Another Doyle Days, home of the World Famous Lizard Races, is in the books and may have been the biggest yet, organizers said.
The annual celebration, which began as close as anyone can remember in the very early 1980s or “more than 40 years ago,” saw an estimated 1,000 people descend on the small, South County town to celebrate community, provide a fun day for children of all ages and ultimately raise funds needed to support various organizations and needs.
Doyle was ravaged in 2021 by The Beckwourth Complex Fire, and locals have plenty of stories of loss to share. Despite this, they have faced the future with optimism and determination to overcome.
Karen Gardella, who sustained material loss during the fire, but who, thanks to community support, was able to rebuild the shop that contained the tools her husband used for his business, was having a good time.
“It is great to see so many happy people out here today,” she said. “I heard an old timer say this was the best Doyle Days in more than 20 years.”
A variety of area notables were on hand, including Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon and District 5 Supervisor Jason Ingram, who, along with Doyle Fire Chief Kathy Catron, and Shelley Marcotte, who also organized the car show, did serious time in the dunk tank — one of many events sponsored by the fire department.
Smokey the Bear received a rock star’s welcome during the parade and after, underscoring the heightened awareness of the importance of being Smokey’s friend.
“We filled the tank with water from the fire engine, so it was pretty murky, and Dean was quite the trooper,” said Ingram.
Chris Montgomery of KSUE and JDX radio stations conducted a live broadcast.
“This is an awesome day in South County,” he said. “Truly Doyle strong!”
Parade judges included Barbara Fritch, who was raised and still lives in Herlong, and Fran Hemphill, a Lassen County native, both well into their years and still going strong.
When asked if she had given her oral history to anyone, Fritch replied, “I suppose I should do that.”
“I love this! It’s so amazing,” said Piper Pool, 13, of Red Rock. “I just thought Doyle was a small town with nothing going on.”
Pool and her friend, Coraline Houdyshell, 10, rode their quad in the parade.
“I am most excited to catch the pig and take it home,” Houdyshell said, referring to one of the days’ events.
“Kody McCready won the pig, and I think next year we will have different age classes,” Ingram said. “So many people came together to make this a great day.”
Lizard race winners were cousins Harper Catron, first place; Hector Hamman, second; and Elizabeth Houdyshell, third.
“This has been a wonderful event,” said Wilma Kominek one of the event organizers. “We had made 350 Doyle Days buttons, were sold out by 1 p.m. and had to go to back-up buttons and show them to the ‘sheriff’ so he would know not to throw people in jail.”
Bill, of Milford, brought his kiddie train out and gave rides throughout the day, and bounce houses were set up in the afternoon.
“This is the first time in a lot of years we’ve seen this kind of turnout,” she said, adding that volunteers are always needed and planning for next year will begin in January. “We would love to have more community participation in the planning meetings.”
For more information about Doyle Days, to participate in planning for 2024, or to volunteer, call Wilma Kominek at (530) 722-1516.