Community Efforts with the Ladies of McCloud
By Enjoy Magazine
Getting the Job Done
Story by Megan Peterson
Photos by Taryn Burkleo
THERE'S A HIDDEN historic treasure just nine miles off of Interstate 5, where quaint homes, cozy lodging and nearly year-round events have been steadily transforming the old lumber town of McCloud into one of the most charming communities in Northern California. At the heart of this revitalization are women.
The “ladies of McCloud” have become something of a “thing” in their community. “Since I’ve been here, it’s women getting the job done, but don’t tell my husband that,” says Patricia Ballard-Faulkner, who has chaired the Lumberjack Fiesta for the last nine years. Many downtown businesses are owned and managed by women, and the McCloud Chamber, which helps support numerous events, is also led by women. “The women are the organizers and the men are the support,” explains Claudette Silvera, former president of the McCloud Chamber. “Many of the women here have come from business or working backgrounds and aren’t ready to crochet at home. They want to be out and active in their community.”
It’s a departure from McCloud’s old days, when men working for the McCloud River Lumber Company were the driving force behind the town’s success. Originally built as a company mill town, the mill kept McCloud secure and prosperous. In the old days, when a faucet leaked, the lumber company, perhaps now ironically referred to as “Mother McCloud,” sent someone to fix it. After the original mill and railroad were sold in 1963, McCloud’s homes were sold to residents and the mill became a plywood mill, finally shuttering in 2002. “In the 2000s, a lot of people moved away and schools were declining. But in the last couple years we’ve been seeing growth and the high school is thriving again,” explains Ballard-Faulkner.
Many attribute McCloud’s revitalization to a recent explosion of events. The original event was the Lumberjack Fiesta, a holdover from the mill days that’s now in its 72nd year. But these days, at least one large-scale community event happens every month from March through December, typically closing off historic Main Street to cars so local crafts, foods, music and artwork can be set up on the street. Cindy Rosmann of the McCloud Hotel notes: “The Lumberjack Fiesta paved the way for McCloud to transition from mill town to an economy driven by tourism.” Since then, a varied slate of events has emerged.
“Bluegrass Festival has become our biggest event in terms of funds raised, with the Mushroom Festival a close second,” says Chamber President Lorinda Forrest-Meyer. Many of the funds raised also support local groups and projects, so it’s a prime example of business and community working together. “The Mardi Gras event supports the historic McCloud courthouse restoration project, the new Garden Tour supports our local library and the recent pizza fundraiser supports local athletic programs at McCloud High School,” Forrest-Meyer adds.
For the ladies of McCloud, sustaining the pace means supporting each other. According to Forrest-Meyer, the ingredient to McCloud’s “secret sauce” is that business owners either “chair, collaborate, participate or donate” to local events, knowing that events bring visitors to stay, eat and play. Also, when one person has an idea, everyone else jumps in to prevent burnout, because it’s all volunteer except for the recent addition of a paid office manager. “A lot of people assumed that many of us got paid because they couldn’t imagine the amount of work all these ladies were doing without compensation,” Silvera recalls. Forrest-Meyer chalks up the ladies’ commitment to the fact that McCloud isn’t incorporated, so they don’t receive any guaranteed outside funding support. “We are motivated by a need to survive, and have to work harder and smarter to succeed at what we do.”
Other towns and community organizers in the region have begun to take notice of what’s happening in McCloud. “Recently, we noticed one of our events was duplicated in another local community. Rather than feeling competitive, we embrace the excitement this creates for visitors when they realize there is so much to do in the greater Siskiyou area,” Forrest-Meyer says, adding that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. “This past winter I spent some time in Steamboat Springs and brought back some great ideas. Research and learn from others, then make it your own where you live.”
So far, the ladies of McCloud show no sign of slowing down, and there are even some men picking up steam. Major efforts are under way to turn the former mill site into a hub of economic development being led by McCloud resident Bruce Berlinger. “Right now we have 13 small businesses onsite, and we’re headed in the right direction,” Berlinger says. For residents, the increased activity brings optimism and a sense of pride in what the community has accomplished. “I call McCloud the little train that could,” Silvera says. “We huff and we puff and we get over the mountain.” •