Canal company marks century of service

10/02/2013 12:00 AM

09/30/2013 12:05 AM

The San Luis Canal Co., encompassing about 45,000 acres of fertile farmland between the cities of Dos Palos and Los Banos, recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary.

The company, whose lands were part of the vast cattle empire of Henry Miller and Charles Lux, has been able to carry on the rich tradition of California agriculture by its continued management and protection of its most vital resource – water.

As a private mutual water company formed under California law, the company took advantage of its diverse history to celebrate its birthday with its 300 or so shareholders and invited guests at the O’Banion Building at the Los Banos Fairgrounds on Sept. 14.

“I think the canal company made its shareholders proud,” said Chase Hurley, general manager. “By providing the unique dinner celebration in which they were able to show off the multigenerations of local family farms.”

Participants were treated to an outside exhibit featuring a reconstruction of its original diversion dam off of the San Joaquin River known as the Sack Dam. The outside museum also featured original tools of the trade such as a 1920 cement mixer, the original head gate off of the San Joaquin River and various other pieces of equipment that helped lay the foundation for a water conveyance system that has passed the test of time.

“All the guests were overwhelmed and excited about the level of detail that was put in the outside exhibit and formal decorations inside,” he said.

The dinner, catered by the local eatery Espana’s, featured a large rack of beef on a hook upon which each diner was able to carve a steak as he or she walked down the buffet line accented by an original chuck wagon.

The entire building was formally decorated to show off the splendor and history of the company while at the same time remind people where it is headed in the next century.

The night was an opportunity for local landowners, businessmen and friends to get together and reminisce about their past, talk about today’s agricultural conditions and contemplate the future.

The celebration was unique in its décor and list of activities.

The night ended with an 18-minute video: “San Luis Canal Company – The River, The Land and its People.” In an easy to comprehend approach, the video details the history of the canal company by incorporating its shareholders’ willingness to work hard to develop the original landscape into the diverse agricultural region of the Central Valley.

“I believe Miller and Lux would have been very proud of how our local landowners continue to farm in the tradition that was expected of them by their forefathers,” Hurley said.

Copies of the DVD are available at Phoenix Books, 936 Sixth St.

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