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Stories from the valley


Contributed by Steve Beckley

Williams is situated at the major crossroads in Colusa County of Interstate 5 and Highway 20.   Williams was founded in 1874 as Central, but in1876 it was renamed Williams to honor W. H. Williams, who gave much of the land for the town site.  The early arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad helped the development of the town and today the town is still served by the California Northern Railroad.

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One of my earliest memories of Williams is going to the livestock auction there with my dad.  The auction yard which was an important social and business center for the local livestock industry has been closed for many years.  Dinner at Louis Carios was always a treat.  Williams was also the site of Colusa County’s only Drive In Theatre, which was a hangout for many but closed in the late ‘60s.  Today the only sign of it is Theatre Road, which goes by the original site. Prior to the opening of Interstate 5, the town was legendary for its traffic backups at the four way stop sign on Highways 99 and 20, at times traffic backed up all the way to Maxwell and Arbuckle.

Agriculture is still the primary business for the area, with rice, processing tomatoes, almonds and vine seeds some of the primary crops.  Not only are the crops grown in the area, but there are processing facilities for them within the immediate area.  Prior to the arrival of irrigation water on the Westside, much of the area was dry land grain and livestock.

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Williams is a town on the move, with some of its historic buildings being renovated.  It’s still a stop for travelers heading north or south, or over to the North Coast.  Some of its most popular restaurants are Granzellas, Roberta’s Taqueria, La Fortuna and Williams Chinese Restaurant.  The local Sacramento Valley Museum is a great place to learn more about the history of the valley.   A favorite event of mine in December is the Annual Festival of Lights Parade.

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One unique business is located on the East side of town is the Williams Soaring Center which takes advantage of its location near the mountains that provide great soaring conditions.  Check out the website as it features a couple of live web cams.  I stopped the other day and learned a lot about sailplanes.   It was interesting taking photos of a sailplane as they are silent and I’m used to agricultural aircraft that can be heard for many miles.

On your next Sacramento Valley road trip; check out everything Williams has to offer.