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Sand Canyon News

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 19, 2020

Call to Action
A “call to action” email was sent to members of the Sand Canyon Homeowners Association last month from Alex Guerrero, chairperson of the Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force.

It was a recap of last year’s efforts to stop the expanded development by Steve Kim, owner of Sand Canyon Country Club. When it became public that Kim’s plan was a much larger expansion than he communicated earlier, a group of Sand Canyon residents formed Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force.

The goal of the group is “to prevent a billionaire developer from achieving one of the largest zoning changes in Santa Clarita history to convert Open Space to high density commercial zoning so that he can build, in his words, the ‘Largest Hotel & Resort in Los Angeles County’ at Sand Canyon Country Club (formerly Robinson Ranch Golf Course),” the email said.

The Task Force held a community meeting in September 2019 which was attended by nearly 300 residents, to present facts regarding the proposed resort and the impact it would have on the canyon.

“If you missed it, you can see the slides from the presentation at the web site: StopSandCanyonResort.org in the ‘documents’ section,” Guerrero’s email said.

The Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force heard from several City of Santa Clarita leaders after the community meeting. These elected officials and staff said they had no idea the extent and intensity of opposition to the resort within Sand Canyon.

“Given that feedback, and with hundreds of you asking me and other Task Force members what you can do to voice your opposition, I am emailing you today with this call to action,” Guerrero continued.

He asked residents to print an attached “Petition to Stop Sand Canyon Resort,” gather signatures, and turn in the signed petitions to Michael Hogan, a Task Force member. “ALL signatures, whether from residents of Sand Canyon, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County, or outside the State, will be helpful and impactful, so please ask anyone and everyone to sign,” the email said.

Any citizen can email scvtaskforce@gmail.com to obtain a pdf of the petition, which can be returned to task force members when completed. Include your name, address and phone number when reaching out to Michael Hogan at the gmail address.

“Ask neighbors, friends, associates and anyone else to sign the petition,” the email continued. “Every signature counts and will be helpful, so please turn in any signed petitions you have, even if they only have one or a few signatures.”

You can follow the Task Force and its community of neighbors who are now heavily involved on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/StopSandCanyonResort.

Save the Date – New Location

The Sand Canyon Community Annual Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

Residents of Sand Canyon are invited to attend the yearly event which will be held at Church of the Canyons at 7 p.m.

Church of the Canyons is located at 28050 Sand Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Email SCHOA@schoa.ealert.com for more information.

Note: The location has changed from previous meetings.

Canyon Country Park Opens First Inclusive Playground

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 18, 2020

There were hundreds of visitors at Canyon Country Park last month to see the grand opening of the Inclusive Play Area – including Canyon Country Magazine.

Residents and their kids gathered to do more than just watch Santa Clarita City Council members cut a ribbon. Children were released onto the grounds to try out the new toys and enjoy a drum station hosted by REMO. Visitors ate Jersey Mike’s sandwiches and drank Starbucks coffee at the event while visiting with representatives from Special Olympics and volunteers at the Family Resource Fair.

Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth welcomed those in attendance and introduced the event’s special guest performers – students from the City of Santa Clarita’s Primetime Preschool program, which is also based in the park. The students were able to see the construction of the Inclusive Play Area from start to finish and rehearsed songs that they could sing to their parents and other guests at the grand opening celebration.

Following a brief speaking program, attendees of all ages and abilities watched the ribbon get cut before being the first to explore the variety of elements in the expansive western-themed space. The Inclusive Play Area includes a number of features suggested by residents through a public input process, including a dual-track inclusive zipline, sensory-friendly elements, accessible connections to existing facilities and large shade structures to protect visitors from the elements in the summer months.

“There was a merry-go-round with seats instead of bars on it,” said Barbara Ward, a 58-year resident of Canyon Country. “There were so many mazes where the kids could climb through and go down a number of slides.”

Ward brought her great grandson to the opening at the park and noticed which toys attracted him most, including musical instruments built into the site.

“I’ve never seen xylophones and drums at a park before,” she said, adding details to her overall reaction. “The padding was really soft under your feet. And there were plenty of benches all around for parents, which was nice.”

For more information about the Inclusive Play Area at Canyon Country Park, contact project manager Elena Galvez at egalvez@santa-clarita.com.

Grit Obstacle Course Race

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 17, 2020

The entire community is invited to take in the excitement of the Grit Obstacle Course Race held February 22-23, 2020 at the East Walker Ranch and Golden Valley Ranch Open Space. Several Canyon Country residents are participating in Grit OCR this month, but runners aren’t the only ones who get to enjoy the panoramic views of the foothills and the ridgelines.

Spectators are welcome too.

Grit OCR is a local endurance test where individuals who want to push themselves physically and mentally can check their limits. It’s already a challenging course, but when obstacles are added to the trail it becomes a dramatic competition. There is also an all-day festival at the course with a beer garden, food, music and activities.

Online registration will close on February 20, but there will also be on-site registration available at the race. The start times will occur in waves of 30-minute intervals to prevent congestion at obstacles.

The first day of the race is the Claw Course which is the most challenging of the two. The distance is longer, with more trail running and a greater number of obstacles. The Claw Course goes through East Walker Ranch and Golden Valley Open Space where they extended the trail with a long, single-track section to create a full loop, bringing the course to just over 8 miles. There is a variety of challenging trails, killer hills, and over 20 unique obstacles peppered throughout. Claw finishers earn a 2020 medal with the special Claw key chain medallion.

The second day – Sunday, February 23 – involves the Fang Course, which is better for first-time runners as it’s less intense. The distance is shorter (5 miles) and there are fewer limitations. Also planned for the East Walker Ranch and Golden Valley Open Space site, the Fang Course includes challenging trails and 19 obstacles. In the process, you climb 728 feet to a high point of 2,329 feet.

Each of the two races have aid stations for runners to hydrate and refuel. They will have water, electrolytes and energy gels. Some stations will include snacks and food.

The event is hosted by New Global Adventures, which also produces:

Valencia Trail Race
Silver Moon Race
Arts Run
Sugar Daddy Race
Be the Light 5K
Spacerock Trail Race

New Global Adventures founders Terry and Jenny Majamaki organize and market the races, bringing together their passion for running and ability to create meaningful experiences.

“A diverse roster of events for all types of people from hikers, first-time runners, marathon runners, ultra-marathoners, to seasoned athletes; all our events achieve the goal to help keep people active and healthy while having a great time,” the website says. “Our vision is to create awesome race experiences that stand out from our competitors to give runners, volunteers, sponsors, and vendors a unique race experience that keeps them coming back for more while giving back to the community through charities and community support.”

If you want to participate you can still register to compete or choose to be a spectator this year. East Walker Ranch Open Space is located at 16723 Placerita Canyon Road in Santa Clarita.

There will be parking at two locations: General Parking at Sable Ranch on Sand Canyon Road costs $5 cash on site. As it is approximately 1.4 miles from the race course, a shuttle bus service will transport participants from parking to the race and back. There is also limited VIP parking at East Walker Ranch for $20 but you must register in advance.

For more information, visit GritOCR.com.

KB Homes at Vista Canyon Bluma and Auburn

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 15, 2020

Six model homes are now open at the Vista Canyon development. KB Homes has two classifications – “Bluma” and “Auburn” – available for purchase. They are all new, two-story detached condominiums.

A walkable community with 4 miles of pedestrian and bike paths, residents will have close proximity to shopping and dining at Vista Canyon’s Town Square. The development is close to award-winning schools and adjacent to a bus transit center, which just broke ground, and the future Metrolink station aimed at commuter-friendly travel.

The builders are describing the community as being near the edge of Angeles National Forest with miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Sand Canyon Country Club golf course is just a few miles from the development, which will include a neighborhood tennis court and fitness center.

All of the condominiums in both Bluma and Auburn have 2-car garages and upstairs laundry facilities.

The Bluma at Vista Canyon community of condos are priced from $521,490 – $545,990 and the front doors of the three model homes are facing the front of the Auburn models. The three plans have the following totals, measured in square feet: 1401, 1579 and 1690.

The larger homes in the development, Auburn at Vista Canyon are priced from $566,490 – $612,990. The three plans have the following totals, measured in square feet: 1855, 2201 and 2312.

For more information, visit https://www.kbhome.com/new-homes-los-angeles-and-ventura/bluma-at-vista-canyon.

Canyon Country Business Briefs

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 15, 2020

CITYWIDE FILM STATISTICS

The following projects were working in Canyon Country in January 2020.
Kia – Commercial
Pep Boys – Commercial
Bless This Mess – Television Show
Space Force – Television Show
Off The Grid – Feature Film

FUTURE CANYON COUNTRY COMMUNITY CENTER PROJECT UPDATE

The second phase of construction at the Canyon Country Community Center is anticipated to begin in the coming weeks. Residents will see the community center start to take shape as Phase II includes the construction of the community center building, parking lots, sidewalks, plazas/courtyards, play area and other site amenities. This phase is anticipated to take approximately 18 months to complete. Be sure to visit santa-clarita.com to see updates and information from the project site!

ARTS IN CANYON COUNTRY

Mind Flow by Renu Hasan
This exhibit will be on display until April 10, 2020 at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library.
The show features Hasan’s paper marbling technique with an emphasis on color, lines, shapes and designs. Through their travels and experiences, Hasan realized the importance of visual communication, inspiring the beginning of her artwork and willingness to teach impoverished youth.

UPCOMING EVENTS

You’re The Best
Thursday, February 27
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
The MAIN (24266 Main Street in Newhall)
FREE

Hosted by wacky local celebrity Even Steven, this is not your average community talent show! Come enjoy an outrageous and ridiculous evening of entertainment, fun and mayhem. Expect the unexpected! Admission is FREE! For more information on the contest, or to sign-up to perform, visit AtTheMAIN.org.

SANTA CLARITA PUBLIC LIBRARY

One Story One City
Each year, the Santa Clarita Public Library’s One Story One City program promotes reading and encourages discussion among Santa Clarita residents through the celebration of one story during the month of March. This year’s book selection is “Gods of Jade and Shadow” by award-winning author Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

The book follows Casiopea Tun, a woman who dreams of venturing beyond her traditional life, as she journeys through Mexico to the Mayan underworld to help the Mayan God of Death recover his throne and find her place in the world. Residents are encouraged to check out a copy from their local Santa Clarita Public Library branch and participate in book-themed programming throughout the month of March! For more information, visit SantaClaritaLibrary.com/OneStoryOneCity.
New Storytimes Added!

Wednesdays 11:00 a.m. – Read, Stretch and Play
Join us for a relaxing morning stretch and a calming story. After a good stretch, children will have time to explore sensory play in a tranquil atmosphere. It is for children 3-5 years old and their adult caregivers, but children of all ages are welcome to join.

Thursdays 6:30 p.m. – PJ Storytime
Put on your pajamas and gather with your family in a creative and laid-back atmosphere. This program is similar to daytime storytime, but is geared towards families who are working during the day. All ages are welcome!

Canyon Country Children’s Programs
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
1st Tuesday of the Month – LEGO Block Party
2nd Tuesday of the Month – Crafternoon
3rd Tuesday of the Month – STEM: We’re Scientists!
4th Tuesday of the Month – Explorer Club
5th Tuesday of the Month – Book Adventures

Toddler Fridays 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
1st Friday of the Month – Art for Little Hands
2nd Friday of the Month – Toddler Dance Party
3rd Friday of the Month – Toddler Lab
4th Friday of the Month – Construction Zone

Garden Club 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
4th Saturday of the Month

The Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library is located at 18601 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Call 661-259-0750 or visit SantaClaritaLibrary.com for more information and to view a complete listing of upcoming activities happening at the library.

Sizzler Reopens Under New Ownership

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 15, 2020

When the owner of Santa Clarita’s Sizzler left the franchise in the summer of 2019, the corporation stepped in to regroup and keep its presence in the valley.

“The Santa Clarita community has been so great to us, we couldn’t let the store close, so we came in,” said Alexya Williams of Fish Consulting, the firm representing Sizzler USA. “The Sizzler of Santa Clarita is now a corporate-owned location; it was a franchised location previously.”

The restaurant reopened in the Plaza at Golden Valley early this month with an updated menu, a brand new salad bar and a new beverage station. The banquet room, which has a capacity for 50 people, has also been updated and is now wired for presentations.

While its doors were opened for business Feb. 5, Sizzler is holding a grand re-opening celebration on Friday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. The restaurant’s signature craft salad bar will cost $4.99 for customers over those two days.

Sizzler can serve up to 329 diners at the location and is known for its USDA Choice steaks, seafood, salads and soups.

Sizzler of Santa Clarita is located at 19013 Golden Valley Road. For more information, call
(661) 250-7300 or visit Sizzler.com.

Crazy Hot Chicken

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 14, 2020

As the New Year got its start, so did a new Canyon Country restaurant. Crazy Hot Chicken opened January 6 with an original menu and all new taste combinations. Located next to Chi Chi’s and Manoushee Mediterranean Restaurant on Sierra Highway, it’s an exotic version of a traditional, fast casual chicken restaurant.

“We serve sandwiches and wings—five or six different flavors and five or six dips for them to choose from,” said Julie Ung, who owns Crazy Hot Chicken with her son, Michael. “Most sauce is made in-house and most of it is non-spicy unless the customer asks for more spice, (then) we add flavor.”

The restaurant staff does not pre-cook the chicken, which is why it isn’t fast food in the traditional sense. “Everything we cook, we cook fresh,” she said. “We fry chicken fresh, and that takes at least 7 or 8 minutes. It’s tender, nice and juicy.”
They also set themselves apart by using Hawaiian rolls for buns. Customers like the blend of the bread’s flavor with the creamy Sriracha Sauce.

“Most people like chicken,” Julie Ung said. “Some people don’t eat pork, some don’t eat beef, but most people eat chicken. It’s like comfort food. To me, it’s very convenient for people to eat – kids, adults – everybody can eat fried chicken. It’s easy to serve most people.”

The two new business owners chose the specific location because there’s easy access to the building, as it’s on a corner lot on a major street. “Everybody can see it when they get off the freeway,” Julie said.

The Ung family last owned an authentic Thai restaurant in Canyon Country. They have lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for many years.


“I love it,” she said. “It’s not crowded, it’s nice and clean and people are nice. It’s quiet, less crime than anywhere else. And not crowded. The air is clean too … not a lot of pollution.”

There is only one family-owned Crazy Hot Chicken so far. But if it becomes increasingly popular, the Ung family hopes to expand.

Michael is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, “so he came up with a recipe for the batter, how to marinate it, etc.,” Julie said.

They offer side orders from Alfredo style macaroni-and-cheese to garlic mashed potatoes. The menu is also a base for customers to expand upon. “We can make things more fancy,” she said, offering a topping of bacon and eggs as an example. “And we can put any sauce that they like on it.”

Crazy Hot Chicken is located at 27125 Sierra Hwy, suite 100, in Santa Clarita. (661) 360-9003.

Local All-Conference Athletes

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 31, 2020

Four College of the Canyons students who are athletic standouts went to high school on this side of the Santa Clarita Valley. Soccer players Emily Perez, who graduated from Golden Valley High School in 2019, and Celia Franco, a 2015 Canyon High School graduate, were first team selections for the All-Western State Conference, South Division. There were seven athletes from the COC women’s soccer team who gained honors following a season in which the Cougars led the Western State Conference in goals and qualified for the playoffs for a ninth consecutive year.
Perez is a freshman midfielder who finished the season with seven goals, including two game winners, and an assist, while serving as one of the team’s captains. Franco, who also served as a captain, scored three goals from her defensive position.

Canyon graduates Madison Martinez and Kyra Titner picked up honors for their volleyball performance at College of the Canyons. Martinez, a sophomore, and Titner, a freshman at COC, picked up All-WSC Honorable Mention accolades.

Martinez was fourth on the squad with 116 kills while playing from the outside hitter and opposite spots. Titner, a middle blocker, finished the regular season with 84 kills and ranked third on the Cougars with a .385 hitting percentage. She also recorded 45 total blocks.
For more information about College of the Canyons sports, follow the College of the Canyons Athletic Department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Scott Parker – Where Mechanics Meets Artistry

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 29, 2020

As if to mirror the latest exhibit at the Santa Clarita Artists Association gallery entitled “Time to Reflect,” Scott Parker talks about his own journey as an artist, looking back to the beginning and forward to his current projects. The Canyon Country resident has a wide range of talent from the back-to-basics simplicity of pencil sketching to modern forms such as computer graphic design. The artist continues to work in multiple mediums.
“It opens up more opportunities for me,” Parker said. “My favorite is a toss-up between photography and colored or black and white pencil. At least with those mediums I have more control over color and detail.”
To describe his interest in fine art alongside his work in website design, Parker builds on the familiar theory that humans have two sides of the brain with somewhat opposite strengths. “I’ve been able to utilize both, so to speak,” he said. “It’s been a blessing and a curse.”
He began his artistic work in elementary school. “It started with just doing pencil drawings and stuff like that,” he said. “I was in the fourth or fifth grade when I first started noticing the interest.”
Naturally mechanically-inclined, Parker’s understanding of computer systems began when he received his older brother’s hand-me-down machines. “Figuring them out on my own, I gained an interest in them,” he said. “Then I went to school to study graphic design and web design.”
He’s expanded on both ends of the spectrum – using computers to make prints of his drawings and accessing photo editing programs. He grew in his artistry by dabbling in watercolor, oil and acrylic paints. “I was kind of comfortable, but I didn’t have that control,” he said, reiterating his preference for sketching. “I also like the fact that with pencils it can be portable, unlike paint.”
Some of Parker’s favorite content for his artwork includes science fiction and fantasy. “My parents took me to ‘Star Wars’ and that opened the floodgates of my subject matter,” he said.
When you visit his website – Artworks & Abstracts – there’s a gallery with some of his images of comic book characters. One day Parker had the good fortune of meeting an icon who was one of his professional inspirations. For six years Parker was a contracted artist through a restaurant named Café Tu Tu Tango located at Universal City Walk, where he would sell his art. He saw Marvel Comics co-creator/writer/producer Stan Lee who was filming for the Sci-Fi Channel at Universal Studios. Parker approached the animation industry legend and asked him to sign one of his Spider-Man paintings and Lee agreed.
Where photography is concerned, Parker likes to capture shots of wildlife, scenery, landscapes and antiques. Some of his favorites are shoots in deserted towns where he can get images of abandoned cars and buildings. “I love the antiques – the wagons for the wood grain and the detail you can pull out of it,” he said.
Despite his success, Parker doesn’t have a lot of sophisticated equipment. “I manage to get by with what little I have,” he explained. “I used to use a little point-and-shoot digital camera. Then one of my brothers went to a benefit fundraiser and put money in a raffle for a camera and I realized what I could do with it. It went from there.”
Born and raised in the Santa Clarita area since 1977 when his family moved here, Parker went to College of the Canyons where he began studying art and computer science. When his father contracted cancer, the artist paused to focus his attention on family.
He later returned to school in web design, but most of his skills are self-taught through books, YouTube and other internet sites.
Parker has been an active member of the Santa Clarita Artists Association since 2012. He served on the board and has worked in the gallery in addition to doing graphic design on the organization’s website.
The SCAA Gallery’s new exhibit features the work of many local artists including Parker’s photo, “Walking in My Shoes.” The picture was a gift for his brother-in-law.
“Scott Parker is an excellent realistic artist,” said SCAA publicity Chair Olga Kaczmar regarding his use of colored pencil. “He does a very good job photographing and illustrating wildlife … very creative. As a member of Santa Clarita Artists Association, he put in many, many volunteer hours to get the gallery running smoothly. We are really grateful to him.”
The Artists Association is one of the reasons Parker likes living in the Santa Clarita Valley. “I like it for the community,” he said. “I know every city has their issues but I like it better than other areas where I’ve lived. It’s close to family and I have a lot of friends here from the group.”
For more about Scott Parker visit ArtworksandAbstracts.net.

Sierra Pelona Wine Festival VIP Tickets

| Canyon Country Magazine, Entertainment | January 28, 2020

If you haven’t attended the Sierra Pelona Wine Festival in the last seven years, you wouldn’t know about the engaging crowds and enterprising vendors who participate. This year the 8th annual festival will celebrate local vintners at Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce on Saturday, April 4, 2020 from 1-6 p.m.

There are various tickets available and prices go up when purchased after March 31, 2020. You can gain entrance at 12 noon if you purchase a VIP Pre-Pay ticket. These ticketholders also have access to an exclusive area with artisanal food and wines. The VIP tickets cost $90 per person ($100 if purchased between March 1-March 31 and $110 if purchased between April 1-4). Because there are only 100 available, they typically sell out in advance.

A pre-paid general admission ticket to the Sierra Pelona Festival costs $55 per person ($65 from March 1-March 31 and $75 thereafter) or you can buy a group ticket package for $500.

There are nearly 1,000 attendees at the festival each year and event proceeds benefit Zonta Club of Santa Clarita. The festival is held both to raise money for charity and to bring national and regional attention to the wine and culinary offerings of Santa Clarita, adjacent communities and the Sierra Pelona Valley.

The wine festival features local wine makers from the Santa Clarita Valley to the Antelope Valley offering tastings of their best wines, plus cider, craft breweries and spirits.  There will also be gourmet food and specialty items sampling, handmade crafts from local artisans, live music, a live auction and more.

Attendees will receive:
Specialty event glass
Event plate
Specialty gift bag
Wine and beverage sampling
Free parking

The Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association is an organization that brings together the talents and resources of its members, partners and community to promote the production and appreciation of fine food and wines grown or produced within the Sierra Pelona Valley AVA and surrounding areas. Nestled in the Sierra Pelona Mountains of Southern California, just 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, the Sierra Pelona Valley’s untouched natural beauty provides the perfect environment for burgeoning vineyards, boutique wineries and outdoor enthusiasts.

Reyes Winery is located at 10262 Sierra Highway in Agua Dulce.
For tickets, visit SierraPelonaVintners.com. For information on how to make the most of your time in Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Country, join the Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ReyesWinery.

Wedding Ways

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 22, 2020

People get married every month of the year, but there are special seasons when weekends are meant for weddings and local families come together for cakes, flowers and vows. Unless you’re someone who likes the drama of winter weddings, chances are that if you’re currently engaged, you’ll be walking the aisle several months from now.

When and Where

According to a study conducted by bridal website The Knot, 78 percent of weddings in the United States take place between May and October. Nationwide, the most popular months are June, September and October.

Spring and summer are the most popular seasons for weddings at the Odyssey Restaurant in Granada Hills. The hilltop venue hosts intimate parties of 50 individuals up to 500 guests, with indoor and outdoor accommodations for ceremonies and receptions.

The Odyssey has both rooms and private patios available, and wedding events typically include all food, beverage, staffing, table/place settings, linens and a dance floor. Staff members help wedding planners attain outside vendors for floral, décor, music, cake, photo booths and other amenities.

The garden at Le Chene Restaurant in Agua Dulce can accommodate up to 300 guests and the banquet room can host up to 100 people in attendance. Le Chene is a popular site for Angelenos to hold many special occasions – it’s not just limited to weddings. It is frequently chosen by residents for birthdays, anniversaries, business functions, holiday parties, celebration of life ceremonies, etc.

Weddings at Le Chene are particularly popular because brides are attracted to the lush greenery of the gardens to hold the ceremony and the banquet room, which comes with its own bar and dance floor, for receptions. Many of the indoor weddings at Le Chene include DJs with music for dancing on the 12-foot by 12-foot dance floor.

Reyes winery

Here in Southern California, outdoor weddings are always in style. The most popular season for weddings at Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce is March through July, though September is a great target month for local beauty. As an event venue, the winery has a huge range of options in terms of size. The average wedding at the site hosts about 150 guests, though Reyes can accommodate from 12 to 350 people.

What

As far as style goes, the surroundings, including rows and rows of grapevines at the base of the Sierra Pelona Mountains, offers the backdrop most of their clients desire. One of the weddings at Reyes Winery included a ride down the aisle on horseback.

Bloom Ranch

Bloom Ranch

Bloom Ranch in Acton is a new local venue hosting the largest number of weddings in the spring and summer months, particularly April through July.

“The fruit trees are in full bloom in April, and full/green for summer months,” said Heather Puett, who is on the Bloom Ranch management team with owners Chris and Barbara Ziegler. “We do not host weddings August through early October, due to peach season.”

As resident event manager, Puett handles bookings and coordination. Her background in wedding coordination gives her an understanding of what couples need, and her services are available for clients of Bloom Ranch if they choose. So far, clients of the new event venue have chosen a range of styles from “simple and quaint, country inspired to rustic elegant,” she said. “There have been hay bales and sunflowers, while another featured chandeliers, linens and candles. I would best describe our venue as rustic elegance. The diverse landscape and backdrop options lend themselves to many different styles and personalities.”

Bloom Ranch features peach/pear orchards, lilac fields, and two historic homes, complete with a rustic barn and hand-cut stonework. Clients have the freedom to choose the caterer of their choice, as the event site does not provide in-house catering.

Many local caterers and wedding venues such as the Odyssey offer customizable menus. The restaurant offers all-inclusive packages with signature cocktails as well.

One of the latest trends, said Beth Heiserman of Reyes Winery, is the request for vegetarian and vegan fare. Wedding planners can use the onsite catering service or hire an outside firm.

Wear

Like the changing tide of runway couture, wedding fashion is never stagnant. Generations of brides may hold fast to a particular sleeve or fabric for a time, but there’s always another style waiting in the wings. According to a review of the 2020 Bridal Fashion Week collections, wedding website The Knot says that rather than sleek and sexy, body-hugging styles, the current rage includes huge, exaggerated sleeves on ball gowns. For brides, tiered skirts are top trends, ruffles are romantic and fullness is fashion forward.

Bridesmaids are in spring pastels and even floral print dresses. For the wedding as a whole, The Knot says that color is coming. Guests can expect to see “neo mint,” “not quite pink” an earthy, rich hue of yellow and faded denim.

For men, there’s much more than black in the palette.

“Blues and charcoal grays are going to be big this spring and summer,” said Jeannie Johnson, manager/buyer at J. David’s Custom Clothiers in Valencia. “The blue looks so good in pictures – when it’s clear outside it looks fantastic.”

If you’ve been to a wedding in the last two decades you’ve probably noticed a shift from formal tuxedos to sensible suits.

“The reason why, I think … is they’re going to have more occasions to wear that suit,” Johnson said. “Some are very young and they’re just out of college and are going to go on job interviews.”

J. David’s, which was opened by David Gunther in 1983, provides menswear for rent or sale, meeting needs that far exceed wedding wear.

“A lot of guys for the awards shows that are coming up are going to be in a solid black tuxedo, going a little more classic. And a lot of people are using burgundies with black lapels for the Oscars and Golden Globes,” said Johnson, who also has the style of her prom customers pegged. “It’s the younger group that’s going to go more wild. I’ve got a white tuxedo right now with a small, black pinstripe on the outside of the lapel and a lot of guys are going to do that.”

Today’s prom customer is tomorrow’s bridal party member and there’s an industry built around predicting their style. Some of Santa Clarita Valley’s businesses are paying attention … or they should be.

Many Become #SaugusStrong

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 15, 2019

There was a time when we were all Saugus. And recently, after the November 14 shooting on the Saugus High School campus, we all stood under that umbrella once again.

Golden Valley High School held a charity basketball game to benefit the Saugus community on the day before the students returned to school Dec. 2. Also, Golden Valley’s website recognized Garth Sanders of Minuteman Press, a GVHS parent, for his support for the #SaugusStrong efforts. He donated banners to Golden Valley so students could express their support. Banners were sent across town to Saugus to be displayed for encouragement when the campus reopened.

Canyon High School graduates are also showing their support. Amanda and Megan Gardner joined their mother, Karen, in putting their talents to work. Assisted by their aunt, Julie Chebbi from Westchester, and Sulphur Springs teacher Jenna Baker, the group created hundreds of handmade Saugus Strong key chains and bracelets.

When Karen Gardner posted on Facebook that people could purchase them to support Saugus High families and the school’s wellness center, Canyon High School staff members bought dozens of them. Karen distributed them to the staff at Saugus High School for free.

You can purchase them for $10 each; visit the Saugus Strong Facebook page and put “key” in the search bar to pull up the post.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has submitted a grant request to the City of Santa Clarita in the amount of $5,000 in hopes they will receive a Community Services and Arts Grant to bring several educational programs to schools in this valley, says Kim A. Bunnell, president of NAMI San Fernando Valley. The nonprofit organization has such programs as Mental Health First Aid and Suicide Prevention.

NAMI California posted the following message on the nonprofit’s website: “We are deeply saddened to hear about news of a school shooting in Santa Clarita. Whenever we hear about another tragedy involving gun violence, we grieve along with our fellow citizens and community members impacted by it.”
One of the group’s strongest concerns is the stigma that keeps people from getting the psychological help they need. They have an article on their website entitled “The Truth about Gun Violence” which explains that according to studies at such universities as Johns Hopkins and UCLA, mental illness contributes to only about 4 percent of all violence.

It says, “Every time we experience a tragedy involving guns, people with mental illness are drawn into the conversation. The truth is that the vast majority of violence is not perpetrated by people with mental illness. Statements to the contrary only serve to perpetuate stigma and distract from the real issues.
“Most people with mental health conditions will never become violent, and mental illness does not cause most gun violence. … We need to have an honest and productive national conversation about all the factors that play into this type of violence and what we can do to prevent these tragedies. Only then can we find meaningful solutions to protecting our children and communities.”
The good news is that local individuals are mobilized in every related facet of the problem, from law enforcement to therapies for those dealing with grief. Many would say the support has looked a lot like #SantaClaritaStrong.

New Business – Pierogi Spot

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 14, 2019

European Cuisine Comes to Golden Valley Marketplace

When new restaurants open on the edge of Canyon Country, it draws curious crowds looking to add to their favorite food venues. The uniqueness of newcomer Pierogi Spot, which opened this summer, gives you the opportunity to go somewhere new and expand your palate with their unique cuisine

For some residents, it is their first visit to a Polish restaurant, and other than Polish sausage, they aren’t really sure what dishes are served in that part of the world.

A pierogi is a dish from eastern and southern Europe that consists of a small dough dumpling with a filling such as potato or cheese, often served with onions or sour cream. Pierogi Spot has a lot of options, including pierogis with pork, sauerkraut and mushrooms, potatoes and cheese, and potatoes with onion. The chef boils and pan fries them, then they’re stuffed with your choice. Among the toppings used are BBQ sauce, sour cream and cheddar cheese.

There are dishes you may have heard of, but didn’t know they were Polish classics, such as hunter’s stew and stuffed cabbage. Your entrée is accompanied by a salad and, of course, they make their own soups and sauces, including rich horseradish.

No one will go away hungry. You can top off your meal with cakes or crepes for dessert.

Owner Michael Budny is an immigrant from Northern Poland who moved to Southern California for college and relocated to Santa Clarita a few years ago, where he’s sharing with locals a menu of favorites from his native homeland. Before opening the local venue, back in 1994, the family launched Polka, a restaurant in Los Angeles.

Pierogi Spot is located at 26511 Golden Valley Road, Santa Clarita. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. plus you can book them for catering your parties. For more information, visit www.pierogispot.com or call (661) 254-4850.

Canyon Country Business Briefs

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 14, 2019

CITYWIDE FILM STATISTICS
The following productions were filming in Canyon Country in November 2019.
Television Shows:
Bless This Mess – Sable Ranch
Good Trouble – Sound stages
68 Whiskey – Local movie ranch
NCIS – Newhall Park/Ice Station Valencia
S.W.A.T. – Car dealership/Newhall
LA’s Finest – Bermite property
16 and Pregnant – Local home
Party of Five – Sound stages
Feature Films:
The Outlaw Johnny Black – Local movie ranches
Shooting Star – Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch
The Little Things – Saugus Superette
Commercials:
Coldwell Banker – Driving shots
Lawnmower – Area homes
Walmart – Walmart
Alexa – Circle K
Internet/Web:
MC Promo – JEM FX
Non Profit:
Overwatch PSA – Blue Cloud Movie Ranch
Student Films:
Reverter – Area home

CANYON COUNTRY PARK INCLUSIVE PLAY AREA UPDATE

Construction for the new Inclusive Play Area at Canyon Country Park is moving forward. The old playground has been removed, civil engineering, including drainage and utilities, has been addressed and the footings for the shade structures and concrete forms are underway in preparation for the installation of the new inclusive play equipment. The project is on schedule to be completed by the end of 2019, with a grand opening event being planned for January.

The new inclusive play area will replace the existing 3,500-square-foot playground with a shaded play area measuring approximately 9,400 square feet upon completion. This play area has been designed with the 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design developed in partnership with Utah State University and the Center for Persons with Disabilities. A conceptual rendering and a project video of the project at Canyon Country Park can be viewed on the City’s website at santa-clarita.com/CIP.

For more information about the new Inclusive Play Area project at Canyon Country Park, contact Elena Galvez at (661) 255-4911 or egalvez@santa-clarita.com.

FUTURE CANYON COUNTRY COMMUNITY CENTER PROJECT UPDATE

Current construction at the future Canyon Country Community Center site includes the installation of the infiltration system and site grading. Phase I improvements to the Mint Canyon Channel have been completed.

The second phase of construction, which includes the community center building, parking, walkways, plaza/courtyard, play area and other site improvements, will begin at the conclusion of Phase I. The construction elements for Phase II are currently out to bid and a contract will be awarded at a future City Council meeting.

ARTS IN CANYON COUNTRY

Mind Flow by Renu Hasan
An exhibit by Renu Hasan is on display at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library from December 10, 2019 to April 10, 2020 .
The exhibit shows Hasan’s paper marbling technique with an emphasis on color, lines, shapes and designs.

Through her travels and experiences, Hasan realized the importance of visual communication, which sparked the beginning of her artwork and inspired in her a willingness to teach impoverished youth. This unique exhibit should not be missed.

UPCOMING EVENTS

SANTA CLARITA PUBLIC LIBRARY

Featured programs at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library in December include:

Kids:
Holiday Extravaganza Storytime
Monday, December 16
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Teens:
Library Eats
Monday, December 16
3:30 p.m.

Cookie Decorating
Wednesday, December 18
3:30 p.m.

Teen Flicks: Star Wars Edition
Thursday, December 19
3:00 p.m.

Adults:
Cricut 101: Part 3 – Creating a Project
Thursday, December 19
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Relax and Paint: Holiday Edition
Monday, December 23
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Visit SantaClaritaLibrary.com for more information and to view a complete listing of activities happening at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library.

Gift From Bethlehem – Jam for Jesus

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 13, 2019

Bethlehem SCV in Canyon Country holds an annual concert that is nothing short of a valuable gift to the community. There are many (as evidenced by its typically standing-room-only attendance) who rush as enthusiastically for a seat at Jam for Jesus as they raced to the tree on Christmas morning as a child.

And with good reason! It’s a free three-hour music experience featuring men and women who perform for a living, but volunteer their abilities for the concert.

There are dozens of A-list musicians who perform at the concert – some who tour with the likes of Phil Collins, Earth, Wind & Fire, Ringo, and Frankie Valli. It’s spearheaded by Robby Robinson, who pulls together about 30 of his friends – professional musicians like himself – to bring the show to the public.

Robinson was recognized by the City of Santa Clarita Arts Commission in March (see sidebar – at the end of this article).

“The talent level is just off the charts, but more than the talent level is the heart that these musicians have, who are giving their talent – significant talent, I might add – to the Lord,” Robinson said. “You walk into this church and what you get is something you’d expect to see in Radio City Music Hall.”

This year, the 28th Annual Jam for Jesus will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019 at 7 p.m. at Bethlehem SCV.

Front-and-center is Robinson on keyboard, who created the annual event when he was the minister of music at the church in the 1990s, and his brother, Rex Robinson, on bass. Though Rex, an Agua Dulce resident, has retired from touring, both men were in Frankie Valli’s band, and Robby has been Valli’s music director for more than 40 years.

Some of the horns, guitarists, vocalists, etc. are locals who are now professionals, including Andrea Hammond, Roland and Tristan Garcia and Sara Niemietz, Tony Galla and Dr. Michael Millar. Jam for Jesus performers also include musicians who play in the “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” bands.

The songs in the concert are sacred, Robby said, including a number of Christmas songs. But the group tackles many different styles, from classical to jazz/pop. Far from a rigid performance, it’s what Robby calls “somewhat loose,” where there’s only one rehearsal and a basic script, which he writes in advance.

Like a symphony, these friends of Robby create a blend that fills the rafters, using little musical construction but still following a list of songs and basic arrangements.

“It’s like flying with no net,” Robby said. “It’s a very intimate kind of concert, not formal – you feel like you’re backstage. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been there.”

One professional who’s “been there” from the beginning is percussionist Richie Garcia. He’s recorded on soundtracks for such films as “The Italian Job” and “Emperor’s New Groove” and toured with Sting, Diana Ross, Brooks and Dunn and many others. His sons, Roland and Tristan, also perform professionally and have been a part of Jam for Jesus since their grade school days.

“It’s an honor to share the stage with my family and some of the most accomplished musicians in Los Angeles year after year,” said Tristan Garcia in an interview with Canyon Country Magazine last year. “They come together for a time of giving, share their talents and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.”

If you attend Bethlehem SCV on a Sunday morning, it’s possible to hear several of the same musicians. You’re more likely to see Rex Robinson in the worship band than Robby, who is now a minister of music at Trinity Lutheran Church in Simi Valley, where he lives. But his years of leadership give him the ability to speak for many of his musician friends.

“I feel so blessed to do what I do,” Robby said. “And that’s the way these guys feel.”

Bethlehem SCV is located at 27265 Luther Drive in Canyon Country. For more information, call 661-252-0622 or visit BethlehemSCV.com.

 

When the City of Santa Clarita Arts Commission recognized Robby Robinson last spring, he responded with this Facebook post:
This is an event that is so much bigger than me, I would be remiss to NOT publicly acknowledge a number of people, so sincere THANK YOU to…
My talented bass-player brother REX ROBINSON, has been there playing for all 27 years, even playing 1 year with 103-degree fever.
My friend (for 48 years) who is like a brother, extraordinary percussionist RICHIE GAJATE GARCIA has been there ALMOST all 27 years, along with his sons ROLAND & TRISTAN who have grown up playing at this event.
Literally hundreds of A-list musicians and singers who have graciously given of their precious time and extreme talents to give back! The list is like a who’s-who of the music industry … you know who you are … THANKS!
This tribute goes not just to the musicians on stage, but also to all the behind-the-scenes people, technical people, production people, and church staff … it couldn’t happen without you!
Brilliant bass trombonist DR MICHAEL MILLAR who spearheaded last night along with Arts & Events Manager PHIL LANTIS. Thanks as well to the whole SC Arts Commission … the artistic community in Santa Clarita is in great hands!
http://santaclaritaarts.com
PASTOR JOHN KOCZMAN and BETHLEHEM SCV CHURCH for so graciously hosting J4J for so many years.
http://www.bethlehemscv.com
My church home of TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH-SIMI VALLEY who hosted the early years. I’m proud to serve TLC as Minister of Music.
http://trinitylutheranchurchsimi.com
My wife CARLA who puts up with my madness every December (as well as the other 11 months each year!)
To all the wonderful friends who came out last night to show their support…not one wisecrack was heard (out loud).
So … last night I find myself in a government city hall … the wonderful city of Santa Clarita, Calif., being honored for a series of concerts proclaiming the Savior’s Birth … only in America!!
Of course, I have to acknowledge the Reason for the Season, the reason for life, breath and everything I do … JESUS.
Soli Deo Gloria!

Girls Invited to Play Softball

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 13, 2019

Registration is now open for girls between the ages of 6 and 12 to receive softball training from Canyon High School players and coaches. On January 8, 2020 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Canyon High program will hold a Winter Softball Clinic at the school.

Training will include hitting, throwing, running, pitching and catching. Lunch, snack and beverages will be provided. Participants who are registered by Dec. 21, 2019 will also get a T-shirt. The session will take place at the CHS softball fields located at 27824 Camp Plenty Road in Santa Clarita.

The clinic costs $55 per player for those who register on or before Dec. 21, 2019. After that, the price goes up to $60. Same-day registrations are welcome, although T-shirts can only be guaranteed for those who register by Dec. 21.

Participants should wear appropriate practice clothing and bring their own personal protective equipment including bat, batting helmet, glove and cleats.
For more information on how to register, email Scott Goodspeed at scott@canyonsoftball.org or the Cowboys Softball Booster Club at wearecanyonsoftball@gmail.com.

Drew Wolitarsky – Renaissance Man

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 13, 2019

The Canadian press has called him “the adventurer and thinker” who writes poetry, plays guitar and sings. It doesn’t sound like Canyon Country football star Drew Wolitarsky who went on to play college ball and now plays in the Canadian Football League. But it is.

Suffice it to say, what’s most interesting about Drew is what he does in the off-season … like traveling to Europe, learning Italian and working on a novel.

Having known Drew Wolitarsky since his elementary school days, I can tell you he was always different than he appeared. A gifted athlete, most people would assume he spent all of his free time watching sports, conditioning for sports and playing sports.

But that’s an incomplete, short-story version of Drew that reduces his essence to the skills you see. He is, rather, an unfolding, multiple volume series – the kind with too much depth to be binge-watched.

The summary is this: He was an award-winning athlete at Canyon High School, mostly known for his speed in track and record-breaking catches as a wide receiver on the Cowboys football team. He went to the University of Minnesota on a football scholarship and then was drafted by the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he has been catching passes for three years.

His biggest moment in sports occurred last month when he aided the Bombers in winning the Grey Cup, which is Canada’s version of the Super Bowl. And even in a moment that gridiron greats would compare to winning an Oscar, his “speech” tells you he’s so much more than an athlete. It’s the internal game that intrigues Drew the most.

“Those guys you played with so long, you bonded with them and did this incredible thing,” he said. “It’s less about the trophy and more about the guys you’re with. The guys you win it with become legendary in your mind.”

He never doubted they could win the Grey Cup, but it was far from a sure thing. This year’s Blue Bombers were not always looking like frontrunners. They went into the championship with seven losses.

“It was cool how it unfolded,” Drew told me. “We were up and down, up and down, we had injuries – everybody had injuries in the CFL. It was this rugged battle between teams.”

Drew and his Bombers pulled together like a ballet, ending with a performance that led to a 33-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“We just stuck together,” he explained. “It was more of a story about when it seems like things are falling down around you, you still have to face those guys that come into the room.”

The experience brings a lot of things to mind for Drew. “When you’re on the field and you know the situation ahead and the game is blowing up in the media and with the fans, it’s actually comforting to know this is just a job,” he said. “I’ve learned that it’s a long season and it’s a long grind. You’re going to feel things … but you take it a day at a time.”

Though the camaraderie is similar, it’s not like college ball.

“It’s such a different dynamic – in college you have teammates you know will return,” he explained. “Everything’s changing. Coaches will change and players will change.”

As for coaches, the CFL has been good to Drew, in part because Coach Mike O’Shea was a player himself.

“He knows how to coach because of that. It’s huge for someone in any profession,” Drew said. “He gives us such respect. A lot of players say it doesn’t get better than O’Shea.”
The mood is low-key for such a high-stakes game. “We’re not stressing,” Drew said. “So we didn’t get a first down … screaming and getting all worked up is not how you win games.”

A lot has changed for the 24-year-old since his days at Canyon.

“High school is fun, there’s no pressure, no stress, there’s no money involved,” he explained. “I went out there knowing I’d have a great game. When I went to college … it’s more of a business, there’s money involved, there are fans across the nation. The possibility of failure is what you’re dealing with – how can I not think about this while I play?”

Local football fans can see the arc in Drew’s athletic range, but he’s developed internally just as much.

“It’s like anything – you grow up in your small town and you go out in this world and nobody knows you,” he said. “All you have is your work ethic and your reputation. You can’t feel like ‘I’m entitled to this.’”

The creative side of Drew buffers the stresses of football and the need for precision. He plays music at various venues when the mood strikes him, plus He recently finished three songs on an electronic album and even formed a band with some former teammates in Minnesota.

“I need that,” he said. “It keeps you grounded.”

Early in the season, Drew actually combined two of his talents when he entertained fans after catching a touchdown pass, using the ball to play air guitar.

A fellow writer, Drew has an article on the Bombers website that’s personal and intimate about winning the Grey Cup. He compares the ritual of drinking from the Cup to satisfying the thirst of fans, like the city of Winnipeg which held a victory parade for the Bombers.

“I love to share what’s on my mind, I love to share art, I love being connected to people,” he said. “That’s why I want to travel. I care about humans in general.”

It comes full circle when he explains the aspects of his CFL experience that resonate with him most.

“There’s something very rewarding about having people depending on you for something, not in a way demanding of you, but everybody has their part and they’re doing it,” he described. “It can also be very hard, because when you don’t succeed you feel like you’re letting people down.”

Wolitarsky family celebrates at the Grey Cup (L-R): parents Audrey and John, Drew and his brother Austin

There’s no letting down one team – his family. His parents, John and Audrey, along with other family members (they even let me come along once) travel to Canada as much as possible for games. One of Drew’s favorite moments occurred after the stunning win that clinched the Bombers’ spot in the Grey Cup championship. He looked to the stands and saw his father beaming back, supportive and proud

“All of a sudden I had a feeling somebody was looking … you know how you can just feel the energy?” Drew asked. “I’m not kidding, it was a child’s face looking at his favorite player, unsure of what to say. It was, ‘I’m your biggest fan.’”

Though he’s the son in that scenario, Drew shifts to a parent’s perspective when creating a metaphor about winning the big one.

“It’s like making a baby with 45 guys,” he said. “You remember that moment it’s being delivered. It’s beautiful.”

Curly’s Cowboy Christmas Fundraiser

| Canyon Country Magazine | November 12, 2019

Guests at an upcoming fundraiser will enjoy an evening of food and entertainment while benefiting children from abusive homes.

The 18th Annual Curly’s Cowboy Christmas will benefit Happy Trails Children’s Foundation, where boys between the age of 10 and 16 get to reside and enjoy activities while getting therapies and other resources they need.

Curly’s Cowboy Christmas is a tribute to the memory of award-winning singer/songwriter “Curly” Jim Musgrave of Lake Arrowhead who founded the event. This year, entertainers include Belinda Gail, “America’s Western Sweetheart,” who is one of the most highly awarded western music performers of all time. Also, popular cowboy poet and storyteller Chris Isaacs is back by popular demand, along with country-western band Jerry Hall and Trick Shot.

The drawing for Silver Screen Legend XXII will be held, and one lucky winner will be drawn out of the drum to win the unique Tribute to Dale Evans, Queen of the West, which includes a pair of Dale Evans Happy Trails commemorative Colt single-action army .45 caliber revolvers with an authentic Roy Rogers style double holster rig and cartridge belt. This is a gorgeous highly-collectible outfit. These are genuine firearms that are subject to all state and federal firearm laws and regulations.

You can enjoy the entertainment and buffet dinner at Curly’s Cowboy Christmas on Saturday evening, December 14 at the Holiday Inn at 15494 Palmdale Road in Victorville.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. for a social hour with a no-host bar and entertainment, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and the show, which is suitable for the entire family. Dress is western/semi-formal.
The Happy Trails Children’s Foundation is a tax-exempt charitable organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. If you are unable to attend in person, a Christmas donation would be appreciated. Checks may be made payable to: Happy Trails Children’s Foundation, 10755 Apple Valley Road, Apple Valley, CA; 92308.

Tickets are $50 each or $95 per couple. Seating is limited and tickets tend to sell out. To reserve your tickets, call 855-788-4440 or 760-240-3330. You may also order tickets online at Happytrails.org.

New Business – Cruzin’ Thru Comics

| Canyon Country Magazine | November 9, 2019

If your favorite fictional characters wear capes, you may have a new hangout in Canyon Country.

Cruzin’ Thru Comics just opened on Sierra Highway and has a cozy location where you can immerse yourself in stories about superheroes and other animated books and collectibles.

“Our main focus is comic books, but we sell graphic novels, hard covers, toys, statues, posters and superhero artwork,” said Johnny Cruz, who owns the store with his wife, Gloria.

The store’s most popular items involve Marvel characters Spiderman, Wolverine, Carnage and Venom, but DC Comics isn’t too far behind with Batman and Joker, especially after the recent “Joker” movie.

A technician with AT&T for 20 years, Johnny Cruz got interested in comics as a hobby, which grew to become a side business.

“We mostly have been doing conventions and sales online,” he said. “I felt the need to open the store because I have so much inventory.”

Johnny and Gloria have attended and worked at conventions outside the SCV such as the San Diego and Long Beach Comic Con trade shows. Locally, they are a part of Valley Comic Con in Valencia this month and the Santa Clarita Toy and Comic Expo at College of the Canyons on March 8, 2020.
The couple chose to open the business in Canyon Country because the only local comic stores are in Newhall and Saugus.

“It’s a tough business because everything’s online, but there are benefits to a brick-and-mortar store,” Johnny said. “We’re open for local buyers and customers that want to come in and actually look at the items they’re buying. It’s a permanent place for people to go.”

Cruzin’ Thru Comics already has some “regulars.” Some of their clients bring in merchandise to sell.
“I do a lot of wholesaling too – a lot of my customers are dealers as well,” said Johnny, who’s been selling on ebay for more than a decade. “It’s very reasonably priced. And we have it set up really nice. There’s a TV monitor to play movies. There’s no gaming at the moment, but it’s a very nice place to buy comics. People love it.”

The store and its layout will continue to evolve. For instance, the couple plans to install a little two-seat sofa in the front of the store.

“It’s been a bit hectic, a lot of work setting it up, but everything went fairly smooth so far – fixtures and signage,” he said.

The main collectors or buyers of comics are between the age of 20 and 30, Johnny said. But their customers are wide-ranging in age. He has found that people who collect comics are young kids up to seniors in their 70s.

Both Johnny and Gloria grew up in Santa Clarita and attended Saugus High School. They and their sons now live in Palmdale.

Stay tuned for a grand opening celebration later this month. “We’ll possibly have some free books, maybe some raffles, free food and drinks,” he said. “And I might have an artist come by to do sketches.”

Cruzin’ Thru Comics is located at 17812 Sierra Hwy, Unit D in Canyon Country. Call 661-210-7746, email Cruzinthrucomics@yahoo.com or visit Facebook.com/Cruzinthrucomics.

High Winds and Tick Fire

| Canyon Country Magazine | November 8, 2019

Fall traditions like Halloween and Thanksgiving are great, but Canyon Country residents aren’t fond of the annual wind-powered wildfires that seem to show up with the regularity of a holiday.

When the Tick Fire broke out on Thursday, October 24, despite intentional power outages by Southern California Edison, it affected homes in Stone Crest and Shadow Pines communities. By Friday morning the fire had scorched more than 4,000 acres and consumed homes, eventually destroying 29 structures, most of which were residences. There were about 70 structures damaged or destroyed in the fire, mostly residential.

photo by Austin Dave

photo by Austin Dave

photo by Austin Dave

photo by Austin Dave

Hundreds of firefighters fought the Tick Fire while thousands of residents evacuated from multiple areas of Canyon Country. Between Thursday night and Friday morning the fire jumped the 14 freeway, which sent many residents of Sand Canyon packing.

Southern California has been under an extreme red flag warning by the National Weather Service due to 40-70 mph winds. Edison has been responding by cutting power as a preventative measure; however, some residents complain that it cuts off communication from important emergency information. For Sand Canyon, in particular, it’s a challenge because of limited phone reception in the area.

After midnight on Friday morning, October 25, Canyon Country resident Michelle Sandoval received word that her neighborhood of North Oaks had to evacuate.

“The sheriffs came up and down the streets, weaving and flashing lights, using a megaphone, telling residents we had to leave, that it was mandatory,” she explained. “That’s when we realized it was more serious than we thought. We saw a lot of neighbors leaving.”

Luckily, she was prepared. “We had packed earlier,” she said. “We kept checking a website where they had a map of the city and the areas that were red were under mandatory evacuation, including our neighborhood.”

She never received a text from authorities until after they left the house. Sandoval headed to her uncle’s house in Saugus, but it was the middle of the night and he didn’t answer his phone.

“I had my dogs, but I drove to the COC evacuation center to check it out anyway,” she said, assuming that animals were not allowed at the site. “There were a lot of people there, outside, walking their dogs.”

Later that morning they let residents from many neighborhoods return to their homes, including Sandoval, and Sand Canyon was repopulating by Friday afternoon. Evacuations were lifted in the Shadow Pines/Stone Crest areas at various time frames.

As local residents brace for continued phases of dry conditions and high winds, making the area ripe for wildfires, there are numerous safety concerns. Ironically, the power outage creates some of the issues brought up by people in fire areas. In addition to improving communication lost by the lack of power there are other hazards.
When residents are home – when evacuation orders are lifted – total darkness can prove problematic. One Shadow Pines resident noted that streetlights and stoplights weren’t operational in the days following the Tick Fire. In total darkness, some drivers ran through intersections without stopping and cars parked on the sides of the street could easily be hit – even by fire trucks.

Fire on Ball Mountain

Krissy Ball of Canyon Country was shopping in Saugus on Thursday, October 24 when her son, Russell, sent her a picture showing a plume of smoke he could see from their two homes atop a hill on Sierra Highway. It looked pretty far away, but because of the high winds she decided to go home, where Russell and her husband, Chris, were monitoring the situation.

“Right away I could hear the concern in Chris’ voice and he started directing me – and Russell and Jose, who works with us – to get everything away from the house that’s flammable,” she said. “Then I thought, okay, someone has to go into the house and find stuff to save … safes, our family heirlooms, mementos, pictures.”

She spent about a half hour loading the cars while they moved items away from the house, most notably, a large pile of firewood.

“I thought I still had some time to get stuff out of the house, but suddenly embers jumped across and behind our two water tanks – totally opposite of where the fire was – bam!” Ball said. “The fire was heading our way from the north, coming toward our house. Now we had flames on the opposite side of our house. And then it started blowing downhill toward Mint Canyon, toward our other house.”

Chris Ball used a garden hose, creating a fire deterrent to protect their homes on “Ball Mountain,” which are structures that most people don’t see from the road below.

“I went up and down, up and down, to see if our other house was okay, and I went to the street to see if there were fire trucks,” Krissy said. “They didn’t know we were up here. I’m flagging them down, flailing my arms like a crazy woman. There was a firefighter in a regular truck, sitting on the phone. I knocked on the window and said, ‘Why isn’t anyone coming up the hill?’”

Finally, a truck pulled up to the Ball’s driveway. “I was down on the street by the lower house and I didn’t know the status of our upper house, I didn’t know how Chris was,” Krissy said. “They were going to stop at the lower house and I directed them, ‘Keep going, keep going,’ and they said, ‘Is there a house up there?’”

Chris Ball’s efforts and the arrival of firefighters saved the family’s homes. Chris had built them, using flame retardant siding and other safeguards, but he learned the hard way about the need for power.

“One of our houses has battery backup, so the fire sprinkler system was fully operational, but the other house didn’t have backup,” he explained. “We were required to have a sprinkler system, but when Edison turns the power off, we don’t have power to energize the solar panels. … You’ve got to have the batteries to back it up.”

Chris noted the cooperation between fire departments, the way they help each other. The crew that stood on their hill were firefighters from Fountain Valley in Orange County – and they had “never had their engine off the pavement,” Chris said.

In fact, one of the takeaways from the experience is the connections that take place. Krissy and Russell ran through smoke to save his cats, but also helped a neighbor search for her dog. And at the worst moments of the fire Krissy was comforted by a perfect stranger a few streets away.

Since the fire Krissy’s become Facebook friends with neighbors she never knew, she said, and their acquaintance is growing: “Now we’re going to have breakfast and discuss our fire stories.”

Attention: Tick Fire Victims
Simply Discount Furniture is reaching out to Tick Fire victims who are struggling financially. Local residents who cannot afford to replace some of their furniture necessities damaged by the fire can contact the store owners, who are offering to replace them free of charge. If you are in that situation, call Trisha Garrison 661-799-3401.

You Can Help
Canyon Church, a campus of Real Life Church in Valencia, posted some local needs and resources on Facebook to reach out to Tick Fire victims.
You can support those in need through some of the GoFundMe pages listed below.. There are requests for such necessities as toiletries, as well as a call to give gift cards. All families receiving gift cards are identified and vetted by school counselors and social workers in the area, the post says.
GoFundMe pages include one for a teacher with L.A. Unified School District who lost her home and all of her belongings in the fire. Another page is raising money to help a Canyon Country animal advocate who had to let her animals run free while she watched her home being destroyed by flames. A third GoFundMe page includes a family near Pinetree Community School who lost everything.

See the Real Life/Canyon Church Facebook page for links to these GoFundMe pages.
You can donate gift cards by taking them to Real Life Church on a Sunday or drop them off at the front office of Canyon High School, which is located at 19300 Nadal St. in Canyon Country.
The types of gift cards suggested are:
Walmart
Target
Sam’s Club
Ralphs
Vons
Restaurants
Also, Canyon Springs School’s Resource Center is collecting toiletry items and clothes for 4- and 5-year-olds. Those can be dropped off at Canyon Springs School or through Canyon Church/Real Life Church.
Canyon Springs is located at 19059 Vicci St. in Canyon Country. Real Life Church is located at 23841 Newhall Ranch Rd. in Canyon Country. For more information, see the Canyon Church Facebook page.

The Cox Family’s 100-Year Legacy

| Canyon Country Magazine, Sand Canyon Journal | October 25, 2019

by Martha Michael

When Sand Canyon lost longtime resident Paula Cox, who died on July 31, 2019, there was a sadness felt by many members of the community, but the loss had an even wider impact. The history held by the Cox family serves as a marker in time, specifically to the earliest days of Canyon Country’s existence.

Paula Palmer Cox was the widow of Clement Cox, who died in 2014. The couple met in Sand Canyon as youngsters, and four generations of the Cox family have lived on the same property going back to the early 20th century.

Clem, as he was known, was the son of Leona and Clement Dunbar Cox, who moved onto 40 acres in Sand Canyon when the area was called “Saugus” in 1923. Leona Cox Community School in Canyon Country honors the name of Clem’s mother, who was widowed in 1930 at the start of The Depression and stayed in Sand Canyon to raise her three sons. The Cox family has lived on the same property for nearly 100 years.

Leona worked to improve the education her sons received at Sulphur Springs School, even hauling water and building fires to heat the room. She acted as librarian, secretary, custodian … and was praised for being an advocate for education in general.

Paula Palmer and her parents lived in Hollywood, but owned property adjacent to the Cox family’s lot in Canyon Country (at the time, called Saugus), where they would visit on weekends to ride horses. In 1944, Paul and Edith Palmer would make Canyon Country their home.
At the age of 13, Paula met her 15-year-old neighbor on the same piece of property where the couple would later establish their home as husband and wife.

Clem completed school at Sulphur Springs Community School and attended San Fernando High School, followed by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he earned a degree in agriculture. Only time away at college and serving in the South Pacific during WWII took Clem away from his Sand Canyon home. Upon returning, he became a teacher of floriculture at Van Nuys Junior High School in Sylmar, where he also taught math and agriculture.

Paula Palmer went to Hollywood High School and University of Southern California, the same college where their daughter, Cathy Kraeger, would later choose to attend.

On their property in Canyon Country the Cox family created a chicken ranch. Clem had a group of poultry ranchers that went by the moniker “The Dirty Dozen” and they met regularly to advise each other about their respective challenges. Clem’s ranch grew to include 30,000 chickens and more than half of those were laying hens.

Handy and mechanically inclined, Clem helped build a swimming pool on his Sand Canyon property in 1957. “I had the tractor and dug the hole,” he told Canyon Country Magazine in 2008. “I put the steel in and hired a gunite man to come in. Then I bricked it.”

Cathy Cox married Steve Kraeger and they raised their children on the large property as well. Before retiring, Cathy taught at Canyon High School, serving as head of the Spanish Department. Their children, Scott and Katie, were the fourth generation to reside on the family’s property.

In the late 1990s, Clem Cox opted to sell most of his acreage in Sand Canyon to Ted Robinson, a golf course owner and architect, who had been a part of more than 160 projects around the world. It was a joint venture between Ted and his son, Ted Robinson Jr., and opened in 2000. It is now called Sand Canyon Country Club.

Both Clem and Paula lived long lives and died the way they lived – at home, on the land where they met, surrounded by their loved ones.

“She had 92 very good years and turned 93 on June 26,” Cathy Cox Kraeger said. “We certainly miss her, as she was very much present in our everyday lives. It just takes time.”

Paula used to tell her grandchildren, “I live in the house that gives me hugs.” Canyon Country community members are grateful she chose to share those hugs with the rest of us. And now it’s time to pass them on.

Best of Canyon Country 2019

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 21, 2019

The winners are:

Breakfast: Crazy Otto’s

Lunch: Dickey’s
18742 Soledad Canyon Road
661-251-0840.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

For nearly five years, Dickey’s has been serving up BBQ to Canyon Country residents, sometimes on their way to the movies next door or after they look around at a car show.

It opened in January of 2015 drawing hungry customers who want the popular brisket or pulled pork meals, which are smoked between 12-14 hours.

“The mac and cheese are awesome,” said Pauline Robles who owns the local Dickey’s with her husband. “And our BBQ beans. The ribs have become popular too – St. Louis style pork.”

Soft-serve ice cream is always free with the purchase of a meal, and children eat free on Sundays.

“I have a lot of regulars from church and school,” she said, adding that there are members of many churches who come by on Sundays – not just from the church around the corner.

Some of their customers show up when their favorite meals are the “Deal of the Day,” such as pulled pork on Mondays and three-bone ribs on Tuesdays, etc. Deals come with two sides and a drink.

“My favorite is brisket and ribs. I make sure it’s cooked, smoked to the right texture,” Robles said. “I work seven days a week to make sure the store has the same quality.”

Dickey’s is open every day 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and they only close on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
18742 Soledad Canyon Road
661-251-0840.

Dinner: Chi Chi’s Pizza
27117 N. Sierra Hwy
661-252-4405, ChiChisPizza.com.

While Canyon Country residents have a favorite Chi Chi’s here in town, there are four Chi Chi’s locations in a franchise that began more than 60 years ago. The Miccolis family is still making customers happy with fresh egg pastas, salads and pizzas.

The Chi Chi’s Choice Pizza is a customer favorite (sausage, mushroom and bell pepper) and antipasto salads always get rave reviews. What residents may not know is that there are a number of seafood dishes on the menu, including the fresh and authentic cioppino with crab, mussels and shrimp.

Chi Chi’s regulars love the cream sauces, such as the fettuccine Alfredo, but the main staple – Chi Chi’s meat sauce – is the secret to their success. (Chi Chi’s continues on page 22)

While the restaurant stays current, adding items to the menu – from business lunches to sliders – it’s the fact that you can still sit down and order up the wholesome Italian dishes you count on that make it a community favorite.
Chi Chi’s
27117 N. Sierra Hwy
661-252-4405, ChiChisPizza.com.

Chiropractor: Ron Bittle at Peak Performance

Car Wash: Canyon Car Wash
18727 Soledad Canyon Rd
661-250-0399

Always giving 100 percent to their customers, Canyon Car Wash is a hometown favorite because of their standout service to Canyon Country residents. With rising popularity, they are washing and detailing more and more cars for locals every year. Canyon Car Wash uses state-of-the-art tunnel equipment and completes the process faster and more thoroughly than ever before. The facility is also built for servicing the RV customer.Managers and staff are experienced and they live here in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Canyon Car Wash
18727 Soledad Canyon Rd
661-250-0399

Dentist: Terri Nguyen (owner of) Canyon Country Dental Group
26877 Sierra Hwy, Santa Clarita.
661-251-2002, CanyonCountryDentalGroup.com.

When Dr. Terri Nguyen opened Canyon Country Dental Group more than 15 years ago, she brought a fresh approach and a modern practice to the area. Her hard work has focused on maintaining a friendly staff and she remains accessible to patients.

There are currently three general practice dentists and four specialists who work for the group. There are two dental hygienists and patients have access to orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics and oral surgery at the location.

“We welcome all new patients and accept most major insurances,” says operations manager Keneisha Sellers. “And if you don’t have insurance, we offer an exam and cleaning for $59.”

While making small-town friendliness a priority, Canyon Country Dental Group has also sought to stay current where technology is concerned. The practice will soon have a Cone Beam Panoramic machine, which can take CT Scans and other 3-D imaging.

And there’s another new development – the office is now taking appointments on Saturdays.
Canyon Country Dental Group
26877 Sierra Hwy, Santa Clarita.
661-251-2002, CanyonCountryDentalGroup.com.

Hairdresser/Salon: Bob’s Canyon Country Barber Shop
18234 ½ Soledad Canyon Road,
661-252-9888.

For 50 years, Bob’s Canyon Country Barber Shop has been offering good, old-fashioned barbering to the community. Bob Ruiz has been working at the chair since then, and became the owner in 1973. About 75 percent of the barber shop’s customers are regulars who have stayed with Ruiz and the four other barbers for 20-25 years.

There are no appointments – you walk in and take your pick of haircuts, shaves and you even get a head massage. “We give them good service and we take care of them,” the owner said. Right now they’re creating a lot of short fades, plus they still do a lot of flat tops, mostly for police officers.

Bob Ruiz has lived in Piru and driven in to Canyon Country daily since 1968. And the schedule at Canyon Country Barber Shop is one reason he has succeeded.

Open just five days a week, the barbers are happier because unlike some shops, no one is working Sundays or Mondays. That means everyone has the same days off and there are two in a row, as opposed to barbers who have to cover seven days a week by taking different days off.

Ruiz believes it eliminates friction and keeps the atmosphere peaceful and smooth. “It keeps the barbers a little happier,” he said, explaining why all five of them have been at the shop at least 25 years. “If barbers are happy, they aren’t going to move.”

Bob’s Canyon Country Barber Shop
18234 ½ Soledad Canyon Road
661-252-9888.

Veterinarian: Sand Canyon Animal Hospital
16524 Soledad Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita
(661) 261-8888
SandCanyonAnimalHospital.com

For two years, residents of Sand Canyon have had a veterinary staff and pet hospital just a stone’s throw away. Sand Canyon Animal Hospital is located in the Vons shopping center, offering comprehensive physical exams, parasite prevention, lab work, nutritional counseling, specialized care for senior pets, balanced vaccines, lost pet microchip ID and other services.

More than just a technologically advanced veterinary office, Sand Canyon Animal Hospital staff members are pet owners themselves, as well as experts in surgical care. To streamline the process, the animal hospital has made it easier to get an appointment. You can make a non-emergency appointment request online.
Sand Canyon Animal Hospital
16524 Soledad Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita
(661) 261-8888
SandCanyonAnimalHospital.com

Pet Groomer: Chris’ K-9 Clippery
19413 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 251-0011, Chrisk9clippery.com

The staff members at Chris’ K-9 Clippery treat customers like family, welcoming all breeds of dogs and cats. Professional groomers offer “bath & brush,” as well as complete grooming for your pets. They also offer teeth cleaning and nail clipping. This previous winner of the “Best Groomer in Canyon Country” award has been a go-to resource for the community for nearly 30 years.

“We love our dogs. We love what we do,” said Chris Anderson, owner of Chris’ K-9 Clippery. “We’ve been doing it so long it’s second nature to us. We treat them like they’re ours.”

If a feline needs special attention, the groomers refer them to someone who specializes in the care of certain breeds. “Whatever’s in the best interest of the animal,” Anderson said.

Chris’ K-9 Clippery has three self-service tubs, so you can groom your own animal. While most of the self-serve clients are dogs, there have been a few unusual clients, such as pigs.

One of the business owner’s favorite experiences, she said, is when police officers with K-9 units come in to use the self service.

There is a discount for service dogs, service personnel and military members. Anderson also offers free nail clipping for the pets of senior citizens.
Chris’ K-9 Clippery
19413 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 251-0011, Chrisk9clippery.com

Thrift/Resale/Vintage: Goodwill

Pharmacy: CVS
19424 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 251-5444

It is one of the largest pharmacies in Canyon Country, juggling both the filling of prescriptions and the sale of thousands of goods. The management at CVS Pharmacy credits a dedicated group of employees who do a great job of taking care of their customers’ needs and embracing the company’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.
CVS
19424 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 251-5444

Dry Cleaners: Rainbow

Auto Repair: Canyon Auto

Hardware Store: Paul’s Paint & Hardware
18597 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 252-1572

When Paul Dell’Olio moved Paul’s Paint & Hardware to its location on Soledad Canyon Road near Vallarta, the store became more central and accessible to residents of the entire Santa Clarita Valley. A longtime resident, Dell’Olio offers his customers personal attention, providing them with both expertise and consistent service.

There’s no big box bureaucracy at this hardware store, which is also a Benjamin Moore paint distributor. Paul’s carries plumbing, electrical, tools, paint and garden/sprinkler supplies, plus you can have keys cut in the store. Paul’s Paint & Hardware makes screens onsite also.

He carries products for DIY projects, and contractors turn to Paul’s for interior and exterior paint. The store carries specialty coatings for paint contractors.
Paul’s Paint & Hardware
18597 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 252-1572

Real Estate Agent: Anthony Bedgood at Kellar-Davis

Grocery Store: Ralphs
19340 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 252-6226, Ralphs.com

There’s a lighter, brighter atmosphere in Canyon Country’s Ralphs, thanks to the store’s latest remodel. There are also new features that boost convenience and freshness.

“New floors, new décor … it looks really great in here,” said Ralphs Store Manager Christine Shipley.

The produce department is the customers’ favorite, resulting in the highest sales among various sections of the store.

“It is always fresh, it’s vibrant, full of colors, fresh and clean,” Shipley said. “Seafood is another high producing department for us. We have a great variety of fresh fish. The same goes for our service meat case – fresh daily.”

The pre-sliced packages at the service deli are freshly sliced throughout the day. Ralphs just installed a new self-service soup bar and a grab-and-go section, where busy moms can find healthy lunches.

“You can pick what you want without having to wait in line. It’s a great addition to the store,” Shipley said. “And we have great, friendly employees.”
Ralphs
19340 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 252-6226, Ralphs.com

Best DJ: DJ Greg
DJ GREG Barbacovi
661-839-7111
www.djgregonline.com

For several decades, Greg Barbacovi, known as “DJ Greg,” has been sharing his talents with residents of the Santa Clarita Valley. He was the DJ for The Broadway at the grand opening of Santa Clarita’s mall in the ‘80s. He played music and hosted Monday Night Football at nightclub Genesis and was entertainment manager at the former Ranch House Inn during the ‘90s.

He’s also hosted Wednesday night’s dance party at Mabel’s Roadhouse for nearly two decades. But more than just spinning music, Barbacovi’s interest extend to events such as Bark for Life and Red Bull Day in the Dirt.
“I’ve helped plan thousands of live events, ranging from weddings to reunions to dirt bike races,” DJ Greg said. “SCV’s American Cancer Society has made me their ‘voice’ … and I’ve done many events for the Arthritis Foundation, Parkinson’s Moving Day, and the City of Hope. So from backyard BBQs to five-star weddings at the Biltmore, I offer my clients experience and versatility.”
DJ GREG Barbacovi
661-839-7111
www.djgregonline.com

Best Tattoo Studio: Revenant Tattoo

Sunny, the Singing Principal

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 21, 2019

by Natalia Radcliffe

Principal by day, singer by night. Almost sounds like the premise of a movie script, doesn’t it?

Monica Balbuena leads a double life – one as administrator and another as performer.

She is a Canyon Country resident who is the principal at the West Valley Occupational Center by day. But at night, she lets her hair down and becomes Sunny the Singing Principal, an energetic, enthusiastic vocalist with a love of performance.

Balbuena started singing in her early 30s – at first, just in her role as mom.

“The only time I would sing would be with my boys in the car,” said Balbuena. “Our favorite song to sing together was ‘La Isla Bonita’ by Madonna.”

Unfortunately, when her children became older, they lost interest in singing with their mother. It was after this that Balbuena started to pursue other avenues to express herself.

And it was not easy.

“I always enjoyed singing, but I was too scared to let it come out,” she said.

One day, she was at the Acapulco restaurant with some friends. During their happy hour, people could sing karaoke. Her friends tried to persuade her many times to get up and perform a song.

“It took about five times to work up the nerve to say I’ll try it,” said Balbuena. She joked that all it took was a margarita to give her some liquid courage and, since then, she has never looked back.

Performing karaoke certainly can come with some interesting stories.

“While singing, I’ve had a girl barf in front of me,” said Balbuena. Also, “while singing, I’ve been breaking up fights.”

Many artists inspire her, like Julio Iglesias and Cyndi Lauper. “I loved her style, and eccentric way of dressing,” explained Balbuena. “I try to be a fun singer.”

Some of her favorite songs to perform are “Gypsy” by Fleetwood Mac, “Pontoon” by Little Big Town, and “Do You Want to Dance?” by Bette Midler.

She also enjoys singing newer songs such as “Shallow” performed by Lady Gaga from the movie “A Star is Born.”

Genre, era, it doesn’t matter when it comes to picking a song.

“I sing songs I like. I have no rules,” Balbuena said.

Locally, she enjoys singing karaoke at places such as Medrano’s in Canyon Country, Bergie’s at the entrance to Sand Canyon, and the Moose and Elks lodges, both on Sierra Highway.

As a result of karaoke, she joined a cover band called Cherry Cream, who she sang with for 12 years. They came up with the name, she said, because it was the drummer’s favorite flavor of coffee at 7-Eleven.

“We didn’t take ourselves too seriously,” she joked.

The band worked professionally, covering artists like Pat Benatar, Sheryl Crow, Fleetwood Mac and Melissa Etheridge.

If there is one group Balbuena would aspire to cover, it’s Heart, a famous rock band from the 1970s. “I could never sing this song, but if I had a magic wand, I would want to sing their song ‘Magic Man,’” she said.

In August, after a five-year hiatus with her projects, she decided to team up with a friend who plays the guitar and keyboard, and perform at The Junkyard, a restaurant in Simi Valley.

When she retires, it will be from her job as principal. She is not planning to slow down where her music is concerned.

“I’m going to retire in a few years and … I hope to pursue doing musical theater,” said Balbuena.

Specifically, she is planning on auditioning locally, at Canyon Theatre Guild in Newhall.

She isn’t limiting herself to musicals, though, as she has another very important role.

“I’ll have more time to dedicate to my music,” Balbuena said, “as well as being a grandmother.”

Update from the Stop Sand Canyon Resort Group

| Canyon Country Magazine, Community, Sand Canyon Journal | October 10, 2019

Sand-Canyon full logo

A group of concerned Sand Canyon residents formed the Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force and are taking steps to formally resist a building project proposed by Sand Canyon Country Club owner Steve Kim.

Hundreds of residents attended a standing-room-only meeting on September 11 at The Church of the Canyons to hear from speakers set up by the task force. Issues on the agenda included:

  • Emergency Evacuation Dangers
  • Major Zone Change Required
  • Cumulative Infrastructure Burden & Other Developments
  • Open Space Elimination

Two retired fire captains spoke first, discussing the hardship of evacuating during fires. Using phrases like “recipe for disaster,” they spoke of the difficulty in getting people, horses and other animals out of the canyon during the Sand Fire of 2016. Cars, trucks and trailers sat on roads for hours waiting to drive out of Sand Canyon when evacuated.

The two former firefighters laid out physical reasons why alternate routes to exit Sand Canyon are not reasonable alternatives when there’s a wildfire.

Resident and architect Russell Meyers, AIA, spoke about the changes required to allow Steve Kim to proceed with a project of this size, including a removal of Sand Canyon’s “Special Standards District” zoning.

“This rezoning & project will adversely affect our rural and equestrian lifestyle with the infusion of high-density, mass commercial-oriented development in the least density-zoned area of our city,” he said. “And it will do so now and more so in the future.”

He explained that the general plan is intended and recognizes the need to provide for all residents with a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle, establishing the appropriate distribution of land use by type, intensity, density and codes through zoning.

“Our special village and Special Standards District is facing the most transformational challenge to date,” he said. “We need to protect it. This individual developer’s current proposal, long-term vision or underlying agenda intended in our community is not compatible with mine nor, hopefully, your vision. It’s our choice where and how we choose to live.”

Next, Sand Canyon resident Susan Carey spoke to the group.

“We are being told by project supporters that we, Sand Canyon residents, will have to adjust our lives to accommodate this commercial facility and get used to more traffic, constant noise and thousands of visitors,” she said. “And the reason we’re supposed to make these sacrifices? There (are) two: So the city can get tax revenues from the hotel and so the developer makes a huge profit from the speculative real estate purchase.”

She talked about the lack of fairness in the trade-off and the alarming change in the environment if the City of Santa Clarita leadership agrees to it.

“Many of us are very worried that if the city is leaning toward approving this project then that’s a signal to us residents that the city is ready to disregard our special status,” she said.
Resident Michael Hogan took the stage next and told the audience about the stipulations made when the land was sold to Ted Robinson for the golf course. He explained that city leaders made sure there was plenty of open space and protected the rural nature of Sand Canyon. He also said that none of the current Santa Clarita City Council members were serving at the time.

Residents do not want members of the Santa Clarita Planning Commission or the City Council to forget the zoning granted to Sand Canyon at the time nor to dismiss it as unimportant. That’s one of the goals of the task force.

“What started as three people at my dining room table grew into a task force of 27 in order to stop the Sand Canyon Resort from changing the land’s zoning from open space to community commercial,” said Alex Guerrero, chairman of the Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force. “It has now taken on a life of its own, with hundreds of Sand Canyon residents now standing united in opposition of this development.”

When the late Clement and Paula Cox sold some of their acreage for the development of Robinson Ranch Golf Club and adjacent homes in the late 1990s, there were stipulations drafted regarding zoning.

On September 10, 1996 the Santa Clarita City Council unanimously approved, with community input, a zone change allowing for the construction of single-family homes and the preservation of approximately 300 acres of land into perpetuity as recreational/open space at the location being proposed for this resort.

“Perpetuity, as we all know, is defined as ‘forever,’” Guerrero said. “Now, the City of Santa Clarita is entertaining a request by a developer to change that open space zoning to allow for commercial construction. That should alarm all Santa Clarita residents. That park, trail, greenbelt, Central Park or bike path our citizens thought they had ‘in perpetuity’ in their local neighborhoods are vulnerable if a billionaire developer wants to come convince the city to eliminate our open space in all corners of this city. The current City Council and Planning Commission will have to search within themselves and decide if they want to reverse a unanimous action taken by the Santa Clarita City Council in 1996. If that happens, how can we trust City Council votes and promises ever again?”

The Stop Sand Canyon Resort Task Force has a Facebook page and website you can visit to stay updated.

On the website StopSandCanyonResort.org you will find a petition you can sign, which reads:

We, the undersigned are:
AGAINST the Sand Canyon Country Club Hotel and Resort Development
AGAINST REZONING and ask that the Santa Clarita City Council keep Robinson Ranch golf course as Open Space
ASK the Santa Clarita City Council to recognize the Sand Canyon SPECIAL STANDARDS DISTRICT
https://www.facebook.com/groups/StopSandCanyonResort/

What is being proposed?
•      This will be one of the largest resorts in L.A. County right in the middle of Sand Canyon.

•      Zone change for this project will allow for future massive, dense, commercial use throughout the entire canyon forever.

•      3,000 occupants (guests, employees)

•      Main Hotel (1 three-story building 165,000 sf)

•      Main Hotel Basement & BOH (23,000 sf)

•      Wedding Hotel (3 three-story buildings 67,500 sf)

•      View Villas (14 two-story villas 110,000 sf)

•      Oak Villas (9 one-story & 1 two-story villas 47,500 sf)

•      Grand ballroom (10,000 sf)

•      Junior ballroom (3,000 sf)

•      Meeting room & pre-function space (10,700 sf)

•      Dining (3 restaurants with kitchens 25,000 sf)

•      Spa/Gym/Salon (33,000 sf)

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