Red Barn Fundraiser a Success

Jon Vickroy was the one thing hotter than the weather, as he flamed on some calamari.

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p dir=”ltr”>Despite the weekend heat, more than 100 people showed up to support the Miller Red Barn Association’s BBQ at the Barn, helping the group move one step closer to its goal of restoring the venerable Miller Red Barn at Christmas Hill Park.

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p dir=”ltr”>The star of the night, Henry Miller’s Red Barn, opened its doors to the public, showing off the progress made on its new roof and offering a small glimpse of Gilroy’s agricultural history—even letting some scavengers see discarded century-old square nails. It was a long Saturday for the event’s organizers, but they weathered the heat and delivered a memorable night for all.

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p dir=”ltr”>“The heat has been a negative but everyone is excited and positive about the event,” said Patti Perino, the Special Events and Promotions Director for the Miller Red Barn Association. “The phone started ringing early this morning with questions and last minute details. It’s been a long day, but it’s going great.”

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p dir=”ltr”>The Miller Red Barn Association put on a show to go with the barbecue. The stage, flanked by two oversized cooling fans, was the scene of Saka-Bozzo’s (Sam Bozzo and Gene Sakahara) return from retirement, a flame-up food demonstration by the Vickroy brothers and the return of Elvis impersonator Donald Prieto. While the crowd was teased by the smell of tri-tip, prepared by Burger 152 owner Bruce Haller, attendees sheltered themselves at their umbrella-shaded tables. It was the Red Barn, however, that stole the show.

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p dir=”ltr”>“This is a very small, very passionate group of people who have big hearts and are trying to save this barn for generations to come,” said Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco. “I think it shows that with the widespread support they’ve attracted good things will come of it.”

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p dir=”ltr”>The barn was a welcome refuge for thirsty partygoers, hosting the bar that served cups of beer and glasses of wine donated by various local wineries. Ringed around the interior of the barn was old signage from Gilroy Garlic Festivals past, which was a reminder of the upcoming summer festivities. The interior, cleared of the debris that accumulated over the years, retained its rustic ambiance and evoked the memories of what was the Miller-Lux Company.

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p dir=”ltr”>“It’s a simple structure, but I really think it represents the past and serves as a bridge to the agricultural history of the area,” said Miller Red Barn Association President Gary Walton. “It’s a guidepost for our next generations about where we’ve been and where we’re going. It was real people who built this country and I think workers need to be honored because they built this country as well.”

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p dir=”ltr”>For the Miller Red Barn Association volunteers, the day was long, hot and sweaty. They endured the heat, however, propelled by their love of history and community.

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p dir=”ltr”>“I’m a firm believer that people in America have lost their sense of community,” said Maureen Hunter, the Miller Red Barn Association Recording Secretary. “I feel strongly that if you don’t understand history, you don’t understand why things are the way they are today.”

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p dir=”ltr”>The Red Barn wasn’t the only link to the Miller legacy at the barbecue. Miller’s great-great-granddaughter, Susan Nickel DuVall, made the trip from Los Gatos to attend the barbecue.

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p dir=”ltr”>“I applaud them for restoring it and making it an educational place for the community,” Nickel DuVall said.

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p dir=”ltr”>The Committee believes the barn will be a beautiful and important reflection of a farm economy that was once the mainstay, and remains an important part of Gilroy’s economy. They hope it can be a center for local history and culture, and an icon of community identity much in the way Old City Hall is; and that it can be an engine for tourism, recreation and economic growth, much in the way San Jose’s Emma Prusch Farm Park has become an attraction there.

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p dir=”ltr”>Henry Miller, together with his partner Charles Lux, is thought to have been the largest land owner and cattleman in the American West with land stretching across California into Oregon.

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p dir=”ltr”>Born in Brachenheim, Germany in 1827 as Heinrich Alfred Kreiser, at age 23, perhaps to avoid being drafted into the military, Heinrich bought a ticket to California from his friend, the “real” Henry Miller.

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p dir=”ltr”>That friend’s ticket was non-transferable, so Heinrich decided to take his friend’s name so he could use the ticket as if it were his own. He sailed to New York and began work there as a butcher; soon he found his way to San Francisco—with just $6 to his name—and got a another job as a butcher. In 1857 he opened his own butcher shop, and a year later teamed with his competitor and fellow German immigrant Charles Lux, to buy a herd of cattle.  

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p dir=”ltr”>Miller found his way to Gilroy to raise his own cattle and buy land. One guiding principle was to have ranches a day’s ride apart so his cattle and men would have a place to rest at night.

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p dir=”ltr”>Eventually, Miller purchased 20,000 acres in the South County.
 

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