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published on July 8, 2024 - 4:22 PM
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Editor’s note: We don’t really cover the weather, but since Fresno is well into summer 2024’s first serious heat wave, I wanted to share this piece we’ve been publishing for a few years now. It was written in 2017 by Craig Scharton, former Downtown Fresno development czar, on the website FresYes.com. I think it’s the perfect response to the breathless complaints about Fresno’s summers and how they make this a terrible place. The point is that plenty of world-class cities deal with bad weather. It’s good to keep that in mind.

Let me start by saying, my mother instructed us to never use the word “hate.” But I just don’t think “My Least Favorite Thing About Summer in Fresno” has the same punch, so sorry, Mom. You raised me better.

What do I hate about summer in Fresno? I hate it when people complain about the heat. Back to my mom, we never complained about the heat to her. We were instructed that it is summer and summer is hot. Her message was clear, we got no reaction from her, and it clearly wasn’t worth repeating the complaint or pursuing the issue any further.

There are a couple of lighter, still annoying variations to complaints about the heat. The question “Hot enough for ya?” is either mildly irritating as a cliché or hilarious if delivered with the appropriate level of parody. “It’s a dry heat” is in the same category. We’ll get to humidity a little further down the blog.

Part of our issue is the places we compare ourselves to. We are about 80 miles from an extremely rare slice of mild weather called the Pacific Coast. It’s a very narrow band of land that stays mild because of its proximity to a cold ocean. It’s like comparing yourself to the top one-tenth of one percent of the most-fit people in the world. No matter how hard you work out, you’re not going to look good, even though you might be in better shape than the other 99%.

Craig Scharton
Craig Scharton


Some people think Fresno’s weather is a liability. These people haven’t gotten out much. If weather was a liability for cities, then Chicago wouldn’t exist. That city has killer humidity in the summer and freezing rains in the winter. Seattle is gloomy 10 months out of the year, and they’re a boom town. Minneapolis hit -60F in 1996, and they’re very successful. Congress took a recess in the summer because Washington, D.C., was a malarial swamp and, if you’ve been there recently, you’ve seen that it’s exploded with growth. Weather just isn’t that big of a factor in a city’s success.

The United States is pretty well divided by the Rocky Mountains. If you go east of the Rockies, you’re going to have humidity in the summer. If you’ve experienced humidity, you know that a dry heat is a good thing. Try putting on a business suit in Houston in July, and yet they have some pretty good businesses headquartered there.

I think that my favorite comparison is with Phoenix. When I first got my iPhone, I put Phoenix on my weather app. When someone complains about our heat, I show them that Phoenix is regularly 8-10 degrees warmer. They don’t have any escape routes from the heat like we do, either. Their nearest beach is on the balmy Gulf of California, and they are surrounded by desert. And yet, Phoenix has seven Fortune 1000 companies. The San Joaquin Valley has none. It’s not the heat.

So let’s reframe our attitudes. It’s hot in the summer and pretty damned mild the rest of the year. When the sun sets, we have incredible summer evenings. We don’t have mosquitoes carrying away children like they do in much of the country, so we can enjoy those backyard barbecues. I know you’ve noticed how many backyard pools we have when you’ve flown to or from FAT (FYI: it’s not called FYI). We can also escape the heat quite easily. Head to the coast for a weekend break or drive an hour to Shaver Lake or Bass Lake to cool off. Go camping in our beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains if it’s too warm.

And don’t forget that the heat is what ripens all of the fruit and vegetables we grow for the world. Those peaches, grapes, berries, figs and tomatoes don’t come to life until it gets up to 100 degrees. Remember how much better our produce is than those other places that have humidity or cloud cover? We grow the best food in the world here for a reason.

We’ve only had air conditioning for a couple of generations and yet somehow people survived. My house doesn’t have central air conditioning and neither do many of my neighbors‘ homes. There are still hardworking people putting down asphalt, picking crops and putting roofs on houses during the summer months. If you are leaving an air-conditioned house in an air-conditioned car headed to an air-conditioned office, maybe you need to work a little harder on your ability to withstand mild discomfort.

So it’s in our power to decide to be positive if we choose to be. The summer comes around every year — it’s pretty predictable. We don’t live in the south where humidity is unbearable. We don’t endure frozen rain in the winter like the midwest and northeast.

Complaining is contagious and doesn’t help a thing. If you do need to complain, don’t complain to me. I’ll be out in the garden enjoying some heat-ripened goodies followed by a glass of sangria made from some of my grapes and peaches in a glass of local wine or a crisp Tioga-Sequoia Golden 99.

Craig Scharton was the business development director for the City of Fresno from 2009 to 2013. He is also a major downtown business advocate. If you’d like to complain to him about this article, you’ll have to find him in Greenville, South Carolina, where he moved last year (and where it’s currently 88 degrees with 61% humidity).

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