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Season 2Finalist

Kingsburg, CA

  • 94%
    • The percentile of the population that was Swedish-American in 1921, giving the community the nickname of “Little Sweden.” Now, the population is almost 50 percent Hispanic.
  • 1873
    • The year Kingsburg was established as a railroad town under its original name, “Kings River Switch.”
  • 200MM
    • Pounds of natural raisins produced annually by Sun-Maid Growers of California, which is based in the Central Valley near Kingsburg.

Even before Kingsburg assumed its current moniker in 1878, the community’s identity was inextricable from the agricultural bounty of its Central Valley surroundings, known as the “breadbasket of the world.” The town is also known for its unique Swedish architecture that harkens back to a time when the town was 94 percent Swedish and known as “Little Sweden.” Today, Kingsburg continues embracing its farming roots and Swedish history – but it’s also in the process of finding a new identity as the community grows and evolves.

“In Kingsburg, we’ve been able to continue to capture that feeling of being close to the land – it’s really our identity.”
– Jolene Polyack, Economic Development

While the Great Recession hammered small businesses around the nation, many have at least seen some relief and progress as the national economy improved. But Kingsburg has experienced an even greater challenge: as the rest of the nation recovered, the agriculturally dependent region underwent a terrible drought. Then Kingsburg’s Main Street was consumed by an awful fire, followed by major employer Del Monte’s departure and a large number of people lost their jobs.

“We hang on to our heritage because we want to celebrate that but we also understand that we need to grow as a community, I think we are trying to figure out what our identity is going to be for the next 100 years.”
– Alex Henderson, City Manager

But rather than letting it tear them apart, the community used the catastrophes as a chance to work together. You can see it on every corner – from a passionate young barber with ambitions for growth, to a florist carrying on a legacy while forging her own path, to an innovative winemaker – the community of Kingsburg is banding together to revitalize their historic downtown.

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