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Spend a historical day at Chico’s Bidwell Park and Yo-Yo museum

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Posted: Friday, August 17, 2012 7:26 am

Who: Lap and Cecilia Wong, Betty and Sharon Lin of Lodi, Lilian Tam of Alameda, Anna Wong of Scarborough.

The trip: Chico Bidwell Park area and Yo-Yo Museum.

Highlights: Honor the past, and head over to the third largest municipal park in California — Chico Bidwell Park.

Flash back in time: John Bidwell was born Aug. 5, 1819 in New York. He struck it rich by finding a substantial amount of gold in the Feather River near Oroville in the spring of 1848. He purchased more than 26,000 acres of land and started his agricultural empire in 1849. The town of Chico was laid out by him in 1860.

In 1863, Henry Cleaverland, a prominent San Francisco-based architect, was selected to design the Bidwell Mansion.

John traveled to Washington, D.C. to serve a term in the House of Representatives in 1865. While there, he met a Presbyterian activist named Annie Ellicott Kennedy. The Bidwells were married April 16, 1868 with President Andrew Johnson in attendance.

The three-story, 26-room Bidwell Mansion, at 525 Esplanade, was finished in May 1868.

Bidwell earned his highest award at the International Exposition in Paris, France, where he received the gold medal for the “finest wheat” in the world in 1878.

Bidwell donated his cherry orchard on Big Chico Creek to Chico Normal School in 1887  (California State University, Chico).

John Bidwell died at age of 80.  On July 10, 1905 Annie Bidwell gave 2,400 acres of Creek-side property to the city of Chico, later named Bidwell Park.  Since that time, the city has purchased additional 1,200 acres of land making the Bidwell Park stretching nearly 11 miles in length into two distinct sections — lower and upper encompassing multitude of trails for jogging, hiking and biking. Set a magic spell with other features — Bidwell Golf Course, Sycamore Pool, Chico Creek Canyon, rock formations, various streams, picnic areas, playing fields and lakes are most diverse and pristine park in America. Spring brings a colorful explosion of wildflowers for everyone to cherish.    

In 1918, Annie Bidwell died, leaving the mansion to the Presbyterian Church. Bidwell Mansion became a museum and State Historic Park in 1964. Take a guided-tour of the pink-tinted brick Bidwell Mansion, styled in the manner of Italian country villa, which has modern plumbing, gas lighting and water systems. The home is furnished with Victorian pieces, entry hall, grand staircase and a full-length portrait of John Bidwell.

The Chico Creek Nature Center, 1968 E. Eighth St., enhances the quality of all life by promoting, understanding, appreciation and knowledge of our environment. Meet some local non-releasable injured wildlife — birds, snakes, squirrels and tortoises. Behold the woodpecker’s 4-inch strong, pointed beak that acts as both a chisel and a crowbar to peck bark and find hiding insects.

Step out the center; conjure up a basket of deliciousness, hang out with the family, rest upon the bench, listen to a light rustling of breeze in the thick canopy of trees and delve into wellness.

Peek into National Yo-Yo Museum, 320 Broadway St., located inside a store called “Bird in Hand.” The 80 years of yo-yo artifacts, photos, competition rewards are on display as well as the giant 50 inches tall wooden yo-yo and weighs 256 pounds.



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