically amazing,” he said.

Members of the historical society could have a firsthand look and experience of what Shields was talking about. Shields offered to organize a tour of the Goodwin Dam for the historical society members with the district providing the transportation.

During his presentation, Shields also gave away DVD copies of the making of Goodwin Dam and the history of SSJID, commemorative refrigerator magnets, plus a complimentary copy of a commemorative recipe book put together by the district employees and members of the district. The recipe book is available at the district office at $6 a copy. The commemorative refrigerator magnet features the winning art work in a poster contest sponsored by the district. The winner was Payden Schmelebeck, a fourth grader in Manteca.

Centennial celebrations at the SSJID main office on Wednesday, May 27, will include tours of the facilities, historical and fleet displays, a scavenger hunt with prizes and gifts for guests, and appetizers showcasing the best restaurants of Manteca, Ripon and Escalon, areas that are served by the district.

Additional recommended readings about the history of SSJID include an article in the May 11 edition of the Manteca Bulletin (and May 13 in the Ripon Bulletin) and in the book, “Manteca: Selected Chapters from its history” authored by Manteca Historical Society Museum director Evelyn Prouty.