Catch Completion: Wide Receiver Drew Wolitarsky’s Last Season

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | August 3, 2012

Canyon High senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky has some challenges now and ahead.

The greatest wide receiver in Canyon High history, and maybe the greatest wide receiver in Santa Clarita Valley history, could become statistically the greatest wide receiver in California prep football history.

That’s a challenge.

But there’s another more immediate challenge for the 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound athlete.

From 2011 season

For the first three seasons of Wolitarsky’s high school career, he’s been fortunate enough to have one of the great quarterbacks in program history, Jonathan Jerozal, feeding him the ball. Now Wolitarsky has the adjustment of being thrown to by first-year varsity quarterback Cade Apsay.

“I’ve known Cade for a couple of years because of his brother (former Canyon basketball/football player) Coley. I never thought about him being my quarterback. To be honest, I never really paid attention to (his teams), because when they were playing, we were getting ready to play,” says the 17-year-old receiver.

Because of that unfamiliarity, there is a learning curve. That curve was made greater because of the spring and early summer months.

Wolitarsky was a member of the co-Foothill League championship track and field team during the spring, so he missed out on a lot of football activities. In the early summer months, Wolitarsky was on recruiting visits, so he had to miss some activities, such as passing tournament games.

Yet no one at Canyon High was the least concerned about how well this three-time All-Foothill League receiver would eventually click with Apsay.
“Building chemistry with Cade, they’ve done well,” says Canyon second-year head coach Rich Gutierrez. “It’s definitely going to be an adjustment. Let’s be real. You have a quarterback like Jonathan passing the rock, they know each other so well – they know timing, know what route. He could trust Drew with everything. It will take time, but as we go together, they’ll get stronger.”

The Wolitarsky-Jerozal combination was lethal. In three seasons, Wolitarsky caught 192 passes for 3,869 yards with 39 receiving touchdowns – all Canyon High records. Before the start of the 2012 season, Wolitarsky was 80 receptions and 677 yards away from breaking Taft High graduate Steve Smith’s state records.

Wolitarsky has definitely targeted those marks, and understands that in order to get to those numbers, he must build a strong relationship with his new signal-caller.

“I’m patient,” Wolitarsky says on how he will work with Apsay. “Early in the summer during the break, we got together and practiced on our own. I’m planning on getting together more.”

Apsay has been the successor-in-waiting to Jerozal. He helped lead a 2011 Canyon junior varsity team to a 9-1 mark and a Foothill League title. He understands how he needs to get on the same page with Wolitarsky quickly – not just for personal numbers, but for numbers in the win column. But the junior quarterback also realizes that he can’t put a bunch of pressure on himself.

“At the beginning, I talked to the coaches about varsity and how I had to step up,” Apsay says. “My game’s not where Jonathan’s was. He had Jonathan and he’s probably the best quarterback I’ve seen. I’m not at that caliber yet. I have to get my game up to that.”

Yet there’s hope for Apsay, in that he has a major weapon in Wolitarsky – a player who has phenomenal pass-catching ability and breakaway speed that has made him a terror to defenses. So many of Wolitarsky’s big catches have started off with short-yardage catches on a slant, but ended up long touchdowns as the receiver maneuvered his way past defenses and stepped on the accelerator to break away.

“It’s kind of relaxing and comforting to have him there,” Apsay says. “I think he makes me a lot better. He’s one of those receivers who is consistent. No matter where you put it, he catches it.”

And because of those qualities, he is the top football player in the Santa Clarita Valley coming into the 2012 football season. They’re also qualities that college football coaches love. Through the early part of the summer, Wolitarsky’s scholarship offers numbered in the double digits.

Gutierrez says Wolitarsky is such a danger to other teams that he was told by an opposing coach that a complete portion of their practice is structured on stopping the Canyon senior.

“I think he’s got unlimited ability,” Gutierrez says. “Drew would make me look good at quarterback.”

Canyon is a playoff contender in 2012 and is expected to compete for a Foothill League title. Along the way, if Wolitarsky adjusts to challenges, he could be breaking some significant records.

“Ah man, I can’t wait. I think about it every day,” Wolitarsky says about breaking records. “What route I’m going to run when I break it. I’ve got to stay healthy, but I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know how I’ll feel, but there’s definitely a lot at stake. I want to get good with my quarterback so I can get the yards I need.”

And other things.

“I want to get as many yards as I can, bring home the victories and hopefully win CIF,” he says.


Canyon Country Campus Five-Year Anniversary Just Around the Corner

| Canyon Country Magazine | June 15, 2012

Officials at the college’s Canyon Country campus are ramping up for what should be a busy summer session and upcoming fall semester, highlighted by a communitywide celebration to commemorate the campus five-year anniversary this fall.

“Fueled by innovative facilities such as the Applied Technology Education Center, an active student life, bustling classrooms and a beautiful natural setting, this campus continues to thrive,” said Ryan Theule, acting Dean of the Canyon Country campus. “Our five year anniversary celebration will be a wonderful chance for us to commemorate all that has been accomplished in that time, along with the continued opportunities available to students at COC.”

When the Canyon Country campus first opened in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, 2007, COC officially became a college on two campuses, but with one mission — to increase access to education for students of all ages.

From that moment forward, the Canyon Country campus has continued to grow and develop, surpassing all of its early enrollment projections and attracting a wide rage of community support for its ever-growing roster of annual campus events and activities.

Despite early projections that the campus would attract between 1,500 and 2,000 students in its first semester, more than 3,000 students were served at the new location in fall 2007 alone.

Today, the Canyon Country campus serves more than 10,000 students each academic year, with a record high 77 percent of the college’s 2012 graduating class having taken at least one class at the campus.

And with a growing number of new academic programs being introduced at the Canyon Country campus — thanks to the opening of the Applied Technology Education Center in 2011 — the number of students attending the campus each year should continue to rise.

“We are extremely pleased that the Canyon Country campus has become part of the path students are taking to achieve their goals and realize their dreams,” said Theule.

In fact, community members who haven’t had an opportunity to visit the campus lately might be surprised to see how much things have changed!

From new buildings and academic programs, to an increased amount of campus events and activities (Job Fair, Star Party and Native Garden lecture series in the last month alone) the Canyon Country campus continues to find new ways to serve and embrace the community.

“This community has been extremely supportive of the Canyon Country campus over the last five years,” added Theule. “Much of our success could not have been attained without that support.”

The campus also recently opened a new community gardening area, located below the main administration quad, with plans to host a variety of upcoming gardening themed events and activities — making the Canyon Country campus a popular destination this spring and summer!

In early fall 2012, the Canyon Country campus will also host a communitywide celebration to officially commemorate the five-year anniversary of the campus.

While event details are still being coordinated, the day is expected to include a mixture of live music, refreshments, campus tours, faculty and student demonstrations and arts activities.

“The fall 2012 semester will mark a very exciting time in the Canyon Country campus’ history,” Theule said. “Stay tuned for exciting updates to follow.”

For more information about the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus or the upcoming fifth anniversary celebration please visit www.canyoncountrycampus.com.

Just Passing Thru Body Piercing Studio

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | June 14, 2012

By Martha Michael

If you’re over 30, you may not know much about the piercing and tattoo industries. I know I didn’t.

That is why I accompanied my daughter and her friend on a trip to Just Passing Thru, where John Fitterer added a simple stud to the cartilage in Annie’s ear.

She didn’t ask for a triple forward helix piercing…nor teardrop anti-eyebrows…nor dermal finger piercing. Just an earring…(up a little higher than I was used to seeing).

Fitterer, who founded Just Passing Thru, which is located in the same office space as Eternal Art Tattoo, has been working as a full-time body piercing professional for more than 18 years. “I pride my work on the solid foundation of Body Modification training I sought out since my first decision to become a body piercing professional. I do my best to assure my customers receive the best body piercing experience available at affordable prices,” says Fitterer. “I’ve taken personal piercing training from the godfather of the body modification movement, Fakir Musafar, in 1994 and earned my first piercing instructional training from the infamous Body Modification 3D Artist Steve Haworth from Arizona in 1993. I’ve also completed a course in the art of branding from Fakir Musafar in 2005.”

Fitterer has operated JPT in Laguna Beach, Beaumont and Newhall before moving into the Canyon Country location. “I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back in the SCV and working alongside all the world class artistry here at Eternal Art Tattoo,” he says.  “JPT is one of the longest standing piercing only businesses in Southern California.”

Changing and growing is part of the company’s modus operandi, and Fitterer’s most recent endeavor has been to work with Borneo Joe’s Flaming Bones – Precision Handcrafted Organic Body Jewelry. Fitterer seeks to offer “quality piercings at a reasonable price in a one of a kind comfortable, safe, sterile and private atmosphere,” he says. His full service body piercing includes the cost of the jewelry, and most basic piercings are $40.

“It can be very gratifying,” says Fitterer. “People usually arrive at JPT excited and nervous and leave very happy.”

Nostrils, lips, navels, ears and surface piercings are daily procedures, according to Fitterer. But he has seen an increase in the popularity of intricate ear piercing and microdermal anchors. His clients put their faith in Fitterer’s experience and expertise. “One can learn how to do just about anything on YouTube, but as far as body piercing goes, one can learn a million and one ways how to do it WRONG,” he explains. “A true professional learns from years of experience and a solid fundamental knowledge which comes from a legitimate apprenticeship, which is very difficult to come by.”

Fitterer sees drawbacks in some of the other resources out there. “Mall piercings are another story…cartilage piercings should never be done with a piercing gun, and what I’ve seen over the years is people complaining about the placement of piercings done at the mall,” Fitterer says.

For information on aftercare available at Just Passing Thru and for other links, visit www.justpassingthru.com. You can find JPT also at www.facebook.com/JustPassingThruBodyPiercing.

Just Passing Thru is located at 18436 Sierra Hwy (upstairs) in Canyon Country. Call or text John Fitterer to make an appointment and/or discuss piercing possibilities at (661) 496-6900; email: johntheimpaler@hotmail.com.

Sand Canyon Shopping Center – After-shocks

| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | June 4, 2012

It’s kind of like someone took a very deep, long breath and sent the dandelion fluff of Sand Canyon Shopping Center soaring through the air. Or, the center’s businesses made up one of those enormous multi-opening bubble wands, and a strong arm whisked the wand through the air, bubbles floating every which way. And some might say it’s really more like an earthquake centered at the corner of Soledad and Sand Canyon Roads, hurtling the smaller businesses located there all over Canyon Country—or into oblivion.

Laura's new location

We have reported twice now on the changes occurring at the Sand Canyon Shopping Center (SCSC). Once the property was purchased by Safeway (owner of Vons), it didn’t take long for changes to begin.  Safeway plans to renovate the center and the aged Vons, which includes expanding the store’s footprint, using the space to the west of its current location. (That’s to the right of the store as you’re looking at it from the parking lot, over to the “L” in the center, where the chiropractic office is located). Rents and CAM fees (common area maintenance) were already significantly increased, though no repairs or renovations have begun.  It is believed that Safeway intends to begin renovations in the spring of 2013.

In the meantime, some businesses have been asked to relocate to accommodate the Vons expansion. Many of the business owners have responded to the changes by vacating the center completely, including several that have been in the same location for decades.

Debbie’s Hallmark is gone.* “It just seems like you can’t negotiate with [Safeway],” said chiropractor Dr. Phil Eddy. “We heard that they wouldn’t even talk to the Hallmark store’s lawyer.”
Eddy and other business owners at the center say the new owners don’t provide a lot of information and that, in some cases, they’ve provided completely inaccurate information or contradicted what was previously conveyed.  “It’s all rumor, and I don’t know why they’re not up-front in their communications with us,” he offered.

Eddy went on to report that his business will move by approximately July 1 to a building being renovated at 19040 Soledad Canyon Road. The building, which most recently housed a home décor store, is being remodeled for mixed office and medical space. “We already met a couple of the doctors who will occupy the Doctors Express office, and they’re excited” about the new arrangements. The optometry office of Edward C. Landon, OD will also relocate from the SCSC space to this facility.

Dr's Eddy and Landon's new location

For most humans, change is not comfortable or convenient, and so it is for SCSC owners and customers. “The whole thing is annoying and inconvenient,” complained a longtime Canyon Country resident. While shopping at the new Laura’s Beauty Supply location next to Boot Barn, she said she has lived in Canyon Country since she was nine. She was accustomed to shopping at Laura’s and checking off several items on her to-do list in one trip at the SCSC. “Now,” she said, “I hear the Rite Aid will close, too. And Pet Stop is moving, so we’ll have to go to a new location for that. My husband stopped today at the jeweler to get a new battery for my watch, and his doors were locked, so we figure he’s moving; we just don’t know when or where yet.”  She said she’ll follow these businesses to their new locations, but that she won’t shop at Vons anymore.

While the changes are unwelcome, the businesses that have moved seemed to have retained customers—and are attracting new business, too.  Across the street and kitty-corner from Laura’s, a loyal repeat Dilemma customer consulted with Cathy Stevens about the best choices for summer halter dresses. Stevens reported that they moved into their new space in the Albertson’s center in mid-May, and that she was pleased to be seeing more customer traffic in the new location. Continuing west on Soledad Canyon, another SCSC resident, Eden Salon, made a name change to Studio Bijoux with their move to the shopping center near the Edwards Theatre.

“It was hard to make the move in the beginning,” said Sandi Thomas, owner of Eden Salon, now moved and renamed Studio Bijoux.  “I did not want to believe all of the rumors about our rent going up a considerable amount, our CAM (common area maintenance) going up a lot and our property taxes as well. I tried not to pay attention to the rumors. The only time I had any contact with the new owners’ staff was the first letter with our first increase, due the next day. Then, when I contacted them in regard to that, nobody ever came out to introduce themselves or anything.”

In another conversation about the changes, Kristine (not her real name), a 30-something beauty consultant with a major skin care and cosmetics company at Westfield Town Center, said she thinks it’s good for things to be updated in Canyon Country, but that it seems like they’re going to the extreme. She grew up in Canyon Country and she and her boyfriend moved into a condo there three years ago. She reported hearing there will be a Starbucks and a Jamba Juice—corporate franchises. And she went on to say that it seems like they’re trying to compete with or be the same as Valencia, which might not be so attractive to the average Canyon Country resident. She also lamented losing the mom-and-pop stores and locally-owned businesses that have been there so long and are a part of Canyon Country’s history.

So, the initial quake and after-shocks of the change are ongoing and are definitely affecting residents and businesses. But Canyon Country appears to be rolling with the flow—and as so often happens here in the Santa Clarita Valley, our residents are making lemonade with lemons.

Safeway did not respond to a request for information about the proposed changes or current issues related to the SCSC, but more information is available online at: http://www.safewayrealtyholdings.com/get_listings.cfm

*The Debbie’s Hallmark store located at 26880 Sierra Highway in the Stater Brothers center is still open.

Other new locations (at the time of printing) include:

Pet Stop: 26870 Sierra Highway near Stater Bros
Dilemma (clothing): 18551 Soledad Canyon Road near Albertson’s
Laura’s Beauty Supply: 27650 Soledad Canyon Road near Boot Barn
Studio Bijoux (formerly Eden Salon): 18712 Soledad Canyon Road near Edwards Theatre
Eddy Chiropractic: 19040 Soledad Canyon Road at the corner of Hidaway Avenue
Edward C. Landon Optometry: 19040 Soledad Canyon Road at the corner of Hidaway Avenue

Story and Photos by De Jenkins

Dilemma new location

Mugzey Muzic – Bringing Back the Mom & Pop Vibe

| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | May 31, 2012

The mom and pop store that you once remembered is getting harder and harder to find, now that large chain stores have filled the market. The obvious reason is that, in many cases, big brand chain stores can offer lower prices and better service…but not in this case.

Mugzey Muzic is a family-owned music equipment store that offers musicians a large selection of new and used guitars and amps. They offer a full range of services as well, which include rentals, lessons, appraisals and cash for music equipment. The store takes pride in its skilled repair staff.

Louie Concocilli and his wife Gina opened the business in February. Louie has been in the music business for 25 years, and was an assistant manager at a Guitar Center store for five years.

“I know the tricks they do when they try to sell you something. You go into one Guitar Center and you’ve seen them all. But here you can find guitars that are different and unique, that you can’t find anywhere else,” says Louie. “There’s no guitar or amp I couldn’t tell you about.”

The name “Mugzey” comes from a dog Louie and Gina cherished that died a couple of years ago. They wanted the name of their business to reflect their love of dogs.

While the business owners strive to offer the best service, Mugzey Muzic touts affordability, offering “honest pricing.” A musician can buy guitars from $30 to $3,000, amps from $25 to $2,000, and pedals from $15 to $500.

The store has an appeal to all clientele, from the newcomer trying to learn to the seasoned musician. Louie and Gina seek to make music more accessible to the public. There is a wide variety of used items for sale, some of them hard-to-find vintage pieces.

“We try to bring back the mom and pop vibe, instead of the corporate stuff. We’re trying to get stuff that was old school, and is now popular again,” says Louis. “A guy just came in today looking for a tape recorder. A couple of years ago, you could give away a tape recorder and now people are looking for them.”

Old school equipment seems to be coming back strong. Guitarists at the peak of popularity, such as Jack White of The White Stripes, use vintage guitars and equipment from the ‘60s and ‘70s to create his unique sound.

Used is in. And Louie’s customer base includes a number of men and women with a new found appreciation of vintage.

“Everyday I hear, ‘Oh man, where did you get this?’ or ‘That’s weird, I’ve never seen that,’” says Louis. “You may not want to buy anything, but you can sell me something, or I’ll appraise the value of something you have.”

Some of the most unusual or rare finds at the store can’t be found elsewhere and, once sold, may not show up again for a long time. Customers have to act fast. On the Mugzey website there is a feature where you can bid on actively selling guitars. Visit www.mugzeymuzic.com.

If you have a broken guitar, many places will charge you for just diagnosing the issue. Here you can get your guitar examined for free. That’s the kind of service Louis is offering. He has taken the following credo to heart: “Take care of your customers and they’ll take care of you.”

Mugzey Muzic also provides lessons in guitar, bass and drums. They are currently offered at about $10 less than many of their competitors.

Louis and Gina have proven in their unique store that a small business, with integrity, can thrive in this valley. “It’s a cool place to hang out, it’s decorated nice. Kind of a cross between a lounge and a library kind of music store. I pride myself in how the place is presented.” says Louis.

Mugzey Muzic is located at 18346 ½ Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country, near the Post Office. Contact: (661) 299-1133 or visit www.mugzeymuzic.com.

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Spring Into Fun At COC Canyon Country Campus

| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | April 3, 2012

Have a passion for native gardening, but want to learn more? Or would you prefer to enjoy an evening gazing at the stars — along with the moon, Mars and Saturn? Is physical fitness and overall body/mind wellness a focus for you?

Well, if you answered yes to one, or even all, of the questions above then you’ll definitely want to check out what’s going on at the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus this spring!

Get Active and Be Fit
Kicking off the spring schedule of events will be the campus’ first Educational Fitness Walk, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, April 12, as part of the College of the Canyons SNAC (Student Nutrition Advocates at COC) group’s ongoing Body, Mind, Wellness (BMW) Fitness Walk and Seminar Series.

Designed to encourage students and community members to experience the many benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle, this roughly 1.5-mile fitness walk will allow participants to walk through the campus, at their own pace, while making stops at four educational stations along the route. Those who complete the walk, along with all associated activities, will be awarded a special prize at the conclusion of the event.

Come See the Stars…and Saturn, the Moon and Mars!
This semester, the campus will also host its annual spring Star Party, taking place from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 4, in the Carl A. Rasmussen Amphitheater. Admission is free of charge and open to the public.

During the event, attendees will have the opportunity to view the night sky — with particular emphasis on Saturn, Mars and the Earth’s moon — through one of several high-powered telescopes that will be pointed toward these celestial bodies.
To begin the evening, guest speaker Matt Wallace, Flight Systems Manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), will deliver a brief orientation lecture based on his experiences working with NASA’s Mars Exploration Program on the famed Mars rover project.

COC faculty members and other local astronomers will be on hand to provide audiences with additional background about our moon, along with some interesting insights about the many awe-inspiring aspects of Saturn’s unique features and planetary makeup.

“The elevated nature of our location, combined with the clear views we experience on a nightly basis, makes the Canyon Country campus a perfect venue for gazing at the moon, stars and planets,” said Dr. Dena Maloney, vice president of the Canyon Country Campus and Economic Development.

As the Flight System Manager for the Mars Science Laboratory project, Wallace and his team are responsible for overseeing the development of spacecraft systems for the next Mars rover, code named Curiosity, which launched from Kennedy Space Center in November 2011, and is expected to reach Mars on Aug. 5, 2012.

In addition, Wallace has made significant contributions to various other robotic planetary missions and three Mars rover missions, including management of the assembly, test and launch operations team for both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. He also handled surface mission operations for the Opportunity rover, after it landed on Mars in 2004.

“We’re very excited to have someone with Mr. Wallace’s level of knowledge and in depth experience join us for what is sure to be a fascinating evening under the stars.”
Go Native: Gardening Lecture Series Continues
Later in the month, the campus will present the second installment of its new Native Planting lecture series, which is aimed at helping community members learn how they can adopt some of the environmentally sensitive and draught tolerant gardening techniques the Canyon Country campus has implemented into its landscaping design.

The next lecture in the series, “The Secret Lives of Plants,” will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 19, and will include a walking tour of the campus’ Outdoor Research Garden, and accompanying lecture by COC biology and environmental science professor, Jeannie Chari.

Admission to the bi-annual lecture series is free and open to students and community members of all ages, thanks to a community grant from the City of Santa Clarita. All attendees will also receive a packet of native seeds and an assortment of informative notecards featuring the plant life at the Canyon Country campus.

During the lecture portion of the event, Chari will lead a discussion about several gardening related topics, including: water issues in Southern California; the chaparral biome and its many secrets; the characteristics of drought resistant native plants; and seed collection and hybridization techniques.

In addition to the Native Gardening lecture series, the college’s Community Education department will be offering a pair of on-campus gardening workshops beginning in late April. The cost of each workshop is $45, with attendees asked to register in advance with the Community Education office.

The workshop Organic Gardening will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 28, in one of the campus’ new garden areas. Designed to show how easy it is to produce fruits and vegetables without the use of harmful pesticides, the course will teach attendees how they can grow their own herbs, berries, and other edibles right in their own backyard.

Later in the semester, the workshop Natural Pest Control will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 12. Participants in this workshop will learn how to use inexpensive household items to help control most garden pest problems, indoors and out!

For more information about the COC Canyon Country campus or any of the upcoming spring semester events please visit www.canyons.edu/Offices/CCC/.

Poppy Festival

| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | April 3, 2012

Easily one of Lancaster’s most notable characteristics is its prolific fields of poppies, which bloom this time every year. The attraction has long been enjoyed, thanks to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, a State Natural Reserve, with eight miles of trails  in the Mojave Desert grassland habitat (see sidebar).
To celebrate this jewel of the Antelope Valley, Lancaster leaders developed an annual event, inviting visitors from neighboring communities to enjoy the blooms as well. For several years, the City of Lancaster co-sponsored the Wildflower Information Center with the Lancaster Woman’s Club. Held at the Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery, visitors could pick up free wildflower maps and learn about the best viewing locations before heading out to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
The California Poppy Festival also began as part of the Earth Day celebration. Since the Golden California Poppy blooms each year around the time of Earth Day, it seemed appropriate for Lancaster to combine the two events into the California Poppy Festival. The first Earth Day was held in the spring of 1970 with an estimated 20 million people participating worldwide. Through the years, the annual Earth Day celebration has grown in popularity; in 1990 an estimated 200 million people in 141 countries participated in different celebrations. The California Poppy Festival carries on the Earth Day tradition of concern and caring for the environment.
The 2012 California Poppy Festival is scheduled for April 21-22, running from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days, and takes place rain or shine! Festivities include two days of music, art, food and activities celebrating the state flower of California and the appearance of poppies in the Antelope Valley.
The Park

Although the wildflower season generally lasts from as early as mid-February through mid-May, the park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset.  Fall is also a pleasant time to visit, as the days are normally warm with milder winds.

Eight miles of trails through the gentle rolling hills, including a paved section for wheelchair access, make the park a wonderful place to hike and explore any season. Benches located along the trails make good places to sit quietly and watch for wildlife, such as singing meadow larks, lizards zipping across the trail, gopher snakes and rattlesnakes. If you’re lucky, you may spot a coyote or bobcat. Numerous burrows around the trails may house mice, gophers, kangaroo rats, beetles, scorpions, or others.

The Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center, offering a short video, wildlife/plant displays and gift shop, is open 9-5 weekends and 10-4 weekdays during the wildflower season.  Tours are offered if staff is available. Nearby, shaded picnic tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis year-round, with an interpretive display and a serene view over the valley to the San Gabriel Mountains. The park is open sunrise to sunset. Visit http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=627.

Lash La Rue Private First Class

| Canyon Country Magazine | March 16, 2012

The military was something I had always wanted to do. Throughout high school I knew the military was always going to be my back up plan if I didn’t get any scholarship offers to schools. I was 18 when I first left for basic. My family wasn’t surprised one bit. They knew I had always wanted to be a soldier, and they knew I would succeed in the military. However, they did not support my decision to join the army. My dad wanted me to join either the Air Force or Navy because he didn’t want me to be on the front lines in the Middle East. But my mind was set on Army the day my best friend, Matt Girard, left for the Army. He’s been by my side since we played high school football together and I wasn’t about to let him go to war without me.

Before I signed up for the Army, I was actually talking to Navy recruiters. I had considered the Navy for about two months, but then the Army won me over. I believe there were plenty of circumstances throughout my life that led to me joining the Army. Back when I played high school football under Coach Varner, he ran practice like we were soldiers in boot camp. Some days we wanted to quit, but we wouldn’t, because we would be quitting on each other. And the military is very similar – you’re not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for the brothers that are standing beside you.

Boot camp was fairly easy for me. The hardest part was the lack of food. The yelling didn’t bother me, because most of the time they started screaming I actually had to refrain myself from laughing. Physically boot camp was not very challenging. It’s all a mental game.

For my dad the most enjoyable part has been that I joined airborne and will become a paratrooper. He seems to get a real kick out of that. The most enjoyable part for me has been living in Germany. I feel like I have learned so much about their culture from being stationed here this past year.

My current occupation in the Army is an infantry man that specializes with the mortar system. I enjoy working with the mortar system because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The whole gun system weighs a little more than 300 pounds.

I believe I had a great childhood. I was always in sports year round. My parents loved coming to all my sporting events and were always very supportive of everything I did as a child. I attended Canyon high school and played football all 4 years of high chool. Canyon football made me who I am today and I will always miss those Friday nights under the lights.

My plans for the military are simple – finish my four years and then get out. I do not plan on reenlisting in the military, and plan on someday becoming a firefighter once I’m back in the civilian world.

I will be deploying to Afghanistan this summer. I’m going with two of my best friends from high school, Parker Sutton and Charlie Cusumano. It seems like most of my friends decided to join the military, and that just goes to show how similar we all are. I don’t really think about deployment too much. That’s what I signed up to do and that’s my commitment. Plenty of other people just like me have gone over there and come back, so I know I can as well.

I still think about Canyon Country every day, and the amazing people that live there. It’s the greatest place on earth and I can’t wait to come back for good.

Dad’s Perspective

Lash and I had been discussing him going into the Military probably starting his junior year in high school. So, I was not surprised at all that he enlisted. However, I was very surprised that he enlisted in the Army. During our many father-son talks about what he wanted to do once graduating from high school; I thought he was going to get his AA diploma from COC, rehab his broken shoulder (football injury during his senior year at Canyon) then enlist in the Air Force or Navy. I felt that this would be a safer route than enlisting in the Army or Marines and he could still reap the rewards of the G.I. bill and learn how to live on his own.

I will never forget the day he called me at work and told me that he signed a contract for the Army. I was extremely upset, devastated. I believe I started yelling over the phone, “Why would you choose this branch? We discussed going into the Air Force or Navy.” I then asked what job he had signed up for, hoping that at least he would learn a trade. Lash then told me: “Infantry.” I was horrified, asking why would he do such a crazy thing, taking a chance risking his life, for what? Lash, upset with my reaction, told me: “I want to do something that is bigger than myself. I thought you would be proud of me; I love this country and I want to do my part helping keep our country safe.” He said some other choice words also. It took about a month for me to realize, WOW, Teri and I did a wonderful job raising such a courageous young man.

Boot Camp for Lash physically and mentally was a breeze; cowboy football taught him to be mentally and physically tough. The toughest part for him, was having to eat quickly. Lash loved to take his time eating his meals. For me, the toughest part was not having his smiling face around everyday. It is very difficult knowing that your little boy is becoming his own man. I’m sure every parent feels the same way, whether they are going off to college, starting a family of their own, or enlisting. Separation anxiety is hell. When Lash comes home to visit or when I talk to him on the phone; he seems the same. He is still that sweet, smiley Lash that I have known all his life. The only thing that is different is that he does not ask for anything. If he wants something, he does it on his own. Thank God.

After boot camp, Lash signed an Airborne contract and is stationed in Germany. He is part of the 91st Calvary scouts. He is part of a mortar men unit. Scouts, pretty scary! He will be scouting ahead of the rest of the unit. I have not quite accepted that yet.

Lash’s childhood was nothing but sports. He started playing football, baseball and basketball at four years old. He was always younger than the rest of his teammates, but that only made him more determined to try harder and hit harder than anyone else on the team. It wasn’t until his junior year that he decided to focus only on football. His senior year, he lost his beautiful mother,Teri La Rue, to cancer. Honoring his mother, he had the courage to speak about his mother in front of hundreds of people at her funeral. He did not miss a beat! At that moment, I realized that Lash was the most courageous son a mother and father could have. He played his best football game that night.

After the Army, I believe Lash wants to use his G.I. bill and get his four-year degree. There was a time that he wanted to be a fireman. Lash signed a four-year-17-week contract. The last time we talked, he said that he would not sign for another term. I hope he sticks to that, but time will tell. Lash is scheduled to go to Afghanistan in July, 2012 for a nine-month term. The whole 173rd Airborne unit will be there. Hopefully, he will meet up with his good friends, Parker Sutton and Charlie Cusumano (both Canyon Cowboys).
My initial thoughts on Lash going over there were: “This is what he signed up for – to serve and protect this great nation of ours.” God has a plan for all of us and this is His plan for Lash and all the others that are out risking their lives for our freedom. I am so proud of our Canyon Country boys and pray daily that they will finish their term healthy and ready to take on any challenges that are in front of them. I would also like to thank Coach Chris Varner in helping develop our boys into courageous young men who are not afraid to take unselfish risks.

Cellular Church of the SCV

| Canyon Country Magazine, Slider Home, Spotlight News | February 28, 2012

Driving over a slight rise while heading east on Soledad Canyon Road, the sun shines brightly on a dramatic stone church highlighted by an artistic triple layered metal cross.  The newly opened Cellular Church of the Santa Clarita Valley is a living testament to a dream of the pastor and the faith of the congregation to bring it to life.

Edwin Recinos was called into the missions field by his church, United Bretheren in Christ Church in Burbank, in 1993.  He and his wife, Meri, moved with their two young children to Lakewood, CA to open a new church.  Discouraged by the lack of growth, Recinos returned to Burbank.  Although ready to accept the possibility that planting a church was not God’s call for his life, he was asked to move to Canyon Country because two families were interested in having a church nearby.  the families bonded and the first cell group was formed.

New Business Kyoto

| Canyon Country Magazine, Slider Home, Spotlight News | February 28, 2012

When the signs for Kyoto Seafood Buffet first went up, residents may have had to do a double take.  This eatery would soon serve up food that (literally) was worlds away from the expectation of locals at the venue, considering it was once the  home of Rattler’s followed by two more Western barbecue style restaurants.

The new restaurant would, in fact, draw from Eastern culture, rather than Western styles and flavor.  There were no horns or antlers on the walls, no horseshoe-shaped tableware or Remington reproduction anywhere in sight.

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