Christopher Rosacker

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July 3, 2013
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Robinson patriarch honored at head of July 4 festivities

While fireworks are prohibited everywhere in western Nevada County except in Nevada City and at the fairgrounds’ annual evening display, there will be no shortage of Independence Day celebrations in and around Grass Valley.

As is the tradition, this year’s alternating town parade will be hosted in Grass Valley with more than 70 entries marching through its historic downtown streets. Parade-goers are advised to bring lawn chairs and arrive early to find a good vantage point for the event that brings in several thousand spectators annually.

This year’s parade grand marshal is Lowell Robinson, patriarch of Robinson Enterprises, one of the area’s leading companies.

“He’s been a businessman in Nevada County for his entire life and always supported the community,” said Cathy Whittlesey, executive director of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce.

The Robinson family’s company has long benefitted many Nevada County endeavors and nonprofits, including Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, Nevada Union High School, Sierra College, Nevada County Historical Society, Future Farmers of America, Boy Scouts of America, United Way, Junior Achievement, 4-H, local fire departments and the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum.

“Without fail, whenever we have asked for help with transporting railroad cars, supplying knowledge regarding difficult mechanical problems or trucking our entries in local parades, Lowell and Tim Robinson have come to our rescue,” wrote railroad museum leaders in a February 2012 letter to The Union.

“Without the generosity and concern of this family, the museum wouldn’t be able to have many of the items and displays we are currently able to share with the public,” they said.

Robinson, 84, was born April 24, 1929, in Nevada City at Miss Elizabeth Watson’s historic Nevada County Sanitarium, according to the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce. His parents — like his grandparents and great-grandparents — were respected and successful ranchers at Indian Springs, near Penn Valley.

“My great-granddad and granddad were both (Nevada County) supervisors,” Robinson said. “My granddad started (Nevada Irrigation District).”

As a schoolboy, Robinson spent summer vacations helping with annual cattle drives to his family’s high-country cow camp near the Sierra Buttes. By the end of the 1940s, he was skidding logs for a local sawmill using improvised equipment of his own design, according to the Grass Valley Chamber.

From there, Robinson began to acquire tractors, and by 1952, he had persuaded his father and younger brother, Neil, to join him in a partnership known as Robinson & Sons, which began small-scale logging operations in Nevada and Sierra counties.

“I’m proud to be a part of Nevada County, and I’m proud of the timber and mining industries,” Robinson said. “It has made a lot of work for many people for many years.”

Robinson & Sons morphed into Robinson Timber Inc. and finally into Robinson Enterprises. Over the years, the family and its partners have pursued a variety of operations that included logging, road construction, gold mining and petroleum distribution and sales.

“It’s just grab a hold of anything that comes by that might make us a buck,” Robinson said.

As the timber and mining industries waned, Robinson said their diversity of operations allowed his companies to be flexible and adapt. Today, much of their success is tied in with petroleum and trucking.

“We’re going strong as ever,” he said. “We used to be bigger, but we’re doing more things now.”

In recent years, one of the company’s biggest gas customers, Waste Management, needed trucks to haul its trash and recycling, and Robinson Enterprises garnered the contract to haul garbage from the McCourtney transfer station to Lockwood, Nev., as well as trucking recyclable materials to a sorting facility in Lodi.

Sixty-four years after he began his logging career, Robinson remains active in all his enterprises and plans to give more time to the community to which his family has belonged for 148 years.

“We have just been part of helping the community like other folks,” Robinson said.

“I wasn’t looking for notoriety or anything like that. Just been a part of the community for all my life.”

Raised on cattle ranches and working in the forests, Robinson said he wasn’t able to attend many of the parades of his youth. The company had its trucks in parades past, but Robinson has never been honored as its grand marshal.

Following the parade, there will be a celebration under the pines at the Nevada County Fairgrounds beginning at 3 p.m. when live music and entertainment, food and refreshments will be offered. The fairgrounds’ fireworks are scheduled to blast off at 9:30 p.m.

“It’s going to be a lively parade, and I’m glad it is going to be early in the morning because it’s going to be a hot one,” Whittlesey said.

Miner Moe’s festivities

For the fifth year, Monique Bartosh will host a space for families to light off their safe and sane fireworks in the parking lot in front of Miner Moe’s Pizza. It’s at 102 Argall St. in the Seven Hills District of Nevada City.

Miner Moe’s will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, and fireworks will start being lighted at dusk. Bartosh will have tables set up outside. Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic dinners, if they want to.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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The Union Updated May 31, 2015 09:42PM Published Jul 4, 2013 12:32PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.