Cannon captain fires final shot for the season


Melissa Puryear

Cannon Crew Captain John Medvigy, and Co-Captain Courtney Carter fire a cannon after a touchdown.

Melisa Puryear, Reporter

John A. Medvigy, Bakersfield College’s gun crew captain who also is a member of the Vets Club, fired the final shot from the cannon at BC’s last home game for the season, against Santa Monica on Oct. 28.

Medvigy announced that he will be retiring as the cannon crew captain next fall. It will mark his 30th season. Courtney Carter, a BC alumnus and current BC staffer, will step up to fill Medvigy’s role as the new gun crew captain when Medvigy retires.

The Bakersfield College Renegade’s time-honored tradition of the cannon ball fire began in the mid-1960s, and has been carried out dutifully by Medvigy since 1972, with a few years away when Medvigy served in the Army, from 1972 to 1976.

“A caisson was built for it [the cannon] by Three-Way Chevrolet in the late 90s because it was hectic to roll out to the stadium,” Medvigy said. “Three-Way Chevrolet has dropped it off and picked it up since the mid-90s. Three-Way has been exceptional for that.”

Medvigy discussed the role of the cannon in home games during football season and said, “We are the official gun for Bakersfield college football. We shoot test rounds to make sure everything is functioning.”

There are other key moments during a football game that football fans will hear the cannon and that is “during the playing of the National Anthem, when the Gades come on the field, at the start of each half, at the end of each quarter, and when Renegades score.” He also detailed how they are able to amplify the smoke and noise. “We use packed 12-gauge shotgun shells that are filled with triple fine-grain black powder. We use it so you can see the smoke that comes out.” Black powder, according to Mevigy is, “so efficient with expansion and firing the shell out.”

One of Medvigy’s most memorable times with the cannon was in December 1976. A “500 car-caravan went from Bakersfield to the Junior Rose Bowl. Families, students, alumni and people supporting the game joined, even active duty from the Naval and Army Reserve Center went. We blew them [Ellsworth Community College from Ellsworth Iowa] away. Gene’s Gun Shop and Valley Gun shop donated 10 pounds of gun powder for the Rose Bowl.” Medvigy said that he burned through all of the gun powder, which is enough to last the entire football season, in one game.

Next year, during his final year working with the cannon crew, he said that he wants to use the final season to focus on training. He will teach the cannon crew how to pack the shells by hand and will also oversee the safety procedures are learned and adhered to, so that no one is injured.

Carter, who is currently the Executive Secretary for the Bakersfield College Foundation, will replace Medvigy after his final season next year.

Carter has a long history with cannons. She has fired cannons for 27 years. Carter’s love for the cannon began with her grandfather, William Kofahl, who was a member of the The Muzzle Loader Association in Bakersfield and taught Carter all he knew about the cannon. Kofahl spent six years building a cannon, while Carter was a young girl, an apprentice at her grandfather’s side.

Regarding her new position Carter said, “it’s exciting, it’s an honor and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m sure my grandfather would be smiling down on me with pride.” She said that she feels that after all of the training, it paid off and this is her tribute to her grandfather’s memory.

Veterans who are interested in volunteering on the cannon safety committee can call Carter at the Bakersfield College Foundation at (661) 395-4800 Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for next season’s safety committee volunteer schedule and lineup.