The Fender Visitor Center and Factory Tour Opens

Fenders necks waiting at the Fender Factory I Photo by Marc Harting

The company that brought the rock and roll Stratocasters and Telecasters opened its factory doors to the public this week.

Last week, guests and VIPs assembled at the Fender plant in Corona, CA, were introduced to the Fender Visitors Center and Factory Tour by Phyllis Fender, widow of company founder Clarence "Leo" Fender. She reportedly beamed while declaring the destination as "Disneyland east."

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David Brown, manager of the Visitor Center, told reporters that the new exhibition facility adjoining the plant has been planned for a year.

The plant tour includes 8,600 square feet of exhibit space filled with artifacts covering the Fender timeline, starting with the story of the electronics repairman working out of a small Fullerton shop in 1946 improving amp systems. It goes on to note one of the first musicians to champion Fender's first major creation, the Stratocaster, was Buddy Holly. The Fender momentum continued by being the instrument of choice by rock and blues musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton.

The tour will help make the concrete-floor facility hallowed ground, far away from Hard Rock Cafe's treating instruments as pop celebrity props. The factory features the craftsmanship of Fender, where hands armed tools large and small take wood blocks and turn them into stringed weapons of mass seduction.

High above the workers in this sawdust scented prep room for rock and roll heaven, completed Fenders hang from a conveyor belt, floating like wings waiting to be assigned to the next solo guitarist.

If so inclined, visitors can leave the Fender warehouse with more than just a t-shirt by following the aroma to the "Wood Vault" where guitarists select materials for a Fender American Design instrument to be assembled for them. This face-to-face hands-on customization is a first in the company's history.

"I think it's a great thing for the public to see what we do," said John Cruz, a master builder who has been with the company for 24 years, according to The Press-Enterprise.

The City of Corona is basking in guitar hero coolness since Fender relocated their factory to their region, a move that helped the company regain its hold on craftsmanship after being a CBS holding. In 1987, the Fender Custom Shop began operations for customs orders.

Tours will be free through the end of the year for guests over 9 years old; Mondays and Tuesdays and Thursdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

The Fender Vistor Center is located at 301 Cessna Circle in Corona, CA.

Fender necks as public art at the factory I Photo by Bebe Kropko

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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