“A Christmas Carol”

Fox 10 weatherman McCloskey brings Scrooge to life

Published in SanTan Sun News Dec. 6, 2014 issue

For years, Cory McCloskey dreamt of playing Ebenezer Scrooge, but he never believed he looked old enough to pull it off.

Despite that, the popular Fox 10 Arizona Morning weatherman decided to audition for the role in “A Christmas Carol” at the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert. He figured he would try out and leave the rest up to theater staff. Apparently, they believed in him. He serves in the role in the “red” cast, while the “green” group features Mark Kleinman as Scrooge.

A Christmas Carol“I think people who know me from television will be shocked at how disgusting I look in this role,” McCloskey says.

“A Christmas Carol” runs Monday through Saturday until Wednesday, Dec. 24, at the Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Ave., Gilbert. There are 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. performances, as well as matinees at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Tickets range from $20 to $36 and can be purchased by visiting www. HaleTheatreArizona.com.

“This has been a thrill and a half for me because I really haven’t thrown myself into a complete role in a show in 25 years,” McCloskey says. “I’m enjoying this so much.”

The role of Scrooge is nonstop. He has to have the “pedal to the floor from scene one to the curtain because Scrooge is on the stage every scene whether he is speaking or not,” McCloskey explains.

He enjoys playing the character because Scrooge evolves from being unpleasant to generous.

“The journey is rather grinding for him and for an actor, too,” McCloskey says.

His favorite moment in the play is when Scrooge sees himself as a young man in love. McCloskey describes the scene as heart-wrenching and powerful.

“I love doing it,” he says of the scene. “It still hits me very hard every time.”

McCloskey explains “A Christmas Carol” is a special production because of the many magical moments.

The musical version of Dickens’ classic is full of special effects, stunning costumes, talented singers, dancers and actors.

“It is going to be an exciting show to see,” he says.

McCloskey recounts his journey of acting as that of a typical high school kid growing up in a small Pennsylvania town. After discovering he enjoyed musicals, he performed in his first community theater production of “Camelot” in his 20s.

“I was spotted there by a director of another theater, a dinner theater,” he explains. “She approached me and told me they needed a young man of my type for a few shows for their upcoming season. (She asked) would I be interested in coming on board and she said we would pay.”

That was a selling point for McCloskey. When he moved to Philadelphia, he was referred to a modeling agency, which led to an eight-year career.

“It was a city in the 1980s that had a few large, family-owned department stores that had enough work to keep a few men pretty busy,” he explains.

During that time, he traveled to New York  to audition for commercials and films.

“I had some moderate success,” McCloskey says. “I had a small role on a soap opera ‘Another World’ and sang some jingles.”

He also toured with a company that did children’s productions, all the while earning his Actors Equity Association card. Soon, his inspiration changed.

“We were sitting in the living room one night watching the evening news in Philadelphia and the weatherman came on,” he says. “I remember saying, ‘You know honey, I think I can do that job.’ The way (wife) Mary Jane is, she said, ‘Well call him up and see how he got his job.’”

The initial conversation with Philadelphia WPVI Channel 6 weatherman Dave Roberts turned into career move.

The couple moved to Illinois where McCloskey landed a part-time job, for which he learned how to work the camera. He then moved on to weatherman. He relocated to Arizona and has been a popular weatherman at Fox 10 Arizona for 13 years.

“The acting was just the best preparation, at least for me, for that job,” he says.

“We gave them a lot of attention”

Chandler mom returns from volunteer opportunity in Peru

Published Nov. 1, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

Photographer Rachel Tabron traveled abroad for the first time to Peru, where she spent time volunteering at an orphanage.

She witnessed extreme poverty and poor living conditions, but the Chandler resident would go back in a heartbeat.

“Overall the experience was very positive,” Tabron says. “Easy travels for the most part, met a lot of nice locals and learned a lot. (It was) very different economically wise of course, but still many beautiful areas and things to see.”

Tabron lent a hand to El Arca Orphanage, outside of Cusco, where she stayed with a host family. The two-week visit was set up through International Volunteer HQ.

“Each day they would tell us about the area and cook us Peruvian food,” she explains about the three meals a day. “I think being around them we got to see more than the average tourist.”

The orphanage housed 45 children that ranged from 2 to 17 years old. She spent her time serving lunch to the kids, hanging laundry that was handwashed in buckets and helping with homework.

photograph taken and provided by Rachel Tabron

photograph taken and provided by Rachel Tabron

“We gave them a lot of attention,” Tabron explains.

She says they spent about five hours a day at the orphanage. Although there was a language barrier, her friend Viviane Gomes de Souza spoke Spanish and helped translate.

Besides helping with everyday activities, Tabron shot photos for the orphanage’s website, http://www.elarcafam. org, which is used to attract sponsors. She says the kids “had a blast” posing for photos.

Tabron took headshots of all the children, as well as action shots of them playing, and detailed photographs of the orphanage, the building, cooks prepping food and the clothes being washed.

“I documented it pretty well,” she says.

The orphanage was basic with a few rooms for the kids, she explains.

“They had triple bunk beds and divided the rooms up for boys and girls and one little kitchen area and basically a little shack with a shower in it,” she says. “For the most part it was so organized and the kids were well taken care of.”

Tabron says it felt like one big family at the orphanage, founded by Americans Alan and Laura Lenz. Tabron says she and her group raised $2,500 for shopping money for the orphanage.

“We were able to get them a lot of groceries, supplies for the orphanage and a large stove,” she says, which was all on their shopping wish list.

Only one burner on the previous stove worked.

While Tabron was in Peru, she had the opportunity to Skype with her three small children.

“They learned a lot from it and why I went,” she says.

Tabron also spent time showing the Peruvian orphans photos of her children.

She says it was also apparent how lucky she is as an American. Peru’s pollution, noise and economic standing stuck out during her time in the country.

“They were really poor down there,” she says.

For those interested in seeing more photographs, visit Tabron’s website at http://www.arayaphotography.com/peru.

 

Halloween Spooktacular returns for 33rd year

Halloween Spooktacular returns for 33rd year

Published Oct. 18, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

The City of Chandler is offering a safe alternative to trick-or-treating with the 33rd annual Halloween Spooktacular from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, at the Downtown Library Plaza, 125 E. Commonwealth Ave.

More than 1,200 are expected to converge on the plaza, which will also host a costume contest, according to City of Chandler Recreation Coordinator for Special Events Stephanie Feldaverd.

The contest will be split into different age categories—0 to 4-years-old, 5 to 7 years old, 8 to 10 years old and 11 and older. There is also a category for the best overall family costumes.

“Last year we had a group come out as ‘Hook,’” she says of the different characters from the movie “Hook.”

A first- and second-place prize will be given to the best boy and girl costumes for 0 to 4 years old; best superhero, cartoon character, best princess and scariest costumes in age groups 5 to 7 and 8 to 10. The best overall costume will be given for participants 11 years old and older.

The evening will be filled with different events, which are free or available for a nominal charge. For haunted house fans, there will be an attraction organized and designed by Teens Actively Serving Chandler.

Five City departments will provide trunk-or-treat for the youngsters. A souvenir photo opportunity and frame to capture this year’s memories will be offered for $3. Face painting will be $1. Feldaverd says the money raised will go to the Mayor’s Youth Commission.

A pumpkin patch with 250 pumpkins will be part of this year’s Halloween Spooktacular, with families allowed one pumpkin. Kids will have the opportunity to paint their pumpkins and leave them to dry before heading home.

An array of eight carnival games will fill the plaza, as well as an assortment of other interactive games and arts and crafts.

A new game offered this year is the Witch’s Broom Race. Feldaverd says participants will use a broom to push a pumpkin down a designated path around a witch’s broom and back to the starting line. She says only five participants will compete at one time in different age groups.

“The winner will receive candy,” she says.

A cupcake walk and pumpkin bowling are other games the youngsters can participate in this year. Participants will receive a Halloween cupcake when they end up on a certain number when the music stops.

The Chandler Lions Club will have refreshments, drinks and snacks for sale at the event.

For more information, call the Chandler Special Events Hotline at (480) 782-2735 or visit http://www.chandleraz.gov/default.aspx?pageid=605.

 

‘Developed incredibly as a player’

Teen travels to Boston to hone clarinet skills

Published in SanTan Sun News July 19, 2014

A 16-year-old Chandler student is calling Boston University his summer home as he perfects his clarinet performance at a workshop for teens.

“I have certainly developed incredibly as a player,” says Thomas Desrosiers, who attends Corona de Sol High School.

Desrosiers is participating in Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute Clarinet Workshop and Young Artists Wind Ensemble through Monday, July 28. He was accepted into the program after providing an audition videotape of him playing a few clarinet excerpts and two contrasting solo pieces.

“In March, BUTI offered him a spot and a scholarship. A week later, CWU (Central Washington University) offered him a spot and a scholarship,” his parents, Julieta and Bob Desrosiers, explain in a joint emailed statement. “It was a difficult decision, but we opted to focus solely on BUTI’s two-week clarinet workshop. We thought that was the end of it, but later received another invitation to participate in BUTI-Young Artists Wind Ensemble, a four-week program right after the clarinet workshop.”

The scholarship was a very nice offer, but we still could not afford the second program. After a few calls back and forth, Thomas received a hefty scholarship to attend the Young Artist Wind Ensemble for almost free of charge.”

Since arriving at the camp, Thomas has participated in ensemble rehearsals, individual practices and attended afternoon concerts. He says he has learned a lot of new ideas, techniques and materials.

“It is really incredible because it is such a high level of playing and high level of maturity,” Thomas says. “Back at home, there would be only a few kids practicing 10 hours in a day. Here it is everyone. You get to be with your own kind in a way because they enjoy the same things you do.”

The camp, Thomas says, develops individuals into players, not only during the weeks they are enrolled, but when they return home. He says the Boston University camp provides ample opportunities to make connections with professors and guest artists.

Thomas says he came to the camp hoping it would guide him toward a career path.

“I came to this camp hoping it would be a deciding factor of whether or not I would pursue music in the future or science,” he says. “Even though it has been almost a month of being here, I still have not come to a conclusion.”

Alexander Borodin, an 1800s composer and chemist, is the teen’s inspiration.

“He was not only a great performer, but a noted chemist,” Thomas says. “He found time to do both science and music, which is really what I admire.”

Thomas’ interest in the clarinet began while he was in fifth grade after a musician visited his elementary school and demonstrated various instruments. The sound of the clarinet grabbed his attention, and he has kept it for the past five years because of its versatility.

He says he can play jazz or classical music with the clarinet with a dark tone or bright clear sound.

“It can really do anything depending on the player,” Thomas explains.

He is a member of the Youth Ensemble at Phoenix Youth Symphony. In the fall, he will join the Youth Symphony of Southwest and will continue playing with the Wind Ensemble at Corona del Sol High School and King of Glory Clarinet Choir.

 

‘This drug can and will bring you to your knees’

I interviewed a Scottsdale resident many months ago about his new book release that shares insight about methamphetamine addiction.

‘Paranoia’ Almost Destroys Scottsdale Man

Published in the Ranch Report May 15, 2014 issue

The highly addictive drug methamphetamine brought one Scottsdale resident to his knees after losing everything and everyone in his life. But he found sobriety, and, using a penname, has released a self-help book about his experience.

“Paranoia: A Meth Memoir” is a gritty, tell-all book that exposes the cycle of “Stephen Mucci’s” addiction. It is available in bookstores nationwide and on Amazon.

“The book is very unblinking, a very graphic look at what life becomes like when people get involved in meth,” he said. “If this book makes one person say ‘I will never touch that drug,’ it was totally worth it.”

A Pennsylvania native, Mucci has lived in Scottsdale for the past five years after moving to the valley in 2001. He worked for state government offices for mental health and substance abuse services after earning his masters degree in social work at Florida State University.

After 25 years in the profession, he decided to make a career change and attended culinary school.

Mucci was not exposed to drugs until he attended culinary school, which changed his life forever. At the age of 48 he decided to try methamphetamine, thinking “I would just try it. No big deal.”

“I was Mr. Clean and then I went to culinary school,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of the people I went to culinary school with were alcoholics, addicts and dealers.”

What started off as a weekend binge, turned into an everyday addiction when he decided to do meth one Monday morning instead of going to work. The addiction lasted for three years.

He was able to support his habit through a divorce settlement and his 401K.

“I had at least a quarter of a million dollars and became an addict,” Mucci said. “I doesn’t matter who you are. This drug can and will bring you to your knees.”

The first time he was arrested for possession he went to drug court and was told if he attends treatment and stays clean for a year all charges would be dropped.

“They gave me a nice chance to do the right thing,” Mucci said. “But I didn’t. I went back to the drug and forgot about it. I ignored the court and I got caught again.”

He was given a nine-month sentence in jail and three years of probation. Soon, he was caught with the drug for a third time and sent to prison for three years. After a few days in prison, he decided to do something positive. The result is “Paranoia: A Meth Memoir.”

Mucci said his story is told in three parts – the addictive qualities of meth, how destructive it can be and that the addiction can be beat.

He has been clean for five years.

“I feel wonderful,” he said. “I have never been happier and healthier in my life. I feel like I am doing something good with a good purpose.”

 

 

 

 

“We could have a substantial impact”

When people come together anything is possible. This article shares a glimpse of that.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

On June 12, 2014 I received an incredibly sweet email from Bryan Newman, a gentleman I interviewed for the article:

Thank you so very much for writing a great article of the Risen Savior Spring Food Drive. I don’t know how it could have been better.

You were a joy to work with and I hope we will have the opportunity to do so again. I will be sure to contact you the next time we provide a

noteworthy service within the Chandler community. On behalf of all of us at Risen Savior Church & School, thanks again.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Risen Savior collects, donates 3.6 tons of food

Published in SanTan Sun News June 7, 2014 issue

Risen Savior Lutheran Church and School’s four-week food drive yielded 3.6 tons of food for the Chandler Christian Community Center’s Chandler Food Bank and the congregation is deeming the community outreach program a success.

“Knowing that there are some in the Chandler area that struggle to even put food on the table while our cupboards are full was just unacceptable,” says the Rev. Ron Burcham, Risen Savior Lutheran Church and School senior pastor. “We also knew that as individuals, we could make a difference, but if we pooled our resources and asked for God’s blessing we could have a substantial impact.”

The program began the first week after Easter and concluded Sunday, May 18. In conjunction with the drive, Burcham prepared a four-week sermon series about feeding people in need, whether spiritually or through food assistance.

“It was marvelous,” says food drive cochairman Bryan Newman.

The sermon focused on the Miracle of Five Loaves and Two Fish, with a message that not just one person can feed 5,000 people, but together, as a congregation, a huge difference can be made. To make his point and to encourage the congregation to donate, Burcham displayed the collected food on the altar.

“We had people dropping food by the church every day of the week,” he says. “What a privilege to witness the generosity of God’s people and their desire to make a difference in someone else’s life.”

Six members of the congregation gathered after church the last day of the drive to begin counting what was collected.

“It took the six of us five hours to box and move the food outside of the sanctuary to be picked up from the food bank,” says Newman, who added that the food filled one and a half trucks and a van.

He says they collected 8,241 food items that had an estimated value of more than $16,000. The donations weighed 7,244 pounds, which is equivalent to 3.6 tons of food.

“That is enough to provide about 5,660 meals,” Newman says.

More than $1,000 in donations from the congregation was also collected during that four-week food drive.

Risen Savior Lutheran Church and School plans on continuing its services for the community.

“This is the first move in doing that,” Newman says.

The congregation, located at 23914 S. Alma School Rd., has been generating ideas on how to further help the community, including providing turkeys to the food bank.

“I am extremely proud of our congregation,” Burcham says. “They gave freely and generously from their hearts. As a result, they are a blessing to others and in the end it was a blessing for each member as well.”

For more information about the congregation, call (480) 895-6782 or visit http://www.rslcs.org.

Meant to be

From 1999 to 2009 we went our separate ways, which at one point included a distance that stretched from Australia to Arizona  . . . Relationships with others came to a hault, which brought us both back to Fort Myers.

With only minutes separating us, a lunch finally reunited us. A lunch with my best friend, a man who I missed tremendously, but didn’t know the full extent until I saw his smiling face. His smile filled his truck and years of memories flooded my thoughts.

Sometimes our journeys don’t go as planned. But for me, my journey led me back to the one that has shown me more than I could have ever imagined.

image

Sometimes these thoughts come at the most random moments.

This September we will celebrate five years of sharing our lives. There have been so many wonderful moments created in this time span. Some trying moments, that now looking back have only made us stronger as a couple.

Life has been a beautiful adventure since Jason entered my life again.

‘We believe in our country’

I was excited when my editor assigned me this article a few weeks ago. Due to my involvement in the nonprofit organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc., I have a very special place in my heart for all the men and women who have served this country. I say this because I have talked with many veterans because of my involvement with the organization and have a better understanding of what they have gone through, as well as what their family has gone through.

I really enjoyed talking with Councilwoman Nora Ellen about Operation Welcome Home, a program she brough to Chandler, Arizona. I was shocked and excited when she sent me this email:

“I want to express my deep heart-felt gratitude for the outstanding article you have written about Operation Welcome Home. I appreciate the article was on the front page and so well written in your description of the purpose of the program. I know we had people come to the ceremony Monday because of your timely article.
 
I am cc-ing Rep. J.D. Mesnard in this email to thank you for giving him the credit due of encouraging me to bring this program to Chandler. We are both very grateful to you.”
She left me speechless . . .

Operation Welcome Home honors Chandler veterans

Published in April 19, 2014 SanTan Sun News

U.S. Army Reserves Maj. Rob Polston has left Chandler once since he moved to the area 10 years ago. It was for a 15-month activation that included six months in Afghanistan for Operation Joint Endeavor.

Chandler resident Maj. Rob Polston spent six months in Afghanistan with Operation Joint Endeavor in 2012.

Chandler resident Maj. Rob Polston
spent six months in Afghanistan with
Operation Joint Endeavor in 2012.

“It was tough to leave my wife and kids,” he says of the experience in 2012. “My son was 2 years old and my daughter was 3 months old. That was a little challenging.”

Polston is among the handful of veterans who have been honored by Operation Welcome Home, an initiative introduced by the City of Chandler last year.

When Councilwoman Nora Ellen took office in January 2013, her goal was to bring the program to Chandler. Her son, Rep. J.D. Mesnard, brought the program to her attention. She says the program is important because veterans and their families sacrifice so much for Americans’ lives and freedoms.

“I want to honor and recognize that,” Ellen says.

She says some of the soldiers do not make it back home, while others see their friends die or get injured, and face traumatic situations themselves.

“They are our heroes,” Ellen says.

The program has a special place in Ellen’s heart. There is a long line of veterans in her family, including her father, who served in World War II. Five nieces and nephews as well as a brother-in-law served in the military at the same time.

Debuting initiative

The first Operation Welcome Home took place on Nov. 4, 2013, honoring four veterans, including Polston, attracting about 300 onlookers.

“It was overwhelming,” Polston says.

He heard about the program through the Chandler Veterans Memorial; he sits on its fundraising board.

“I found out through the board that Chandler was looking for veterans who have returned from overseas,” Polston says.

Nominees for Operation Welcome Home must be a Chandler resident and a veteran who served away from home during the last two or three years or are leaving soon. Four veterans are honored during each ceremony.

“We want to make it very personalized for them, so it is not a mass ceremony,” Ellen says.

The evening was special to Polston.

On Nov. 4, he arrived at a meeting place, only to be greeted by a limo waiting for all of them. The Patriot Guard Riders said a prayer before the veterans were escorted to the Chandler City Council Chambers.

Polston was overwhelmed as he stepped out of the limo in uniform, seeing hundreds of people cheering them on and waving American flags.

“It’s something you never really expect; you don’t think you really deserve,” he explains. “No veteran chooses to go to a combat zone or deploy overseas because they think they are going to get the recognition. We go to serve our country and do something that we feel like we need to do. We believe in our country. We know we are going to leave family at home. You understand that and take that into account. To be appreciated for it publicly was humbling and unexpected.”

Once the crowd greeted the veterans, the ceremony continued inside the chambers.

Polston received more than $300 in gift cards and goodies before being treated to dinner at Floridino’s Pizza and Pasta.

“It is really cool to be honored in that way,” he says. “I want to thank the City of Chandler and the council members, especially Councilwoman Nora Ellen. I look forward to honoring more veterans for serving overseas, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Ellen says the support the council receives from the community enables the governing body to provide gifts for the veterans.

“Some of them can really use the money,” she says. “They come back and some of them have a hard time finding a job.”

Polston works at Intel as the program manager in its efforts to recruit veterans. He still serves as a major in the Army reserves.

The next ceremony, which the community is invited to attend, will start outside the chambers at 6 p.m. Monday, April 21.

Nomination forms, as well as sponsorship forms, can be found at www. chandleraz.gov/patriotism.

‘Golden Hour’

Level I Trauma Center opens in Chandler Regional

Published April 5, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

After planning for more than a year, Chandler Regional Medical Center received provisional status as a Level I Trauma Center from the Arizona Department of Health Services. It began taking patients on Monday, March 24.

“We can do anything that all the Level I Trauma Centers can do in the state,” says Chandler Regional Medical Center Trauma Program Manager Lori Wass, who began working at the center on April 1, 2013.

Although there are only three designated rooms in the emergency department for trauma patients, the center has the ability to see more of the injured because once they are stabilized, they can be moved out of those rooms.

The center will provide service for Pinal and Maricopa counties. The center had to obtain funds for equipment, special stretchers and cabinets to help organize supplies for neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons.

More than $10 million has already been invested in the center. According to Director of Public Relations and Marketing Julie Graham, the Dignity Health Foundation of the East Valley has provided $1,150,000 in funding for the center from donations.

It will cost between $8 million and $10 million annually to maintain it, says Chandler Regional Trauma Medical Director Dr. Forrest (Dell) Moore.

There are Level I Trauma Centers in downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale, but, due to growth, this one was needed, Moore says.

“There isn’t a close enough trauma center for patients in the Southeast Valley and Pinal (County),” he says.

He also chalks up the decision to the vital “golden hour,” that important time period in which those suffering traumatic injuries must be seen.

Wass says recent data shows that in Maricopa County 42 percent of patients reached a trauma facility within the golden hour. Of those injured in Pinal County, only 10 percent of them received treatment within the first 60 minutes.

“Fifty-eight percent in Maricopa County and 90 percent in Pinal County did not get to a Level I Trauma in 60 minutes,” Moore says. “We can increase those odds significantly. The closer you are to a Level I Trauma Center, the better the outcome. It is in the perfect location to treat patients in Southeast Valley and Pinal County.”

In addition to providing trauma patients with faster care, the center, Moore explains, will also keep families closer to home because they no longer have to travel to downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale. EMS travel time is also cut in half.

Moore says the center in Chandler will affect Maricopa and Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn medical centers, but it’s more important to serve the needs of the community and decrease the risk of death and complications due to prolonged transportation times.

An expected 1,500 to 2,000 trauma patients a year will be admitted to the hospital from minor to severe injuries. Moore says some of those include complex hand injuries, chest and abdominal injuries, pelvic fractures from a blunt mechanism, car accident or fall, or stab or gunshot wounds.

“We have all the specialists onboard to be able to care for any traumatic injury,” he says.

There are approximately 15 specialty groups at the center with multiple physicians within each specialty. Moore says they have six surgeons in trauma care, multiple orthopedic trauma surgeons, four neurosurgeons, as well as many hand surgeons, plastic surgeons and vascular surgeons. Others include anesthesiologists, nurses and ancillary services.

Wass says trauma surgeons are at the center 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the other surgeons are always on call. Overall, there are up to 70 physicians caring for trauma patients.

“We are very excited to be a Level I Trauma facility and we are looking forward to giving the care to individuals in the community and their families,” Wass says.

The Level I Trauma Center’s designation is in conjunction with the hospital’s expansion project that is scheduled to open later this year. The expansion at Tower C will add 96 beds, expand the emergency department an increase the operating room capacity.

 

‘Travel back in the early 20th century’

Trains are always an interesting subject to learn about. I had the opportunity to talk to one of the founders of the Arizona Railway Museum in Chandler, Arizona a few weeks ago. I also talked to the events coordinator regarding the Arizona Railway Days. It sounds like a really interesting event to attend to learn more about the history of Arizona’s railways.

Celebrate the history of Arizona railways March 1

Published Feb. 15, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

The Arizona Railway Museum will celebrate Arizona Railway Day by offering the public an opportunity to view a large collection of Arizona specific railroad equipment that are rarely available to visitors.

The celebration, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, will also mark the museum’s 30th anniversary.

“It’s fun for all ages,” Special Events Coordinator Mark Redmond says of the event. “You really get a chance to see what it’s like to travel back in the early 20th century. Everything will be open, all the railroad cars, including the private cars and locomotives.”

The Arizona Railway Museum has a true Arizona classic on display, a woodside caboose. The caboose, which ran from Ajo to Gila Bend, was built for the Phelps Dodge mine in 1944. Individuals can view this caboose during the Arizona Railway Day on Saturday, March 1, at the Arizona Railway Museum. Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

The Arizona Railway Museum has a true Arizona classic on display, a woodside caboose. The caboose, which ran from Ajo to Gila Bend, was built for the Phelps Dodge mine in 1944.
Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

By walking through the cars, the public can get a better understanding of private cars.

“I’m very happy to announce that, for the first time in the Valley, we have the Amtrak Visit Train,” Redmond explains.

The train was originally used for Amtrak’s 40th anniversary and now it travels throughout the country to explain how it was created, where it’s been and where it’s going. It will be available for viewing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 2.

The locomotive engineer from Legend City, an amusement park in Arizona from the 1960s to the 1980s, will also attend.

For the youngsters, there are opportunities to enter a real diesel locomotive and blow the air horn, and step inside a steam locomotive and blow the steam whistle. But children should be forewarned.

“There are no guarantees (it will) blow every time because it takes a lot of air,” Redmond says.

There will be extra parking available during the event with a hay wagon shuttle service courtesy of the Chandler Lions Club, which will provide food and drinks for purchase.

Although the museum is asking for donations, admission is free.

Founding the museum

Bart Barton, a founding member of the Arizona Railway Museum, says the idea to open a museum blossomed from a rail photo trip he took with colleagues to Nogales to photograph old railway equipment. Because the closest railing museum, the Orange Empire Railway Museum in California, is about 300 miles away, it made sense to the founders to bring a facility to Arizona.

“We would drive over there (California); we were volunteers over there,” he says. “We got the idea that we should have a museum in Arizona.”

Five guys, all local rail fans, wrote the bylaws for the museum and established a nonprofit status in 1983. The goal was to open a museum near railway tracks so organizers could bring in equipment.

“We talked to the City of Phoenix, Gilbert, Mesa and went up to Glendale and ended up in Chandler,” he says. “(The City of Chandler has been) very receptive and absolutely wonderful partners.”

The museum has grown beyond the founders’ original expectations 30 years ago.

“We are in our new home in Tumbleweed Park and still growing,” Barton says. “We are looking for those particular pieces of equipment that has history with Arizona.”

The Arizona Railway Museum, which sits on 6 acres on the west end of Tumbleweed Park, has approximately 50 cars, passenger and freight, three locomotives and numerous artifacts on display.

“We are home to six private railroad cars that are Amtrak certified,” Redmond explains.

The collection also includes the PCC Trolley 4607, which came from the City of Phoenix Transportation Department. Although the trolley no longer operates, Redmond says it has been restored.

Union Pacific has donated a good amount of equipment to the museum, which includes railroad crossing equipment that will be put on display.

“We are always trying to get rolling stock and locomotives in,” Redmond says about the costly and time consuming process.

The Arizona Railway Museum is located at 330 E. Ryan Rd., Chandler. The museum is regularly open 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekends between Labor and Memorial days.

For more information call (480) 821- 1108 or visit http://www.azrymuseum.org.