After decades of serving as the butt of jokes for many comedians and people throughout California and the rest of the nation, Bakersfield, the Kern County seat has been commended by a newspaper published 3,000 miles away, for its contemporary importance and population growth.

The Washington Post, in a tribute written by Scott Wilson, commended Bakersfield because it has become the second-fastest large metropolitan city in California. The state capital, Sacramento, was No. 1.

While the California population grew by 0.47% last year, the lowest rate in state history, Bakersfield expanded by twice that percentage point.

Kern County’s estimated population is 888,988 with a growth rate of 0.75% in the past year, according to the most recent United States census data.

California with the highest population of any state, has 39.75 million residents. The growth rate was 0.48% in a year. As a country, it would have the world’s largest economy, eighth on the planet and the 36th highest (country) population.

Many of the people arriving and staying in California are young. The median age of Bakersfield residents is just over 30 years old.

Wilson wrote that “The youth migration is infusing this traditionally conservative area with a new ethic — part cowboy, part craft cocktail — that is propelling a revival of downtown districts.”

There has always been a country culture here, marked for decades by the “Bakersfield sound” of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, whose names adorn major avenues and landmarks. How to make the era of “Hee Haw” — the twangy variety show Owens co-hosted for nearly two decades — into something more modern is the challenge for developers.

The Washington Post article reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to close the gap in the state’s north-south rivalry. The now-on-hold high speed rail system may have a 119-mile north-south stretch in about seven years through the San Joaquin Valley.  

“Our community needs to learn to love itself,” Jacquelyn Kitchen, a Bakersfield native and proud millennial who at age 35 was just named Bakersfield’s assistant city manager said.

The median home price in Bakersfield is $237,000. In San Francisco, it’s $1.2 million.

The contemporary goal is to broaden an economy still largely reliant on the volatile agriculture and oil industries.

Three hotels are being built and three more are in the planning stage.

Bitwise, a Fresno-based technology hub, announced plans to open a new operation in Bakersfield.

More breweries are starting up around the city.

The Padre Hotel, a historic landmark with a red neon sign is the primary feature of the evening skyline in a city that has always grown out, never up.

Way to grow, Bakersfield.

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