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:
Sam’s Club
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

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

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

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

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,

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

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

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

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.
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.”
19340 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 252-6226, Ralphs.com

Best DJ: DJ Greg
DJ GREG Barbacovi

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

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

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)

Canyon High Boys Basketball

| Canyon Country Magazine, Community | October 9, 2019

Support them October 17th at Wicked Chicken!

Neighbors vs. Sand Canyon Resort

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 19, 2019

Sand-Canyon full logo

It’s a project in its early stages and wouldn’t be completed for years. But it already has stirred opposition from residents and been met with a mostly wait-and-see approach from the city council.

It’s the Sand Canyon Resort and Spa.

Steve Kim, CEO of Sand Canyon Country Club (formerly Robinson Ranch) wants to build a 77-acre complex. At about 534,200 square feet, the project would feature two three-story hotels with a combined 322 rooms, 15 two-story villas, nine single-story villas, meeting center, ballroom, three restaurants, children’s center, spa, gym, salon, two pools, tennis court, mini-golf course, gardens, trails and 393 parking spaces.

Speaking from Seoul, South Korea, Kim touted the project’s benefits: 500 jobs that will keep people from having to go over the hill, $80 million to the local economy, millions of dollars in hotel taxes to the city, amenities to Canyon Country and Santa Clarita getting its own five-star resort similar to the Ojai Valley Inn.

“Santa Clarita has a beautiful location, unbelievable beauty,” he said. “There’s nothing like that. I don’t understand the opposition, unless they’re really selfish.”

Additionally, city Communications Specialist Kevin Strauss said in an email, an existing one-acre water quality detention basin would almost double and be connected via a new storm-drain pipe.

The project would require a zoning change for two land parcels, from open space to community commercial. That means it’s intended for retail and service serving the local market. The other two parcels would remain open space.

The loss of open space is one reason the Sand Canyon Homeowners Association and other residents are opposing. They created the Stop Sand Canyon Resort task force because they feel their way of life in their rural area is under threat. According to its Facebook account, Stop Sand Canyon has 188 members as of Wednesday.

One such member, Dana Martin, has posted several times. These include accusing Kim of offering councilmember Bill Miranda 30 acres of open space to build a cultural center, his skepticism that there is enough water, how grading caused a water runoff onto a neighbor’s property, and whether a resort would really benefit the residents.

Kim said he was aware of the neighbor’s concerns, and he paid the resident, Russell Myers, $5,000 to fix the problem. In a June 10 email to city Associate Planner Hai Nguyen, Kim explained that after the fires and mudslides in 2016, the grading company brought in soils to fill in bunkers and lakes. The February rains caused the runoff, and the city served him a notice of violation.

As for the acres to Miranda, Martin referenced a conversation Kim recounted having with Miranda in Kim’s book, “American Dream.”

In the book, Miranda confessed he’s wanted a cultural center for a while, and Kim said it should have a lot of visitors, but downtown is not the right location.

“We have about 30 acres of open space left over after the development, and I was wondering what the land could be used for,” Kim said.

Miranda responded, “Steve, do you mean you’re going to offer the site to the City?”

Reached Wednesday, Miranda acknowledged he spoke to Kim about it but called the conversation “very superficial. I don’t know if he has 30 acres or 10 acres to offer, but when the time is right, we’re going to be looking around.”

Also opposing the project is Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE). Its president, Lynne Plambeck, posted on the SCOPE website a reminder that the city promised about 300 acres of land in perpetuity as open space when it approved Robinson Ranch in 1996.

Martin also is aware of this, and he challenged Kim on Facebook, “Abide by the conditions of approval for Robinson Ranch, which you agreed to as a member of the ownership group, including preserving the open space that was granted in perpetuity, that you now want to build on.”

People are watching Kim’s actions carefully and haven’t been afraid to report to the city. As far back as 2017, people have logged complaints about early-morning and late-night noise, and alleging illegal grading and other violations. But documents the Gazette obtained have shown only violations pertaining to floodlights shining into neighboring properties, which were resolved.

Grading is occurring on the grounds, and one time the city did cite Kim for failing to obtain a permit to grade. Kim said the grading is not for the Sand Canyon Resort project, and city Associate Engineer Rohil Santa Ana said the project has no active grading permits.

Another objection people have raised goes back to the Sand Fire in 2016. Many found themselves stuck and blocked from exiting the canyon from the side nearest Soledad Canyon and Sand Canyon roads. Many fear a repeat, and they expect such a project to increase traffic, making it that much more difficult to get out if another emergency arises.

Kim said he’s aware of this objection, too, but in a letter he sent to the Sand Canyon HOA board, he figures an average of 940 people would be staying at his resort at any one time, that most people would stay only two or three days, and that they would check in and out during non-commute times, mitigating traffic concerns on the 14 Freeway.

Besides, he said, there already are exits via Robinson Ranch, Canyon Springs and Lost Canyon roads that don’t affect Sand Canyon Road. And he believes that Robinson Ranch’s presence slowed the fire.

“They pick on every little thing,” he said. “These people are so unreasonable. Think about all the benefits. It’s really disheartening.”

Kim provided a 75-page market demand analysis done by multinational real estate corporation CBRE. The city council requested the report at a meeting in July 10, 2018.

Among its conclusions: It would primarily serve the Santa Clarita market, it wouldn’t be visible along any major thoroughfare, and the facilities and amenities would optimize market position and performance.

“An opportunity exists for the development of a high quality, resort hotel at the subject site,” the report said.

Mayor Marsha McLean and Miranda declined to comment about the project, Miranda citing the lack of a finished environmental impact report as the reason. Councilmember Cameron Smyth said he welcomes input from all sides before deciding.

“I want to be as open-minded as possible,” Smyth said, “but I recognize a project like this will have significant impact to the residents of Sand Canyon.”

Only Councilmember Bob Kellar – himself a Sand Canyon resident – has come out in favor of it. “I think it’d be a nice addition to this end of our community,” he said. But he added that he, like Miranda, wants to read the EIR first.

Kim said the EIR, which he said cost $3 million but the city put it at $254,190, is complete, and he wants it released now, but the city told him within a month. Strauss said the EIR will be posted for public comment and will include analyses of traffic, noise and air quality. Soon after, the Planning Commission will hold meetings about the project, and then the City Council will weigh in.

Kim hopes to have final approval by the end of the year, and he has a Jan. 1, 2022 target opening date. In the meantime, the sides dig in for a long fight.

New Business! Golden Canyon Country Barber Shop

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 19, 2019

When the Guevara family realized the positive qualities of the Canyon Country community, they decided to become a part of it. Three months ago, Bernie and Maria Guevara and their son, Steve, sold their Bakersfield barber shop and two months later, they opened one here.

Golden Canyon Country Barber Shop is strategically located in the Vallarta shopping center near Paul’s Paint & Hardware on Soledad Canyon Road.

“We’re Hispanic and there’s a big community here, which is where we draw customers, but we want to serve everyone in the community,” said Steve Guevara, 28. “It’s a great location, and we’re new to the area. It’s nice here and it’s affordable.”

The barber shop offers haircuts, hot towel shaves, shampoo washes, and they cut hair for all ages – from kids to seniors.

“My dad is originally from Mission Hills and we moved to Bakersfield about 15 years ago,” Steve said. “Recently we decided to come back and start something new.”

There are 10 chairs at Golden Canyon Country Barber Shop, so the Guevaras plan to add hairstylists, since the space is sizable. Their plan is to meet other barbers in the area first.

“Everyone here was so friendly,” Steve said. “But if there’s anything we might need … if somebody’s overstaffed – networking helps.”

The shop is closed Mondays and open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m.- 7p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Golden Canyon Country Barber Shop is located at 18583 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Call 661-360-8311 or find them on Instagram.

New Business! Bearded Lady Pub

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 19, 2019

It may be a long time since you strolled through a carnival – with its funnel cakes and fried turkey legs – but now you can get the big top experience at a new Canyon Country restaurant: The Bearded Lady Pub.

And if you’re hoping for something more than the usual burgers and pizza, you’re in luck. It’s a unique dining experience that’s part British pub and part carnival atmosphere, plus a full bar.

Check out the grand opening September 19, 20, 21! Free food and fun!

“It’s an American take on a British traditional pub,” said Michael Taback, who opened the restaurant with his daughter, Mariah, earlier this month. “We’ve got things like hand-dipped proprietary batter corndogs, we’ve got burgers, we’ve got sandwiches … Reuben fries with pastrami and all that goes on them.”

The Bearded Lady has salads, sandwiches, sliders, etc., but one of the new eatery’s signature dishes is fish and chips. And if you love the festive fried foods you find at the fair, you can get them every day. The menu includes fried Twinkies, deep fried Snickers bars and a number of desserts such as Cookies and Cream Churro Sundaes.

One of their original savory dishes is the Famous California Cone, which is a fried tortilla shaped like a cone with meat and vegetables inside.

“And the Famous Bearded Lady Cocktail tastes like peach iced tea but it kicks you like an aggravated mule,” Michael said.
The intimate space has a capacity for 30 with ceramic wood floors and walls of circus posters with characters from the “World’s Strongest Man” to the “Sword Swallower.” A colorful, retro jukebox is modernized, which means it’s connected to the internet with thousands of options. And there are three TVs for sports fans.

Mariah Taback, 28, is culinary-trained and grew up in a family that has been in the restaurant business for four decades. They own a Victorville eatery.

“Food has always been a big passion of mine,” she said. “The most challenging part is learning everything.”

Her forte is sweets and most of the Bearded Lady menu is savory. “I’m enjoying myself and I’m not afraid of hard work,” she said, explaining the origin of the restaurant’s unusual theme. “I’ve always loved fairs, carnivals and amusement parks. It’s like going to a carnival – very fun, very upbeat. You can get something quick to eat; you can sit down and have a meal. It’s a festive atmosphere.”

Mariah also likes the idea of contributing to business development on the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley.

“It’s a relaxed atmosphere and conveniently located to all the homes in Canyon Country where you can get snacks, soft drinks, fries, or a big snack or dinner,” Michael explained.

The Bearded Lady Pub is located at 19010 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Find Bearded Lady Pub on Instagram or visit Beardedladypub.com.

Support Canyon High Basketball

| Canyon Country Magazine, Community | September 14, 2019

September 19 at Oggi’s 11 am – 10 pm, www.canyoncowboysbasketball.comhttp://www.canyoncowboysbasketball.com

Coach Joseph Maiale Blazing New Trails

| Canyon Country Magazine, Sports | September 13, 2019

Less than a year ago, Joseph Maiale got married, started a new job and took over the Canyon High School football team. With so many transitions at one time, it’s safe to say this new cowboy is a trailblazer.

Coach Joseph Maiale with team captains Evan Cox (#24) and Aydyn Litz (#12)

“It’s been amazing – I’ve loved every second at Canyon,” said the 38-year-old Maiale, who joined the special education staff at the school last semester when he also began working with the football team. “They are both, in many ways, full-time jobs. But it doesn’t feel like work. I spend a lot of time here at Canyon – I like teaching and coaching is a pleasure on top of that.”

Just last month he moved to Santa Clarita from Oxnard, where he coached a successful football program. He joined them during a rebuilding phase, which he’s also been a part of at other schools.

“I’ve worked on several staffs – St. Genevieve, Harvard-Westlake – it’s something I have experience with and the process is really fun,” said the coach, who may apply similar rebuilding strategies at Canyon, which he describes as having “a couple of rough years.”

Maiale’s strategy? Consistency.

“Do we do the little things right? Do we do them all the time?” he posed. “Consistency is good in whatever we do. The lessons are consistency and effort.”

Maiale grew up in Reseda and played football at Cleveland High School and Pierce College. He then joined the football team at Menlo College in Northern California.

He’s been coaching about 15 years, but changed careers a few years ago when he left a job in sales to become a special education teacher. He also worked as a substitute teacher.
“I’m used to transitions,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to staying here.”

So, while a lot has changed in the new coach’s life, he’s no maverick on the field. He just believes everyone is the sum of their experiences.

“I’m new here. I bring my experience working at different schools,” he explained. “I have some success and some experience helping programs rebuild. And I’ve been where the facilities are not this good and there’s not this much support.”

Canyon High School football is a Maiale family experience. Maiale’s brother George was on the Cowboys coaching staff last year and continues as a defensive coordinator, while Joe’s specialty is offensive coordinating and line coaching.

“I’ve been fortunate to coach as long as I have,” Coach Joe Maiale said. “I’ve pretty much coached every position on the field.”

Joe and George’s parents, who still live in Reseda, attend the games along with other family members. Their father coached them through Pop Warner and Little League and now enjoys watching from the stands.

“I’ve been around a lot of really successful coaching,” Coach Maiale said when asked about his style. “We’re teachers. Are we teaching the kids the right way?”

The new Cowboys coach hopes to improve the program, of course, but he also wants to foster a positive family atmosphere, inviting the community to attend games.

“I want them to come out and be a part of it. We want it to be a family … we want you at the games,” he said. “We welcome Canyon alumni to be part of something special. It brings up the school and the culture.”

And so far, so good.

“Everyone is very supportive,” he said. “Everyone’s been so kind and welcoming. I’ve had the time of my life.”

Best of Canyon Country

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 26, 2019

If you love to Yelp, or just want to give a shout out to your favorite local business, here’s your chance!

Every year, Canyon Country Magazine seeks to reward all of those businesses that deserve recognition for providing their customers with everything they want and need. We’d love for you to be a part of it – give your favorite establishments the “bragging rights” for their industry, so everyone else in town knows they’re the best.

How do you vote?
Simply let us know your favorite:

Restaurant * Hair Salon * Store *Realtor * Pharmacy * Attorney * and others…

*Vote by mail
*Vote here https://santaclaritafree.com/best-of-canyon-country

Canyon Country Business Briefs

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 13, 2019

In June, the City issued 39 film permits, which contributed to 90 film days, generating an estimated economic impact of $2,004,000.

The following productions were filming in Canyon Country in June 2019:
Television Shows:
America’s Top Dog – Sable Ranch
Atypical – Starting 9 Batting Cages
Mayans MC – Area street, Mountasia Family Fun Center
Murder for Hire – Area home
Recreation #2 – Sable Ranch
Scrawny to Brawny – Fair Oaks Park
Dweller – Sable Ranch
SRRL – Sand Canyon area home
CAR – Area streets, Santa Clarita Skatepark
Chevy – Mountasia Family Fun Center, Rancho Deluxe
Walmart/Capital One – Walmart
Student Films:
El Narco (New York Film Academy) – Church of the Canyons
Super Roomies (New York Film Academy) – Area home


Phase I of the Canyon Country Community Center project continues to make progress on the corner of Soledad Canyon Road and Sierra Highway. As Phase I nears completion later this year, residents will see the final touches put on the Mint Canyon Channel, as well as construction of the site’s infiltration systems and completion of the rough grading. Phase I is scheduled to be completed at the end of this year. Phases II and III are expected to begin construction after the first of the year and take approximately 18 months to complete. Phases II and III include the construction of the community center building and site improvements.

For more information on the new Canyon Country Community Center project, visit santa-clarita.com/FutureCCCC.


The public outreach process for the Inclusive Play Area project included three public outreach meetings at Canyon Country Park. The public meetings were ‘open house’ style, allowing the attendees to learn about the project, share their thoughts and ideas on the project with City staff and the consultants, vote on play elements and review and comment on the preliminary and revised designs.

Construction will begin in September 2019 and the grand opening of the City’s first Inclusive Play Area will take place by the end of this year.

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.


The Ground Beneath Me; Not Above Me, So Enjoy Life
On display Aug. 2 to Dec. 3, 2019
Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library
The images in this display were created by a local photographer who had cancer and radiation treatment, but did not let that stop him from making art. Through the difficult ordeal, the artist continued to photograph, create art, appreciate nature, live and love life.

This exhibit hopes to remind everyone to stay positive, have a good attitude and continue to live life to its fullest.


Concerts in the Park
The City of Santa Clarita’s annual Concerts in the Park, presented by Logix Federal Credit Union, continue. The 30-year-old program takes place in Central Park on Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m. through August 24. Voted the “Best Live Entertainment in the Santa Clarita Valley in 2018,” you won’t want to miss exciting shows still to come from Mirage – Visions of Fleetwood Mac, Grateful Shred, The Replicas and Erotic City, and a Tribute to Prince!

Be sure to bring your blanket and chairs to these free events and see what residents love about it. You can get more information on the entire Concerts in the Park lineup by visiting santa-clarita.com/concerts.

25th Annual River Rally and Environmental Expo
You and your family can help clean a portion of the Santa Clara River – the longest free-flowing river and one of the last two natural river systems remaining in Southern California.

Be a part of the solution for a better environment by helping to preserve the river’s natural beauty and variety of wildlife. To date, thousands of volunteers have collected more than 445,000 pounds of trash and debris from the Santa Clara River and its tributaries!
Saturday, September 21
Newhall Community Center
22421 Market Street
8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
More information: http://greensantaclarita.com/calendar/river-rally/

Canyon Country Community Center

iTEENS (12-18 yrs.)
iTeens is a teen after school program. Local youth have the opportunity to participate in homework help, leadership development, team building and more.
Mon through Fri beginning Aug. 19
3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Teen Night Out (12-18 yrs.)
Drop-in and work up a sweat with an evening of Dodgeball, Wii, or computers in the Tech Room. Bring a friend! Activities will be structured; membership and participation is required.
Friday, August 30
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Saturday Drop-N-Play (5-12 yrs.)
Drop in and enjoy structured play and fun activities on Saturdays. SMART ProTrainer Interactive Wall,
computer time, arts and crafts, games, and more are available. Membership is required.
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Tiny Time Hour (1-5 yrs.)
Get out and socialize at Tiny Time Hour! Join us for a morning of parent-led activities including art, toys, games and more. Whether you need a new play date spot for your child or want to get out and make friends, at Tiny Time you can mingle, have fun and experience new things.
Mondays, August 19 and 26
9:15 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.

DoodleBugs (2-4 yrs.)
Come and enjoy a fun parent/child participation class. Children and parents will engage in a multitude of sensory activities, crafts, stories and songs.
Fridays, August 23 and 30
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Fee: $5 per class

Adventures with Food (3-5 yrs.)
Cooking activities that integrate reading, math, science and healthy living. Focuses on measuring, mixing and tasting new foods. Parent attendance is required.
Wednesdays, August 21 and 28
10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Fee: $5 per class

Preschool Fitness Fun (3-5 yrs.)
Enjoy a morning of fun on our SMART ProTrainer Interactive Wall. Preschoolers will discover the fun of fitness, while developing their gross motor skills. Participants will practice and improve skills such as spatial awareness, locomotor coordination and rhythmic skills.
Wednesdays, August 21 and 28
11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Fee: $5 per class

Visit santa-clarita.com/CCCC or call (661) 290-2266 for more information and to view a complete list of activities happening at the Canyon Country Community Center.


Get ready for the start of the school year at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library! Although programs are on break for the month of August, you can still explore new worlds, find volunteer opportunities, connect with the Friends of the Library and much more.

Discover resources offered by the library for kids, teens and adults and see how you can get involved in the community. Regular programs will return to the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library on September 9.

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

Sand Canyon Country Club Hotel & Resort Where does it stand?

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 13, 2019

An email went out to Sand Canyon homeowners at the beginning of April 2019 informing the neighborhood that the original Notice of Preparation, or NOP, for the property – formerly Robinson Ranch – had been amended. The email from Hai Nguyen, associate planner for the City of Santa Clarita, informed residents of the revised NOP and gave them the opportunity to give him feedback over a one-month period.

A meeting was called for May 21, 2019, offering interested parties the chance to go to Sand Canyon Country Club to meet with Nguyen and Steve Kim, who has owned the 77-acre golf course for approximately three years. About 50 residents gathered at the site for a short tour and general briefing.

Before all attendees had assembled, Kim told a few residents who arrived early, “This used to be a 36-hole golf course. Because water has always been an issue, we changed it to a 27-hole golf course, which is plenty, because the golf population has dropped significantly, as you know. Not many people play golf anymore.”

The project site is located at 27734 Sand Canyon Road at the northeast corner of Sand Canyon Road and Robinson Ranch Road.

According to the NOP, the proposed project would result in the replacement of existing open space that was formerly a part of the Mountain Course of Robinson Ranch Golf Club with a new resort and spa consisting of the following:

Main Hotel: three-story building with 241 rooms/keys totaling approximately 165,000 square feet, and back of house and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing space in the Main Hotel basement totaling approximately 23,000 square feet
Wedding Hotel: three three-story buildings with 81 rooms/keys totaling approximately 50,000 square feet air conditioned space and 17,500 square feet of open non-air-conditioned space with an outdoor wedding ground and pergola
View Villas: 14 two-story villas with 56 rooms/keys totaling approximately 110,000 square feet

The Sand Canyon Homeowners Association Board of Directors drafted a list of “major concerns” with the proposal, which was sent to residents in the area: (SC=Sand Canyon and RR=Robinson Ranch)

Primary reasons that the SCCC Resort is a seriously inappropriate project for the Sand Canyon Community.

  • Dangerous. The project is dangerous to Sand Canyon residents and resort guests/workers because:
    Currently, there is no way to quickly and safely evacuate SC residents, and resort guests and workers, from the canyon in the event of a wildfire. Adding hundreds of hotel occupants and staff will only exacerbate the already existing and dangerous evacuation problem.
    Even if a 2nd access road across the Santa Clara River is added to service the SC and the resort, the number of people and vehicles involved in an evacuation would still radically slow evacuation of SC residents on SC Road and at the intersection of SC Road with Lost Canyon Road, increasing the risk of death and injury to residents and resort visitors.
    If the resort is used to ‘shelter in place’ firefighting resources will have to be devoted to the resort instead of saving SC residences and fighting spread of the fire. Shelter in place is a last resort and not a first line of fire defense.
    Building any high-density facility in a high-risk fire area such as Sand Canyon is simply irresponsible, especially as climate change and drought periods have increased, and will continue to increase fire risk in the area.
    Sand Canyon Special Standards District (SCSSD). The resort is inherently incompatible with the purpose of the SCSSD, which is to “maintain, preserve and enhance the rural and equestrian character of Sand Canyon.” The resort would be a high-density, purely commercial and non-rural use in direct conflict with the purpose and intent of the SCSSD standards.
  • Zoning. (It is) incompatible with Sand Canyon zoning, which is low-density residential throughout Sand Canyon (1 or 2 acre min. lot size). Resort would be a high-density commercial use completely incompatible with the zoning that applies to all other areas of Sand Canyon. Most Sand Canyon residents live here BECAUSE of the zoning and SCSSD protections against commercial uses and developments like the proposed resort. Consistent zoning protects community character and property values.
  • Water. The resort will require significant and enormous water volumes to operate even in drought periods, using resources that would otherwise be available to existing residents and businesses.
    Cumulative projects an impermissible burden on infrastructure. When analyzing this project and its effects on SC (and the Sand Canyon 14 freeway on and off ramps), the other current and planned projects must be taken into consideration. The Vista Canyon project and Sand Canyon Commercial Plaza (NE corner of Sand Canyon and Soledad) are already underway and contain hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail, office and residential square footage. When the Mancara project is factored in along with Ted Robinson’s land, hundreds of acres of development are going to cause unmanageable and dangerous overloads on the existing infrastructure. Simply put, this project cannot be looked at in a vacuum.
    Open Space Conversion. (It) takes away 75 acres of Open Space that SC residents were specifically promised as part of the Robinson Ranch Golf Course approval. The RR golf course project approval included dedication of acreage on the RR property to be Open Space, which was an essential element of that approval to many SC residents who otherwise would have opposed the RR golf course.
  • Traffic. The resort itself (even when one does not consider the other projects) will add substantial traffic to Sand Canyon Road, from resort guests, workers and service vehicles, when SC is already very busy and backed up at Lost Canyon Road many times during the day to traffic diverting (due to Waze and Maps) from Hwy 14, school traffic, and other local traffic use.
  • Noise. The resort would have noisy outdoor activities for most each day and into the night, including a water park, outdoor pools, outdoor wedding venue and sports courts, which will impact surrounding neighborhoods and wildlife in the National Forest Area adjacent to SCCC. Hotels require large delivery trucks and trash trucks that bring noise at odd hours.
  • Lights. Night lighting at the resort will impact surrounding neighborhood and wildlife in the adjacent National Forest Area.
  • Viability. If the resort fails, which many think is likely due to weather, setting and lack of nearby attractions that would be of interest to potential guests, and expected of a 5-star resort, the buildings will be a blight in the community, with no alternative use that is compatible with SCSSD or surrounding zoning.
  • No Development and Hotel Management Experience. The current owner has already stated his intention to “run” the hotel himself. Simply put, he has no hotel or development experience. His lack of experience in running a golf course has already created unfortunate results. Further, the current ownership has no experience in developing such a large project. The inevitable missteps and mistakes will have drastic impacts on many unintended victims (the SC residents) who will have to live with those impacts for dozens of years.
  • Negative Impact on Property Value. Buyers looking for a new home will avoid homes near Hotels and Commercial Properties due to noise, transient activity, increased traffic, and potentially unwelcome events. Homeowners who must sell could become “distressed sales.”

DUI Pleas – What are They?

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 12, 2019

Recently, a Santa Clarita man arrested in February for causing a fatal crash in Canyon Country while driving under the influence returned to court to undergo pretrial proceedings. According to reports, J. Austin was driving through the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Sand Canyon Road when he failed to stop for the red light. Doing so caused a collision between Austin’s truck and a Hyundai in the middle of the intersection, killing the 21-year-old driver, Megan York.

Austin is being charged with one felony count each of gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI causing injury, and driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08. He is due to return to court on August 8 to continue pretrial proceedings.

Alcohol-related collisions that result in the death of one or more people are always tragic and difficult to hear about – especially because they’re avoidable – and the law comes down hard on drivers who cause them. In Los Angeles County very high bail amounts are set, including mandatory jail time.

However, when driving under the influence doesn’t involve serious injury, death, or property damage, it’s possible for some drivers to “plea down” and receive lighter penalties than those typically associated with a DUI.

One of those pleas is known as a “dry reckless” and occurs when a defendant who is charged with a DUI agrees to plead guilty to reckless driving instead. This plea is advantageous to the defendant because their record will show that they plead guilty to reckless driving, as opposed to a DUI, and no mention that alcohol or drugs will be included on their record. Because of that, a “dry reckless” is not a priorable offense. That means that if the defendant is later charged with another DUI, the fact that they have a “dry reckless” on their record won’t cause them to face harsher penalties the way having a previous DUI would. In California, the more DUIs a person has on the record, the harsher the penalty for each subsequent offense.

As strange as it may seem, a “dry reckless” is preferable to a DUI for several reasons, most of which have to do with the difference in the severity of the penalties involved with each offense. A “dry reckless” typically involves a shorter county jail sentence, smaller fines, a shorter probation period, and no mandatory court-ordered license suspension.

Another possible plea when charged with a DUI is a “wet reckless.” While more serious than a “dry reckless,” a “wet reckless” is still preferable to a straight DUI. With a “wet reckless” plea, the driver still pleads guilty to reckless driving as opposed to DUI, but it’s noted on their record that alcohol or drugs were involved. A “wet reckless” is a priorable offense, just like getting a DUI, so if a person with a “wet reckless” on the record gets a DUI, the penalties will be harsher.

“Dry reckless” pleas aren’t common, and are typically only available when a person’s BAC is close to .08 percent and the prosecution doesn’t have good evidence against the driver. Most prosecutors prefer to offer a plea deal for a “wet reckless” instead, because alcohol was involved and “wet reckless” convictions are priorable offenses.

But who wants any type of DUI charge on their records? The lesson here is to make the right choice first and never drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. You’re taking more than just your life in your hands.

What steps should I take to buy a home?

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 11, 2019

Many people ask me what they have to do to buy a home, so I put together a short list of items to consider when you decide it’s the right time for you to make a purchase.

Check your credit score: This is super important and can be the difference between buying now or taking 6 to 12 months to get your score up. Your credit score will be a factor in the loan you qualify for, as well as the interest rate and cost of mortgage insurance. It’s also good to check for errors that can be fixed quickly because a Federal Trade Commission study found that one in four people identified errors on their report. The first thing I do with clients is pay for a credit report and go over it with a qualified lender.

How much can I afford? This is where you will need to talk to a qualified lender. They will usually look for a total debt load of no more than 43-50 percent of your gross monthly income, depending on whether it is a Conventional, FHA or VA loan. This is the debt-to-income ratio and it includes the mortgage and other debts like a car loan, student loan and credit cards. I offer all my clients a free consultation with my lender to find out how much they can afford and what the interest rate will be.

Down payment: The standard down payment for most mortgages is 20 percent of the cost of the home. If you can do this, your loan costs and mortgage will be lower, you get a better interest rate and you avoid the cost of mortgage insurance, which can save hundreds more a month. It is hard to save that much, but if your credit score is good you can also qualify for 3 percent down on a Conventional loan and 3.5 percent down on an FHA loan. Military vets that qualify can put 0 down and have no mortgage insurance costs. Also, remember that any deposited funds will have to be seasoned in your account for 60 to 90 days. The good news is that you can also receive the funds as a gift from a family member.

Finding a home: Now that you have good credit and have a deposit ready, based on what you can qualify for, it is time to locate a home. I truly believe in finding a local real estate agent who is an expert in the neighborhood you choose. Most agents get compensated from the selling side and there should be no agent fees when you purchase. Just beware of any agency compliance fees and ask your agent to waive them if they come up. And since using an agent is FREE to you, there should be no excuse in not using one to help you find the perfect home.

Benefits of an agent: Finding the right agent to help you in the home buying process will be very beneficial. I specialize in that process and all of my services are FREE – I offer a loan consultation and credit report, as well as up to $5,000 towards your closing costs and a FREE local MOVE when I help with your home purchase.


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Hougo – We Go Visit to Antarctica becomes couple’s numbrrrr 7 continent

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 10, 2019

While Jim and Gwen Hougo are enjoying their time here at home these days, they are happy to share their former adventures with us.

One of our best trips was back in 2008 when we explored our seventh continent on Planet Earth: Antarctica.

We left on New Year’s Eve to fly to Buenos Aires boarding a plane with 10 flight attendants and about 40 passengers. (I guess not many people fly on Dec. 31, but when we returned the flight was full.)

We were treated like royalty. It included a wonderful tour of the beautiful, old city of Buenos Aires, where we learned – among other things – all about the tango, of course.

After a few days we flew up to Iguazu Falls in Brazil. This natural wonder is made up of about 200 waterfalls altogether, making it the biggest waterfall system in the world. It is huge, even when compared to Niagara Falls. After exploring the falls and the surrounding jungle for a few days, we flew to the tip of South America to board a 200-passenger Norwegian Ice Breaker.

Going across Drake’s Passage to Antarctica is one of the roughest waterways on earth. Basically, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are colliding with each other. The waves came over the top of our seven-story ship, and we were advised not to leave our rooms. Even lying on our beds, my husband got thrown out – now that’s rough.

Our ship was able to stop at seven places on the Antarctic. The only living animal in this cold spot is the adorable penguin. But you must be careful, because these little guys can take off your finger if you try to pet them. We went in groups of eight and were limited to two hours. Tourism is very controlled to protect the environment. All countries work together to ensure that protection.

One of the places we stopped is called Deception Bay and is actually the partially sunken caldron of a volcano. We went to shore on rubber zodiac boats and before we left the ship we had to put on rubber boots and walk through disinfectant. On shore the crew dug down a couple feet in the sand and the hole filled up with warm water heated from the volcano. Then they invited us to go for a swim in the Antarctic Ocean (32 degrees). From there we could jump out of the water and into the newly dug spas of warm water on the beach. I did it. And for all the chills and goose bumps, I received a nice certificate. My husband thought I was crazy!

This Norwegian ship had been making the same trip for 20 years, but the ice has been melting. Therefore, on this trip the ship was actually able to cross over the “Antarctic Circle.” For that, we earned another certificate that said, “Since man first stepped on this continent in 1902, less than 100,000 people have been known to cross over the Antarctic Circle.” That made it pretty special.

We ended our cruise by going up the fiords of Chile and spending a few days in Santiago and added an additional week to our trip to go see the wonders of Easter Island. It is 1,150 miles off the coast of Chile and was annexed by the country in 1866. Easter Island is most famous for its nearly 1,000 extant monumental statues, called “mo’ai” by the early Rapa Nui people. It is amazing to learn how they carved and then moved these giant stone statues.

Then the best part of any trip is returning to beautiful Canyon Country, to find family and friends are OK. One of the nicest things about this adventure was the extreme contrast of places we visited and the different cultures we experienced. My husband and I feel very blessed to have an opportunity to see the many treasures on this incredible planet.

New Businesses

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 9, 2019

Neme’s Beauty Nails

When Nemecia Frias of Canyon Country saw a retail space become vacant near Taco Bell, she considered whether or not she should open her own business. A licensed nail technician for five years, Frias recently opened Neme’s Beauty Nails where she offers manicure and pedicure services, including acrylics and gels.
She is currently looking for a licensed nail technician so she can serve more clients in the shop.
When asked about the highpoints of her job, Frias singles out the artistic aspect of designing nails. “I truly love everything about my job,” she says.
A native Californian, the five-year Canyon Country resident has a lot to say about this side of the Santa Clarita Valley.
“I love the fresh air we breathe here and the friendly people,” she says. “It’s very peaceful and quiet … many beautiful views.”
Neme’s Beauty Nails is located at 18917-B Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country; 661-523-7099. It is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sundays by appointment only.

Love Ramen

Opened August 1, 2019, Love Ramen is a different style of Japanese food for fans of Asian cooking.

“We want to bring something new to this area,” said restaurant manager Kevin Wong. “They don’t have anything like Love Ramen in this area.”

Wong describes ramen as a popular style of Japanese food that’s a variation on restaurants serving sushi. He compares it to beef dishes such as steak versus hamburgers.

“We have a lot of different tastes,” Wong said. “We ask customers, ‘What do you like – spicy or juicy?’ We can make many kinds of tastes. We do the traditional Japanese ramen and our service is friendly and our chefs are professional. You will have a fantastic experience here.”

Though Canyon Country’s Love Ramen is brand new, the restaurant is located in three other towns and the company plans to open more.

Love Ramen is located at 18635 Soledad Canyon Road, Suite 104 in Canyon Country; 661-367-6899. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and open: Tuesdays through Thursdays 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (closed for one hour and reopens) 4 p.m.-9 p.m. On Fridays it is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturdays 12 noon-10 p.m.; and Sundays 12 noon-9 p.m.

In Memory of Paula Cox

| Canyon Country Magazine, Sand Canyon Journal | August 9, 2019

Sand Canyon lost a favorite daughter last month. Paula Palmer Cox passed away in her home while surrounded by loved ones. She 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 dating back to the early 20th century.

Next month look for an article about the Cox family
and their influence on our community.

Antelope Valley Fair Sweet Delights & Carnival Lights

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 9, 2019

The Antelope Valley Fair provides an opportunity to get back to basics every year. It always features friendly farming competitions, photographic and artistic presentations, and concerts that take you back to your youth.

Among the musical acts at this year’s AV Fair are REO Speedwagon, Gabriel Iglesias and Charlie Daniels. But, for others who don’t have memories tied to one of these specific artists, there are many more concerts. The 2019 lineup includes:
Collective Soul
Gin Blossoms
Sir, Please
Christian Nodal
Lupillo Rivera
Travis Tritt
Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy
Williams and Ree
Grandstand seats are free for all concerts with paid AV Fair admission and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. There is specialized seating as well:

Gold Circle – $80
Front Track – $55
Back Track – $30
Standing Room Only – $22
There is free grandstand admission for the Figure 8 Race and Rural Olympics with Fireworks, but there is an admission fee (no free seating) for the Monster Trucks/Demo Derby, also held in the arena.

This year’s tagline for the 10-day fair is “Sweet Delights & Carnival Lights.” There are youth exhibitors, some showing livestock and others creating artwork or displaying table settings. Animal competitions for juniors include the Model Chicken Coop contest, a Junior Dog Show, and an Organic Fed Hog Show.

Residents of all ages enter similar categories of competition. The livestock barn includes cows, lambs, goats and pigs, and there’s the Antelope Valley Open Llama Show at the fairgrounds. Among the competitions involving llamas, there are categories for kids. The Llama Display Contest honors exhibitors who use attractive, innovative display techniques to promote llamas. There’s also a Llama Costume Contest open to all ages.

Some of the good, old-fashioned fair exhibits are part of this year’s activities as usual: Baked Goods and Confections; Canned and Preserved Foods; Clothing, Needlework, Quilts and Textiles; Antique Glass; Ceramics and Pottery; Porcelain and Cloth Dolls and Teddy Bears; Miniatures; Wearable Fashion; Photography; and Table Settings.

Admission prices range from $9 for juniors to $35 for unlimited ride wristbands, but there are many opportunities for free admission. There are special days set aside with free admission for seniors, members of the military and others.

The Antelope Valley Fair dates are August 16-25 and it is located at 2551 West Avenue H in Lancaster.

For prices and dates with special admission, plus more information about the 2019 Antelope Valley Fair, visit AVFair.com.

Deborah Rocha on the Move

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 17, 2019

Like many horse lovers, Deborah Rocha keeps things moving. The ambitious founder of SRD Straightening Reins has kept the equine therapy nonprofit operating for eight years while teaching full-time in the Saugus Union School District.

She’s also had to move the organization’s horse ranch a number of times, mostly due to the charity’s financial limitations. And she’s at it again.

After a brief time in Sand Canyon, SRD Straightening Reins has moved to Davenport Road on the border of Canyon Country and Agua Dulce.

And Rocha’s moved on in other ways. She retired from teaching on June 14 after 34 years, which means she can devote herself even more wholly to the work of the nonprofit.

“I’m going to take a leap of faith,” Rocha said. “I think there’s a huge need. And I can’t stand by and do nothing.”

It’s hard to imagine Rocha “doing nothing,” but she explained what she meant by the statement.

“I was looking at where I was and what I was doing, and I couldn’t do either well,” she said. “The Board has been very supportive.”

SRD Straightening Reins is a 501(c)(3) offering interactive therapies to improve adolescent and teen mental health and well-being.

She recently had six youth working with SRD – ages 11 to 17 – who had been suicidal.

“We know when we get the kids to the ranch and into counseling, we can get them to stop self-medicating,” she said, “and get them back in a regular school setting.”

SRD is working with the Hart District, with the kids who aren’t in a place where they can be in a school setting. Rocha is also working with youth who are a part of the foster care system, some of whom are homeless.

The ranch where SRD currently operates is only an acre, so the nonprofit is open to other property options. Like most charities, SRD always needs more resources. Ninety-five cents on the dollar goes directly to programs for the kids, Rocha said.

They have scouts who establish projects on the ranch, which is volunteer labor. A Girl Scout troop helped to plant ground cover. Volunteers from Real Life Church in Valencia created fire clearance around the property and contributed to perimeter fencing for additional privacy.

Rocha is working on sustainability with funding and tackling some of the organization’s short-term and long-term goals, but it’s difficult to obtain government money such as grants.

“Here’s the challenge – when you look at city grants, they want to give you money for a new program, not for operations,” Rocha explained. “Then the Board has to decide, ‘Do we start a new program and stop one that’s working?’ We say no.”

But the animals have to be fed.

“We have some animal sponsors that offset the cost,” she said. “Our feed bill is anywhere from $1,400 to $1,700 dollars a month. And we do get a discount on vet bills.”

They recently had a goat that got sick and died while several kids were on the ranch. Rocha said it’s the type of event that offers a therapeutic opportunity. In this case, there were foster children in the program who had recently lost their mother and it opened some doors for discussion.

“The animal isn’t the only piece. It’s the trained clinician, the equine specialist. They ask, ‘What’s the animal doing and why?’” Rocha explained. “The opportunity to be with a herd of animals gives them time to reflect where they are and what they’re doing.”

Part of the process involves building the confidence to work with a 1,400-pound animal.

“Even the chickens – it’s them being present where they are and the trained staff being able to capitalize on that,” Rocha said. “They can redirect: ‘What do you mean you don’t know how to communicate? What do you think the animal is saying to us?’”

Because of the safety issues involved in working with large animals, those who enter the program have to gain control of any drug or alcohol addiction before they can access services at Straightening Reins. But anyone Rocha can help through the program, she does.

“We don’t turn anybody away if somebody needs services,” she said. “One comes from as far away as Long Beach.”

Most Straightening Reins clients are age 10 to 19, she said, but currently there are individuals in the program age 5 to 23 who are getting horse therapy.

“We’re seeing more in their late teens to early 20s,” Rocha said.

She said they’re employing three foster youth and seeking employment for seven at-risk young people.

When contacted, individuals can start therapy within 72 hours. Part of the advocacy at Straightening Reins involves becoming informed about the person’s school system, the day program and any doctors the family is working with. And it extends to everyone involved, from survivors who have lost someone to siblings of someone battling mental illness.

“It’s coming together,” Rocha said. “I’m not giving up on these kids.”

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Doug’s Rant – Video Edition

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