This year’s Banana Festival was the biggest yet

Offering programs and events for the entire family, the 2014 Banana Festival wowed visitors on the weekend of Aug. 9 and 10 attracting the largest attendance in its five-year history, as well as more exhibitors than ever before.

The weather was perfect this year, warm but not too hot, as Velocity Circus entertained folks with their high-flying stunts and acrobatics several times on both Saturday and Sunday. Latin Magic Band, which celebrated its 25th anniversary during the festival, also attracted a big crowd to the main stage. Many families purchased the bargain wristband for the kids’ jumpers, and those were popular with the young set.

And, of course, everyone was looking for banana cuisine—the banana popcorn and fried bananas, which undoubtedly were big hits.

One of the exhibitors at Sacramento Banana Festival was Stacy Anderson, Individual & Family Plans Outreach Manager for Blue Shield of California. She was at the festival on behalf of Blue Shield of California to provide information and educate members of the community on the Affordable Care Act. She said she enjoyed the festival because, “it is a great event to bring everyone together to share resources that will empower the community.” Anderson said the banana pancakes, served by the Laguna Creek Lion’s Club, were delicious.

The Banana Festival was produced by National Youth Academic Corps and the Sojourner Truth Museum, which provides year-round arts, educational and health and wellness programming serving more than 15,000 at-risk youth from all communities in the Greater Sacramento area.

Other featured acts included: Texas Blues Band, Compañía Mazatlán Bellas Artes de Sacramento (CMBA), Pan West Caribbean Steelpan Music by Harry Best; Urban Fire; Soma Sila Polynesian Dance; Latin Magic Band; College Fund Band; Umoja African Dance Interactive Show; Paul Ryan Band and more. Featured attractions included: a Chef’s Challenge, banana pancake breakfast provided by the Laguna Creek Lions Club, Banana Split-Eating Contest, fashion show, youth chess tournament, teen talent competition, community line-dancing, Banana Salsa Dance Competition, kiddie carnival rides, and lots of banana cuisine, from banana pudding to banana salsa to banana bread.
The festival was drug- and alcohol-free and offered a wide variety of health and wellness and environmentally themed activities for families. The Power Soul Stroll for Health, a fun walk-run produced by the County of Sacramento Infant Health Program, was held on Saturday morning, along with 1-, 2- and 3-mile routes and a half-mile kids’ route.

The Sojourner Truth Museum and its parent organization, National Academic Youth Corps, produces arts education programming through the year, including after-school arts education and cultural awareness programs that have alcohol and drug prevention and anti-crime components. Currently the museum has an exhibit of youth art inspired by the Harlem Renaissance showing at the Crocker.

Photos by Stephen Crowley
Shown here are photos from this year’s Banana Festival, held at William Land Park on the weekend of Aug. 9 and 10.

Know your neighbor: Carmichael resident Daniel Grice brings love of Italian fare to Arden Fair

daniel grice
daniel grice
A 300-seat restaurant with an old Italian flair adorned with black and white photos and a mixture of rich mahogany and marble tables sets the stage for the newest addition at Arden Fair Mall, Maggiano’s Little Italy.

Touted in 2014 by Entrepreneur as “one of the next great restaurant brands,” Maggiano’s is bringing made-from-scratch, Italian-American menu, generous family style portions and distinct ambiance to its first ever location in the Sacramento area. Maggiano’s opens its doors to guests on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 11:30 a.m. at the Arden Fair Mall, marking the brand’s 48th location in the country, the fifth in California, and the first in Sacramento.

The Arden-Carmichael News caught up with Executive Chef Daniel Grice, a Carmichael resident to talk about his background and his excitement for Maggiano’s.

Asked about his first experiences with Maggiano’s, Daniel said he dined at one of the locations in Orlando where he “fell in love with their food.” After moving to San Jose, he applied with that location and was fortunate enough to join the team.

Daniel attended culinary school at Paul Smith’s college outside of Lake Placid, New York and started in the restaurant business as a dishwasher in Mama’s Café, an Italian restaurant, in Pennsylvania. He tells the Arden-Carmichael News: “I loved the energy of the kitchen and have been doing living my passion and my dream ever since.”

Describing his love for Italian food, Daniel said Italian cooking is as much about the experience of friends and family as it is about the food. “Huge portions, great wine and a welcoming atmosphere. It’s easy to get hooked on Italian style dining.”

When Daniel stepped in the San Jose location in 2009 as the sous chef, it was a difficult time for restaurants. After two months, he was promoted to the executive chef position with the goal of driving everyday traffic, a new idea for a restaurant generally known for special occasions like anniversaries and weddings. That strategy proved successful, as during that time, sales grew.

Daniel was promoted to run the Chicago location, which had been running for 22 years, but which needed “fresh leadership.” He said he ran that for the last three years, up until he saw opportunity in Sacramento. “My second home has been Northern California.”

For the last two months, he’s come to appreciate the good food in this “smaller city,” adding his appreciation of the city’s surroundings. “I love the fact Sacramento is centrally located,” he said.

With “quite a few wines from California” on the wine list, he’s made time to visit Sonoma twice and Napa once.

While the management team transferred from other locations, and aside from one bartender and a cook, Maggiano’s at Arden Fair has hired 159 people, from servers to bartenders, cooks and dishwashers. Even though the company, Daniel said, prides itself in low turnover, “we’re always hiring. As people are promoted, were always looking for more people to back-fill other positions.”

Located right near main entrance of the mall, Maggiano’s is near Season’s 52 and BJ’s, 1689 Arden Way, Ste. 1148.

Previously occupying the space was Forever 21 before the clothing store moved to its current location inside the mall. “It took quite a bit of time to convert” the space from a clothing store to a full-scale restaurant, but it’s another occupied spot in a small that is now 98 percent full, he said.

Some additional highlights of what Sacramento guests can expect at Maggiano’s:

Sacramento location is set to feature the brand’s new ‘Lighter Take’ menu before national roll out.

“We’re thrilled to be part of Sacramento’s thriving dining landscape. We invite our friends and neighbors in the community to enjoy classic Italian-American food made with care and served in an atmosphere reminiscent of authentic Little Italy,” said Mike Sellmeyer, general manager of Maggiano’s Little Italy in Sacramento. “Our talented chefs and teammates bring established traditions of generosity and making people feel special to the communities we serve. Whether guests are looking to celebrate a special occasion or just let our chefs do the cooking on a weeknight, Maggiano’s will deliver a memorable dining experience.”

Lighter Take Menu: The Sacramento restaurant is one of the first to offer the brand’s new ‘Lighter Take’ menu, which features new preparations of classic dishes including Chicken Parmesan and Fettuccine Alfredo, delivering the same flavors and generous portions with at least one-third fewer calories.

On the House Classic Pastas: In the spirit of generosity and family that originated in Little Italy neighborhoods more than 100 years ago, guests that order a Classic Pasta get another classic pasta to take home, compliments of the chef. Classic Pasta dishes start at just $12.95. Since launching this guest favorite in 2009, the brand has given away more than 11 million Classic Pastas.

Exclusive Wine Pairings: Wine enthusiasts will enjoy pairing authentic Italian-American dishes with varietals they cherish or newly discovered favorites from a selection of more than 50 acclaimed wines including Salute Amico, an exclusive partnership with world-renowned Ruffino winery.

Carmichael yoga studio to participate in free yoga day on Labor Day

On Monday, Sept. 1, people of every age and fitness levels are invited to take off their shoes, roll out their mat and pose like a warrior for the third annual Free Day of Yoga. Whether new to the trend and trying yoga for the first time or an experienced yogi exploring a new style, more than 38 free classes will be offered by 17 studios across town.

“Saha is excited to be participating in Sacramento Free Day of Yoga and offering a unique opportunity for anyone in Carmichael to experience yoga for the first time, no matter your age or limitations,” says Dr. Katherine Bisharat, MD. “It will be a lot of fun with a few different styles of yoga to choose from. Our focus is to meet you where you are and support your path with a healthy body, quiet mind and peaceful heart. Come visit us and bring a friend!”

More than 1,700 students got their Namaste on during last year’s Sacramento Free Day of Yoga. This year organizers hope for 2,000 participants to share in the event and yoga’s many health benefits — increased flexibility, strength, stamina and balance, as well as reduced stress and improved concentration.

“Sacramento Free Day of Yoga gives the entire community a chance to try yoga for the first time, explore a new style and check out a new studio or teacher,” says event founder and It’s All Yoga studio owner Michelle Marlahan. “It’s the perfect time to try out a class if you’re new to yoga, because the vibe of the day is incredibly fun, and you have such a range of classes to choose from! We’re proud to have brought Free Day of Yoga to Sacramento,” she said.

Marlahan brought the Free Day of Yoga to Sacramento in 2012 after a visit to Austin, Texas, where the event started in 1999. Now a worldwide affair, Sacramento celebrates the Free Day of Yoga with other yogis and participants in locations from Virginia to L.A. and Victoria to Guam. Sacramento studios offering free classes include It’s All Yoga, Ananda Yoga, Asha Yoga, Bikram Yoga in Granite Bay and Sacramento, CenterShape Yoga and Pilates, Leap Yoga, Radiant Yoga, Rise Yoga, Saha Wellness and Yoga Center, Solfire Yoga, Veera Yoga, The Yoga Seed Collective, The Yoga Solution, The Yoga Workshop and Zuda Yoga (all locations).

For the 2014 Free Day of Yoga schedule, visit

SAHA Wellness and Yoga Center is located at 5931 Stanley Ave. Suite 7 in Carmichael.

They write the songs in Land Park

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

An artist can’t record a song without the words and music of a songwriter, but a catchy ditty with a good hook line can catapult an artist to the top.

The recording artist is always on the lookout for THAT BIG HIT.

That’s where the Nashville Songwriters Association International comes into play. NSAI is the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters’ trade association. Established in 1967, the membership of more than 5,000 active and pro members spans the United States and six other countries. NSAI is dedicated to protecting the rights of and serving aspiring and professional songwriters in all musical genres.

The Northern California chapter is located right here in Sacramento and has more than 450 members.

The Northern California Chapter of the NSAI gathers at the Sierra 2 Center in Curtis Park on the second Wednesday night of each month. They get together to discuss and share their songs, bouncing ideas off of one another in a supportive and collaborative way. It’s a great way for them to inspire each other and have fun too.

I spoke with Gabrielle Kennedy, who is the Northern California coordinator for the NSAI and she told me, “We have pros, people that make their living being songwriters and musicians, come to Sacramento from Nashville quite often.”

A wide range of music industry professionals travel from Nashville several times a year to visit the local chapter of the NSAI. Last month, Rick Beresford, best known as the writer of the George Jones hit “If the Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me Her Memory Will,” hosted an all day workshop and gave feedback to folks attending. In September, Dan Hodges, a prominent music publisher, will be looking for songs to pitch to today’s country stars in a special event being held at Sidedoor Studios in Fair Oaks.

Another special event that will be held in late September is a workshop called “Arranging The Hits,” where writers can find out how to write and record their songs to sound like commercial hits. Larry Beaird from Nashville-based Beaird Music Group will be hosting the workshop. He’s one of Nashville’s top musicians who has played on the recordings of stars like Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill and Trace Adkins.

Members of the NSAI get feedback based on what their goals are. “Not everybody’s goal is to be on the radio, but if your goal is to be on the radio, then there is a certain type of structure that’s more common. You want it to be catchy and have a good hook,” Gabrielle said.

Most country music artists do not write their own songs, but there’s actually a greater opportunity in country versus pop to be a songwriter because your chances of getting something commercially cut are greater. “But it’s really tough,” Gabrielle told me.

If you are a member of the NSAI, you can send a song in once a month and they’ll have a pro critique it for you and send it back. You get professional guidance.

Members are also supporting one of the only organizations that go to Congress and lobby for the rights of songwriters. “That’s what NSAI’s primary purpose is,” Gabrielle said.

You’re paying a yearly due to fight legislation and to make sure your rights as a songwriter are protected. Right now they’re trying to get the royalty rate for songwriters increased for digital music. Currently the songwriters get 9 cents, and if they collaborate, they have to divvy that up.

NSAI is more important than ever due to the digital world like streaming music through Pandora. Pandora is a little “loosey goosey” when it comes to reporting which songs and artists are being listened to. It’s very difficult to keep track.

Gabrielle, who worked for CBS/Sacramento radio 10 years ago, set her radio career aside and decided to pursue her music dreams. She initially started a band with her sister called Gabscourt. Her sister got married and had two children and that left Gabrielle to continue to pursue her singer-songwriting career alone.

Gabrielle excitedly told me it looks as though she may get her first label cut soon. An artist named Canaan Smith signed to Mercury Records and he’s going to be coming out with his first album after the first of the year. They wrote a song five years ago with “some guy from Bermuda named Richard” as they like to refer to him.

Richard Bassett and Gabrielle actually met at an NSAI event in Lake Tahoe and began to collaborate. A Nashville publisher came to Sacramento at an NSAI event and she pitched the song to him and he loved it! He thought they both had a lot of talent so he invited them to come to Nashville to write with some seasoned Nashville writers.

“That was my first introduction about how Nashville does its songwriting. From that initial trip, I met Caanan and we all started writing songs together. One of those songs we wrote with him is looking like it’s gonna be a part of his first album,” Gabrielle said.

I mentioned to her “I bet that’s exciting,” and she told me, “Until it’s at Target or I can go to iTunes to buy it, I’m not gonna believe it til I see it.”

The song titled, “This Cigarette,” is about how a love, or person you’re in a relationship with, can treat you like their cigarette. “It’s kind of gritty country,” Gabrielle told me.

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

In a matter of time

You’re gonna burn me again
Light me up just long enough
For me to feel like it’s something
You’ll give me what I want
Pressing me to your lips
But you’ll put me out again
Like the end of this cigarette

She sent me the demo and I have a feeling the song will be headed to iTunes and the Target on Broadway next year!

You also may run into Gabrielle in the aisles at Target too, since she’s a Land Park resident.

Another member of the local chapter of the NSAI is Ted Bazarnik. He also lives in Land Park. He’s 72 years old and he’s not satisfied sitting around watching Matlock reruns, although he did quip, “I sometimes do that too.”

“When I was young, I was a musician,” Ted said. He started making music when he was about 16 years old in Auburn, New York. Mainly rock and roll and R&B. They performed on the college circuit: Syracuse University, Cornell, Colgate, and all those places back in the 1950s into the 1960s.

His band was called “Chuck Rubberlegs Shady and the Esquires,” which is quite a mouthful.

He decided to get out of the music business and go into law enforcement. He has a degree in Criminal Justice and worked for the University of California Police Department for 20 years. When he retired, he went to Utah and worked for the State Department Of Public Safety for 17 years and while he was in Utah he became interested in country music.

Ted went from fighting crime to writing country songs.

“I dated a cowgirl for awhile and she loved country music.” It kind of rubbed off on Ted. “She loved to sing along to all the country songs in the car.” He thought the music had great storytelling.

Ted was inspired to write her a song and everybody loved it. It was called “A Girl Named Tracey.” They still keep in touch to this day.

He got serious about song-writing once he moved back to California. Ted thought to himself, “I need something to do. I’m too old to get out on the road and play clubs and stuff…I’m 72 and have bad knees. But my brain still works!”

He started surfing the web and found NSAI. He went down to Nashville to visit a friend and he “fell in love with the place. I absolutely went crazy. I stopped by the NSAI office and told them, ‘sign me up.’”

When he got back to Sacramento, he contacted Gabrielle Kennedy, who headed up the Sacramento chapter, and that’s how it all started.

Ted isn’t afraid of technology either. He uses Facebook regularly and even pitched his first demo via Skype. He pitched it to Curb Records and they loved so much they added it to their catalog. He also pitched the demo at a local NSAI workshop. Steve Bloch, who has a publishing company in Nashville, liked it and took it with him back to Nashville. It’s a big deal having a music publisher put a song in their catalog. The song is called, “Wish I May.” The idea came to Ted while he was sitting on his deck and he had the TV going at the same time. As Ted tells it, “I heard the Disney ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ that comes on before the movie…and I thought I’ll write a song about wishes.”

“Wish I May” is about a guy who’s been searching for somebody special and he knows that somebody special is out there for him.

Ted regularly collaborates with the other members of the NSAI including Chris Burrows of Sacramento and singer-songwriter Andrea Stray who lives in San Francisco. He appreciates the collaborations and thinks it makes the songs much better when there are different voices and talents contributing. He’s definitely not a one-man band.

Ted stays really active and gets out and goes to local concerts. He went to the Palms Playhouse in Winters to see singer-songwiter Holly Williams, who is Hank’s granddaughter. He also recently saw Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. He also hasn’t forgotten his rock roots. Ted attended the Kiss concert with one of his sons when they came to town. It was on his bucket list.

Ted really doesn’t date, he says, because he’s “having too much fun.” He told me his wife passed away from cancer back in 1997 and he would do anything to have her back. “I’ll never find anybody like her. When you find a jewel, it’s pretty difficult to find another one.”

After his wife passed, he did meet a couple of women, like the cowgirl in Utah, but he pretty much focuses on his songwriting, friends, and family these days.

“I fell in love with this songwriting thing and we have a great group of people. This group has brought me more happiness than you’ll ever know.”

Ted loves the songwriting process, heading to Nashville, going to the meetings, and the studio, and meeting all the artists. Ted said, “For me, it’s a brand new world.”

Ted’s ultimate goal is to get one of his songs recorded by an artist, which is very difficult because in Nashville alone there’s over 45, 000 writers. “The thing is if you don’t try, nothing will ever happen. I’m having a hell of a good time trying,” Ted said.

To learn more about the Sacramento chapter of the NSAI call 476-5073 or e-mail Gabrielle Kennedy at They’re also on Facebook.

McClatchy Park’s amusement park themed playground nearing completion

Dennis Day, associate landscape architect with the Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation, shows off a portion of McClatchy Park’s soon-to-be opened children’s playground. The playground’s amusement park theme was suggested by Day about a year and a half ago. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Dennis Day, associate landscape architect with the Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation, shows off a portion of McClatchy Park’s soon-to-be opened children’s playground. The playground’s amusement park theme was suggested by Day about a year and a half ago. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Oak Park’s historic James McClatchy Park is presently undergoing a major improvement project, which includes the construction of a new children’s playground that is reminiscent of an amusement park that was once located at that site.

That amusement park, which was known as Joyland, was part of the rich history of Oak Park, which was established as Sacramento’s first suburb.

An early advertisement for Oak Park appeared in the Sept. 2, 1887 edition of The Sacramento Union.

The advertisement referred to an auction sale that would be held at the park for 40-foot by 150-foot lots in the area on Sept. 13, 1887.

Terms of the sale were mentioned as “10 per cent at fall of auctioneer’s hammer; balance of one-third within ten days; remaining two-thirds in monthly installments of $20, with an interest of 5 per cent per annum.”

It was also noted in the advertisement that a “cable road” would soon be built to connect Oak Park to the Southern Pacific Railroad passenger depot on 2nd Street, between G and H streets.

During its early years, a portion of the grounds of today’s McClatchy Park at 3500 5th Ave. served as a destination spot for picnics, baseball games and other diversions.

Joyland was opened in 1913, nearly two years after Oak Park was annexed into the city. The amusement grounds were sold to Valentine S. McClatchy and his wife, Adaline H. McClatchy, in 1927 and gifted to the city of Sacramento in honor of the memory of V.S. McClatchy’s father, James McClatchy, of Sacramento Bee fame. The property was then designated as James McClatchy Park.

Dennis Day, associate landscape architect with the Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation, explained that it was his idea to have a Joyland themed children’s playground constructed at McClatchy Park.

“I like to do playgrounds that have a theme, so I was trying to think of different themes (for the park),” said Day during his interview with this publication at McClatchy Park last week. “Originally, I was thinking of African safari. And then I came across the history of the park on the Internet. So, it just seemed an ideal match to have a whole playground designed after the theme of Joyland.”

Day was quick to note that he did not design the playground equipment.

“We hired a consultant and I provided the consultant with different ideas, and they did the research,” Day said. “They’re the ones who came up with the specific features in the park. I had seen a catalogue that had rollercoaster play equipment back in New York and I thought that was kind of cool. So, I kind of fed them some ideas and they just took the ideas and ran with them, and made the entire playground based on the theme (of Joyland).”

In describing the playground equipment that was added at the former site of an earlier playground and basketball and tennis courts at McClatchy Park, Day said, “Everything is modeled after the original park. We want to recall the history of the park when it was Joyland. So, there was a (wooden track) rollercoaster originally, and we’re trying to re-create that (appearance with a play set). The play structure for the older kids is in a wooden-themed playground. We’ve also got the trolley. Originally, this (site) was the south end of the trolley system for the city of Sacramento. So, we’ve got the trolley here and there’s going to be trolley lines painted on the entry walkway. In the tot lot area, that kind of recalls a carnival. Originally, (in) Joyland, there was a carnival and concessions and such. We have the larger than life popcorn and ice cream and candy apples (structures), as well. Those are the kind of things they would have sold at the park at the time. Originally, (the park) had a small zoo. We don’t really know what animals those were, but we tried to re-create the kind of animals they could have been. We’ve got mountain lions and black bears and a large tortoise. Eventually, all the animals were taken to (William) Land Park when that zoo was built (in 1927). We’ve got rubber surfacing in here (on the ground), as well, and we’ve got the wood fiber, and it provides accessible pathways. And the rollercoaster (play set), it’s fully wheelchair accessible. There’s a ramping system up the whole thing. And then the smaller children’s area, somebody that’s disabled would need to transfer out of their wheelchair. So, it depends on the ability of the child. And originally, the park had a miniature train. It was much bigger, but we created the style and the character of that miniature train. Also, there’s going to be a shade canopy over the tot lot to provide a little bit of protection from the sun in the summer and the rain in the winter.”

This bear cub replica was placed at the site in memory of the Joyland zoo. Photo by Lance Armstrong

This bear cub replica was placed at the site in memory of the Joyland zoo. Photo by Lance Armstrong

In discussing other new amenities of the project, Day said, “There’s a group picnic area and there’s a shade structure that kind of looks like one of the structures that was in the park at the time Joyland was here. We also have two, brand new tennis courts. And we’ve got a new skate park. We have jogging trails with fitness equipment scattered throughout the park.”

Day mentioned that the project, which had its groundbreaking on April 26 during the opening day of the park’s popular farmers’ market, will also include a water spray area with a horse carousel theme, a butterfly garden, walkways, new solar lights and ornamental acorn lights and an interpretive sign with a brief history of the park property, including its Joyland era history.

New basketball and tennis courts, a drop shot basketball area for young children and an archway reminiscent of the amusement park’s original archway are also part of the project.

The overall project was made possible through a $2.8 million state grant, and the city has contributed about $300,000 toward the current park improvements.

Vice Mayor Jay Schenirer, who represents District 5, expressed his satisfaction with the project.

“The rebuilding of the park is really a symbol of the rejuvenation of this community that has occurred from the inside out,” Schenirer said. “I see the $2.8 million state grant we won as a partial match to the energy and passion residents and business owners have for this neighborhood.”

As for the timeline for the completion of the unfinished portions of the project, Day said, “The next thing, they’re finishing the grading of the park, so they can get ready to plant. They’re going to be planting the trees and then pulling up the shrubs and the ground cover, and it’s going to be the grass last. And there’s a little bit of touch up. They’ve got to color coat, as well as install the benches and the tables. And then the water mister area equipment is going to be installed last. You’ll come back here in three weeks and it will look like (the playground area) is done, it’s just, the grass will be growing.

“So, construction is going to be completed over the next three weeks, but the park is not going to be opening until probably November. There’s going to be three months of maintenance. We’re planting grass by seed, so that’s got to be established before we open that up.”

When the playground finally opens, Day noted, it will feature a rule that adults cannot enter that portion of the park unless they are accompanying at least one child.

After being asked to describe his satisfaction with the project, Day said, “I think it’s incredible. It really recalls the history of the park and what was here. People who remember Joyland or have heard about it are going to think it’s kind of incredible. We were trying to make a playground that was as great as (the playground at) Southside Park – that was based on a spaceship theme, and we had the same designer – and I think we achieved that. (McClatchy Park’s new playground) is beautiful. It’s going to last for 20 years. We’re expecting people to come from all over the city (to visit the park).”

Eugenia Washington, who moved to Oak Park from San Francisco in 2001, said that she is looking forward to the completion of McClatchy Park’s new children’s playground.

“I come here every day (with her 8-year-old son, Melvin Haywood, and her neighbors, 2-year-old twins, Jayla and Taya Brown) to see if that park is ready (to open),” Washington said. “I live across the street, but (the kids) only have so much to play with (at their homes). But here (at McClatchy Park), they can run and play.”

As for the overall park improvements, Washington said, “The park before (its recent improvements) was so bad. You know, it was run down. But this park, I think it’s going to be a little better than McKinley Park. And that’s my favorite park. I love McKinley Park. I can’t wait until (McClatchy Park) is done.”

Aquaponics plant sale to benefit Burbank Urban Garden

Sacramento’s already got its urban gardens, backyard chickens, and a sophisticated PR campaign in full swing to promote ourselves as the “Farm-To-Fork” capital of the nation. But there’s another type of urban agriculture that’s gaining traction with local food aficionados: Aquaponics.

Simply put, aquaponics is a system that a food grower can use to produce vegetables without soil. It’s a symbiotic environment which mimics what you might find in a riverbed or a lake, fish and other aquatic animals produce waste matter, which then becomes the food nutrients for the surrounding plant life. In turn, the plant life consumes the waste before it reaches toxic levels and provides clean water back to the system. Aquaponics reproduces this arrangement on a scale small enough to be done in a backyard, a patio, or even on top of a windowsill.

Humans have been using aquaponic methods to grow plants for ages, thousands of years, by the best guesses. More recently, aquaponics has seen a dramatic resurgence as hobby farmers and natural food enthusiasts searched for a way to produce quality veggies in a sustainable manner and without pesticides.

Sacramento State Environmental Studies Department student interns and advisers, as well as members of the Burbank Urban Garden student club will be selling plants that were grown in an aquaponics system during the weekend of Sept. 6-7. Six packs of fall vegetable plants, a variety of herbs inside beautifully arranged tofa pots will range in price from $2.50-$10.

As of right now, students have grown about 600 to 700 plants through the aquaponics system, including varieties of small plants for sale such as rosemary plants, green onions, lettuce plants, lemon grass, flowering plants (Snapdragons, Calendulas, Pansy, etc), basil plants, succulents, Napa cabbage plants. All proceeds will go to Luther Burbank’s Ag. Program.

At the plant sale, the community is invited to enjoy tours of the garden and aquaponics system. Sacramento State student organizer, Mary Xiong, said the students are in the process of talking with other organizations, so they might get some volunteer help from Americorps and Asian Resources, Inc as well.

Speaking with the Pocket News about the details of her involvement with the aquaponics program at Luther Burbank, Mary said she and the fellow Sacramento State students interning at Luther Burbank are trying to encourage sustainable urban agriculture throughout the local community and high schools.
Included in her comments, Mary said: “We, Sacramento State students, initially started the aquaponics program at Luther Burbank High School earlier this year during May as a part of our final project for an environmental course – Contemporary Environmental Issues where we focused on urban agriculture. We contacted Luther Burbank High School about the start up of an aquaponics at their greenhouse and with the principal’s approval, we set up the system by the end of May. During the summer, we planted cuttings in the aquaponics systems, planted seeds in soil pots, gave presentations to summer school students attending Luther Burbank, and gave the students hands-on experience with the systems.
“As of right now, we hope to educate and bring interests to the students attending the high school and the community about sustainable agriculture and to bring community awareness to help fund Luther Burbank’s agriculture program through the plant sale.”

Pocket resident lobbies for pancreatic cancer research and funding

On Monday, Aug. 4, State Senator Jim Beall and Senator (Pro-tem) Darrell Steinberg stood inside the State Senate Chambers with Melissa Tobin and Pocket resident Kathy Garcia who worked hard to get a state resolution declaring November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month passed. Melissa is the affiliate chair and Kathy is the advocacy chair for the Sacramento Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

On Monday, Aug. 4, State Senator Jim Beall and Senator (Pro-tem) Darrell Steinberg stood inside the State Senate Chambers with Melissa Tobin and Pocket resident Kathy Garcia who worked hard to get a state resolution declaring November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month passed. Melissa is the affiliate chair and Kathy is the advocacy chair for the Sacramento Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

After six years of pressing the state and federal government for more awareness and funding for pancreatic cancer research, on Monday, Aug. 4, California State Senator Jim Beall presented Pocket resident Kathy Garcia with a resolution declaring November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Coming up on the Tuesday, Sept. 16 Sacramento City Council agenda, council members are expected to pass a similar resolution. (Note: The text from the resolution is at the end of this article.)

To Kathy, it’s been a long time coming – five years – since she and many other advocates and volunteers from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network introduced a bill that was made into law under the name the Recalcitrant Cancer Act, which provides funding and research for the top four deadliest cancers: lung/bronchial, colon/rectal, breast and pancreatic. More recently, the resolution declaring November Pancreatic Cancer Month will help for planning fundraisers and educational campaigns.

According to a statement from PCAN, the Recalcitrant Cancer Act “was the culmination of five years of effort by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s passionate advocates and volunteers—who sent 76,000 emails, made 14,000 calls to Congress and participated in 1,500 meetings.”

Coming up on Sunday, Sept. 14 at William Land Park is the annual “PurpleStride”, which held in November last year, raised $110,000 for research, awareness and patient services.

For a form of cancer that has no cure or diagnostic tools for detection, Kathy is thrilled to have the Recalcitrant Cancer Act in full swing and resolutions supporting pancreatic cancer research underway.

“We were so excited to get this passed,” Kathy said in an interview with the Pocket News. “(Pancreatic cancer) is very underfunded and under-researched.”

“When you have it, you have it,” Kathy says. “The survival rate is 6 percent. Once diagnosed, you have between three to six months to live. NCI expects pancreatic to move to the No. 2 cancer related death by 2030. My mother (Margaret Moss, 78,) had it. She was diagnosed in July 2002, and we lost her in October. They used a placebo chemo treatment; and they still use the same one.”

That was 12 years ago, as Kathy explains, when her mother was in “extremely good health and was on vacation when she got sick. A diagnosis was made and she was sent home. We were flipping out.”

This year, PCAN asked for $5.26 billion from the federal government go to NCI to fund research on those aforementioned four most deadly forms of cancer and asked for forgiveness from future sequestration. “That’s still in the works,” Kathy says, but she expressed enthusiasm over asking for that amount of money. “I felt like we were just podunk people asking for that much money, but they write down the number ($5.26 billion) and (well as the request) to stop sequestration.”

The resolution to be brought to the city council on Sept. 16, reads as follows:

Recognizing Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

WHEREAS, pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States, has the lowest relative survival rate of all the cancers tracked by both the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute as 73 percent of pancreatic cancer patients die within the first year of their diagnosis and only six percent survive more than five years; and

WHEREAS, there has been no significant improvement in survival rates in the last 40 years and research is still in the earliest scientific stages. The number of new pancreatic cancer cases has risen to 45,000 a year and the number of deaths has increased to over 38,000 a year. If no cure or diagnostic tool is found, pancreatic cancer will jump to the second-leading cause of cancer death among Americans; and

WHEREAS, risk factors include but are not limited to smoking, obesity, recent on-set diabetes, family history of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis, and when symptoms of pancreatic cancer generally present themselves, it is often too late for an optimistic prognosis, and the average survival rate is only five to seven months; and

WHEREAS, Pancreatic cancer research is currently severely underfunded as compared to other cancers with similar mortality; and

WHEREAS, in January 2013 the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Bill was signed into law, which calls on the National Cancer Institute to develop scientific frameworks that will help provide the direction and guidance needed to make true progress against recalcitrant or deadly cancers; and

WHEREAS, the Pancreatic Cancer Action network (PanCan), a nationwide network of people dedicated to working together to advance research, support patients and create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer, will reveal its new branding “WAGE HOPE” in November 2014 to bring awareness and funding to combat this devastating disease; and

WHEREAS, the good health and well-being of the residents of Sacramento are enhanced as a direct result of increased awareness about pancreatic cancer and research into early detection, causes and effective treatments.

There’s art in the Pocket!

Pocket artist Richard Turner knows his photographs make people happy. “That’s why I photograph flowers and birds.” He has sold more than 49,000 greeting cards featuring bright, colorful flowers. “That’s a lot of happy people,” he says.
Richard’s home studio is one of the stops on the ninth annual Capital Artists Studio Tour, which, up until this year has not included stops in the Pocket area, which may sound absurd, because, yes, there is art in the Pocket!
Pocket’s stop on the CAST will surely be a fun destination for all art lovers, as great artists demonstrate their work, food trucks and live music entertain visitors on Mast Court near Gloria Drive, across from John F. Kennedy High School. Set for Saturday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., there will be art, food and music. The Kennedy High Marching Band will perform on Saturday and rock and roller blues man Gary Michael Weinberg will perform on Sunday. Artists and neighborhood businesses will line Mast Court and a festive atmosphere will invite guests to have a good time!
This will not be your usual ho-hum art walk. This will be a party.
From acrylic painting by Skip Lee, to bronze sculpting by Jay Bishop who will be demonstrating his techniques, the tour will also include Chinese brush painting by Dorothy Steed, “galactic art” and jewelry by Alex 8, fabric creations by Carol Wittich, and fine art nature photography by Richard Turner who will also be signing his new book, “I Can’t Always See My Path…But I Keep On Walking,” which has been praised by Dr. Wayne Dyer as a “masterpiece” and a “gift to the world.”
“I’ll have many new flower and bird images to share with those who come to the Pocket for the tour,” Richard adds.
Carol wrote into the Pocket News stating that among her creations, her scarves are hand-dyed with synthetic dyes as well as natural dyes, such as pomegranates and basil.
Other highlights of the tour, though outside of the Pocket, include a SAC Open Studios launch party at Verge Center for the Arts on Thursday, Sept. 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. The party will be a preview of more than 125 artworks installed salon-style in the new classroom space at Verge Center for the Arts. This exhibition will be up until Oct. 1.

Phase one of Brookfield School project nearing completion: New school to open in Pocket area this fall

Dwayne Taylor, project superintendent, points to a drawing of the soon-to-be-opened Brookfield School. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Dwayne Taylor, project superintendent, points to a drawing of the soon-to-be-opened Brookfield School. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Although the “moon dust” is still flying at the Brookfield School project behind The Trap bar at 43rd Avenue and Riverside Boulevard, phase one of the project is considered on course for completion. The pre-K-8th grade school is thus expected to open on schedule at that site this fall.
Both Dwayne Taylor, project superintendent, and Joe Giger, project manager, took breaks from their busy schedules last week to share details about the project with this publication.
Prior to discussing the project, which is being performed by the Rancho Cordova-based DesCor Builders, Taylor strolled across the extremely dusty grounds of the new school site.
In commenting about that powdery layer of silt, Taylor, who is a resident of Rocklin, said, “It’s been crazy. It’s been really hard to manage, because when you get it wet, it turns into snot, just slippery and it sticks to everything and you can’t drive on it. But after a good rain and it has actually had a chance to dry, then it kind of shrinks and solidifies. But as soon as you drive on it or walk on it, it breaks up and turns to ‘moon dust’ again.”
Taylor spoke with a confident and proud tone to his voice while he discussed the progress of the work that has been performed on the site since the project began last March. However, he admitted that some days have been more productive than other days.
“We’re still trying to cram a square block in a round hole,” Taylor said. “We have a really ridged, fast-paced schedule, and its construction. You know, not everything goes as we would like or we would hope. While we’re moving full speed ahead, occasionally we have to go backward and sidestep. So, it just adds to the schedule. It may appear on the outside that we’re moving forward. Sometimes we’re not. We have our complications, but sometimes that’s part of the fun. I enjoy a certain level of chaos.”
After being asked to name the most challenging part of the project, Taylor said, “It would probably be the framing. It’s a wood frame, so it’s like residential, but it’s commercial. In order for it to be structurally sound, there’s a lot of timber in these walls – a lot of posts and oversized studs, headers. Everything is oversized and overbuilt, because it’s commercial and it’s all wood.”
Taylor said that he feels fortunate to have been presented with a group of quality workers.
“We’ve been really lucky and got a good group of guys on this project,” Taylor said. “I think because of the pace and speed of the project, some of the subcontractors had to send some of their better guys out. We didn’t have a relaxed environment, so they could send out some more relaxed people. The quality (of labor) has been where it needs to be for a school (construction project), which is at a slightly higher level of quality for safety and things like that.”
Several of the workers, Taylor added, did receive a few complaints from residential neighbors.
“Some of the guys get a little too anxious and they start earlier in the morning before our 7 a.m. start time,” Taylor said.
Construction on the site was originally performed Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to either 4 or 5 p.m., but by June that schedule was decreased to the present Monday through Friday schedule, with the same hours.
In discussing the topic of the future school’s other neighbor – The Trap, and some of its owners’ concern with a school being built next to a bar – Taylor said, “I think they were just trying to bring attention to themselves and the project, and when that didn’t go their way, then they quieted down. But they’ve been great. They’ve been great neighbors.”
Taylor said that there is a possibility that the entire Brookfield School project may not be completed for about five more years.
“Phase two (which will feature a pre-K building and an all purpose/community center building) is funding driven, so as enrollment increases in the school, then that will help create the phase two budget,” Taylor said. “So, right now, it’s unknown whether it’s a year or five years (until phase two can be commenced).”
During his interview with the Pocket News, Giger, who is a resident of Carmichael, mainly focused on reviewing phase one of the project.
“Phase one is (the) administration building, (a) bunch of classrooms, computer rooms, science rooms, a lot of natural lights,” Giger said. “These classrooms have a ton of windows, both skylights, as well as ephemeral walls. They also have a pretty unique system called the night flush system that’s an energy efficient cooling system. There are a total of seven structures.”
Giger, who also manages the project with Placerville resident Colin Culver, project engineer, said that on average, about 60 people have been working on the site during the past five months. These workers have performed such labors as grading, concrete and framing work to drywall, painting and mechanical work.
In presenting a timeline of activities of the project, Giger began by saying that in March “there was a lot of clearing and grubbing and a lot of land leveling work, followed by a lot of underground utilities” work.
A forklift driver maneuvers his vehicle on the east side of the school construction site. Photo by Lance Armstrong

A forklift driver maneuvers his vehicle on the east side of the school construction site. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Giger added that water, sewer, storm drain and electrical infrastructures were added to the property, which he referred to as having been a “raw piece of land.”
After the utility work was completed in late April, cement was poured for the foundations of the buildings.
Giger noted that workers “prefabed the walls” for the project’s phase one buildings.
“We had a lay down area out here (where) we built every single wall before the (cement) was even poured,” Giger said. “Two days later, we were on it erecting walls, and the walls were already built, laying down on the ground. So, that was how we were able to expedite. If we were to just go once the flat is built and build every wall, we would still be in framing stages.”
After the walls were completely secured in their upright positions in either late May or early June, roofs were constructed above those walls from June through July.
The next step of the project was to begin the interior work such as electrical, mechanical, and plumbing additions.
Giger, who referred to that portion of the project as the “roughing stage,” said that stage has been completed, and workers are presently at the “finishes stage,” which consists of drywall work and painting.
During his interview for this article, Taylor mentioned that the exterior of the building will be painted in a variety of colors, with the main colors being red, blue and off white.
Beneficial to workers, as well as nearby neighbors, was the laying of asphalt driveways and parking areas on the corner of the site behind The Trap in late July. The presence of asphalt in that area eliminated any future possibilities of the stirring up of “moon dust” on that portion of the grounds.
To complete the project, workers will also perform T-bar work on the ceilings, grind and paint the concrete floors and add landscaping to the grounds. The irrigation system, which is necessary for the landscaping has already been added to the site, Giger said.
The addition of plants and trees at the site is scheduled to begin in about two weeks.
The current construction project, Giger noted last week, was then “roughly a month” away from completion.
After that work is completed, off-site improvements, including the installation of a traffic light at 43rd Avenue and Riverside Boulevard and a sidewalk on the street sides of the school, will begin.
In reviewing Brookfield School’s phase one project as a whole, Giger said, “The architects have done a very cool, open design with a single-pitched roof. It’s very modern, as well. The quality of the work has been great and (the Pocket area will soon have) a nice, fresh, brand new, state-of-the-art school.”

Mahogany celebrates 15 years of urban artistry

The original six that started Mahogany 15 years ago, include: Guy Ellison, Ifa Modupe, Angelo Williams, Cleo Cartel, Khiry Malik and Victor Patton. Photo courtesy

The original six that started Mahogany 15 years ago, include: Guy Ellison, Ifa Modupe, Angelo Williams, Cleo Cartel, Khiry Malik and Victor Patton. Photo courtesy

Poetry penetrates the soul, joggles status quo, exposes and enlightens our perspectives on everything from love to social injustice. We are not talking about polite rhyming lyrics that lull folks to sleep; we are talking about raw, guttural, spoken word that electrifies. Where do you find it? Thanks to Mahogany Urban Poetry Series, every Wednesday night you can hear literary artists, singer-songwriters, comedians and musicians light up the stage at Queen Sheba restaurant on Broadway. The original Mahogany founders Cleo Cartel, along with her brother, Khiry Malik; Guy Ellison, Ifa Modupe, Angelo Williams, and Victor Patton heard the cries of Sacramento and created a dynamic platform where poets and performers could hone their craft and relate with a larger urban audience.
Over time, Cleo and Khiry remained out of the six originals working to keep the pulse of the series growing. It’s time to celebrate the 15 years that Mahogany has gathered both local and international spoken word artists, poets, musicians and more. A performance like no other will commemorate this unifying force of artistry on Saturday, Aug. 30 at the historic Guild Theater in Oak Park.
The 15-year celebration at the Guild Theater is both a testimony of Mahogany’s longevity, as well as an opportunity to showcase artists and arouse community awareness. “Our number of hosts has grown,” Cleo told the Land Park News. “We went from one, myself, to four and the number of artists should be steadily growing. We want people of Sacramento to know they have a place to connect with one another. A place to explore. Art is very important in our community. It gives people a place to connect and reconnect,” Cleo said. “Our stage is open to anyone who wants to be creative.” However, as Mahogany is raising Sacramento’s consciousness through the arts, Cleo said, “the number of artists (at the poetry nights) is not what it should be.”
Cleo, who fell in love with poetry at the age of seven, was the first out of a group of four to host the weekly Wednesday evening performances, which to this day, have continued at 1704 Broadway. Now Queen Sheba, the open mics first began when the restaurant was called Jamaica House and later Sweet Fingers. Cleo said when the Jamaica House owners sold the business to Sweet Fingers, the sale was contingent on the new owner allowing Mahogany to continue their weekly event. And continue they did and thrived over the last 15 years.
Cleo explained that Mahogany’s mission is to provide artists with “a stage, a canvas, a place where you can start over again, be phenomenal again. Avenue where performers can fine tune their work.”
In this age of technology, people are craving a place to gather, to congregate with other artists, to bring their work to life, to experience the energy of a live audience. Mahogany Urban Poetry provides just this.
Having witnessed a Wednesday show for the first time on Wednesday, Aug. 6, I was floored by the gifted talent. Queen Sheba buzzed with original music, poetry, spoken word, and even a comedian that mesmerized a packed audience. Cleo, the host for the evening, was brilliant as she wove a rich tapestry of words with intros. She described the feature artist, Mic Jordan, as a “literary acrobat.”
It was a phenomenal night that paralleled any professional performance minus a hefty entrance fee, as the cost for this thought-provoking entertainment is $5. The doors open at 9:30 p.m. and the show starts rolling by 10 p.m. Even if you have work early in the morning, this is worth staying up for as the memory will put a smile on your entire Thursday.
Each spinning their personal touch, threading acts together for an evocative night of live performance, a different host provides the featured artists and others come to sign up for the open mic each week. (Cleo has the first Wednesday; Khiry, the second; NSAA, the third; and Luke Tailor, the fourth.)
The featured artists are not limited to locals as acclaimed performers Taalam Acey and the Last Poets graced Mahogany’s stage last week. Acey, born in New Jersey has won awards in both Germany and London for his slam poetry. He speaks about love and poverty, fatherhood, race and everything in the middle and draws in an international crowd. The Last Poets; Jalai Mansur, Abiodun Owyewole, and Umar Bin are a group of musicians and poets who came out of the sixties civil rights movement and continue to perform to a worldwide audience. Mahogany is no joke when it comes to scouting local and international performers and the beauty is they are right here in our midst.
Sacramento teems with varying cultures and ethnicities. Come partake in the Mahogany Urban Poetry Series anniversary celebration at the Guild on Saturday, Aug. 30. The cost is $20 the event begins at 7 p.m.
You can glimpse Mahogany on their Facebook page Mahogany Urban Poetry Series as well as contribute to their campaign fund at Mahogany 15th Anniversary/ Indiegogo.
Thank you, Mahogany. Now, let’s join the celebration.

WHAT: Mahogany’s 15th annual celebration of spoken word and poetry
WHERE: The Guild Theater
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.
COST: $20