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Meet Bakersfield, the Small Town that Has the Feeling of a Large City

By S. Mathur

Bakersfield is the ninth largest city in California, located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It's also considered the gateway to the Central Valley, and that may be the reason why its founding is connected to refugees from the Dust Bowl. Visit Bakersfield's Manager David Lyman emphasizes that "Bakersfield was founded on hospitality."

In the mid-19th century, Col. Thomas Baker was known for offering travelers a place to rest in the area he settled. It was called "Baker's Field." In the 1930's, Bakersfield saw a surge in population from those fleeing the Dust Bowl. Their influence led to the creation of the genre of country music known worldwide as the Bakersfield Sound."

Bakersfield has always had a highly diversified economy and its location attracted new residents as the cost of land rose along the coast. It offered plenty of affordable housing as well as commercial and industrial real estate. Its location puts it within reach of 90% of California's population in about four hours or less. Bakersfield is now more than 150 square miles in size and ranks as the 52nd largest city by population in the country, ahead of Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

Lyman feels that even though the Bakersfield urban area offers a great deal to both visitors and residents, "its people are one of its greatest assets, making everyone feel right at home." As a place to do business, consider these items: Bakersfield is No. 2 fastest growing city for millennials, No. 8 fastest growing large city, No. 2 in jobs within easy commute distance, No. 2 hardest working city, No. 1 in highest average revenue for women-owned businesses, and No. 1 for population and wealth growth in California. Oil and agricultural production are a significant part of the economy.

Popular local events celebrate the city's diverse heritage. In 2015, Bakersfield was listed as the the nation's top city for family activities and fun, in an analysis of the nation's 150 most populated cities, says Lyman: "One reason may be that Bakersfield is a city of festivals, where there always seems to be one going on: from mac and cheese to cherry, bluegrass to jazz, Greek to Scottish, Celtic to Basque, and craft beer to wine."

Visitors can hear the famous "Bakersfield Sound" at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, which is regularly nominated as Nightclub of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. The Bakersfield Museum Trail connects four unique and family-friendly museums. There is a thriving arts scene and a First Friday ArtWalk in the downtown area. And there are more Basque restaurants here than anywhere else in the nation.

Despite its size and complexity, says Lyman, "Bakersfield is a large small town. It has all the conveniences and amenities of a large urban area, but new residents always comment on others smiling and saying 'hello.'" With music, festivals, outdoor activities, performs arts and sports, there's plenty to keep residents and visitors happily occupied.

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