One of the iconic neon signs from Fresno’s past, a vaquero atop a rearing horse that stood watch over the old Hacienda Motel at Clinton Avenue and Highway 99 from the 1950s until the early 1970s, has a new home at the Big Fresno Fairground.
In recent decades the sign has been on a pole in front of the Mendes General Store on West Olive Avenue about a mile south of its original home.
The sign was a landmark along the highway during the motel’s prime as a convention center and a nightspot attracting big-name entertainment.
Frankie Avalon, a 1950s teen heartthrob and beach-movie staple, was among the performers and part of the motel’s ownership group for a short time before longstanding financial problems closed the Hacienda in 1971. The horse and rider came down when the resort reopened as a Sheraton Inn in 1973.
When the name was changed back to Hacienda in the late 1970s, the neon sign did not return. Among the performers booked during the Hacienda’s Sheraton heydays were Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra Jr., Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Henny Youngman, Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Redd Foxx, Jerry Lee Lewis, Glen Campbell, John Davidson, Ike and Tina Turner, the Bellamy Brothers, Lily Tomlin, Waylon Jennings and the Poynter Sisters.
In 1989, the Hacienda became a senior retirement community.
Since 2008, the former motel has been operated by the nonprofit Mental Health Systems, which runs outpatient and residential mental health services at the site.