Chandler Chuck Wagon Cook-Off

Learn about Arizona history, while enjoying period food

Published in SanTan Sun News Nov. 1, 2014 issue

More than 8,000 people are expected to celebrate Arizona’s history with demonstrations, activities and, most importantly, authentic period food.

The fifth annual Chandler Chuck Wagon Cook-Off is set for Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 9, at Tumbleweed Ranch at Tumbleweed Park, 2250 E. McQueen, Chandler.

Chuck Wagon4

Photograph provided to the SanTa Sun News

The cook-off was inspired by cook Dave McDowell’s passion for outdoor food creations, says Jean Reynolds, public history coordinator for the Chandler Museum.

“He also wanted to come up with an event that would make a little bit of money to go back to the museum to help with education,” Reynolds says.

The event supports the educational development of Tumbleweed Ranch.

“We do the event to preserve our western history and Arizona history that goes back to the late 19th century with the whole idea of cowboys, ranching and cooking on the trail.”

Since 2000, McDowell has competed in chuck wagon cook-offs in Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming.

“We have about seven to 10 wagons here in the state that are always looking for an event to compete in,” McDowell says. ”There was a big gap in the fall schedule. We thought the Tumbleweed Ranch would be a great place to do it.”

He was the driving force in bringing the annual Chuck Wagon Cook Off to the Chandler area. The first year, it attracted four wagons. But, he adds, “we have made some great progress.”

On Friday, the activities will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The morning will focus on tours with school groups and senior citizens.

Later that morning, cooks will demonstrate different ways to cook turkeys outdoors.

“It’s a unique way to do a Thanksgiving dinner,” she says. Friday evening a campfire glow will be held at 6 p.m. with Arizona troubadour Wally Bornmann, a cowboy singer and storyteller, around the fire with s’mores.

The event on Saturday runs from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The main Saturday attraction features 12 chuck wagons competing for awards based on appearance, taste and texture of period food. The teams will cook and prepare their own unique meal, which includes meat, bread, potatoes, beans and a dessert. Reynolds says each chuck wagon makes about 50 meals.

Chuck Wagon2“We provide them with the main ingredients,” Reynolds says. “They have their own spices.”

Tickets, which are $12 for the meal, go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday morning and typically sell out within the hour.

On Sunday, many of the same activities and demonstrations as the previous days will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition, a 10 a.m. breakfast will consist of a three-course meal of potatoes, eggs, biscuits and gravy.

In the afternoon, 18 kids will participate in a junior cook-off, during which they work with wagon teams to create a peach cobbler with a Dutch oven.

Television personality and Times Media Group food columnist Jan D’Atri will provide a cooking demonstration in the afternoon.

For more information, visit www.


“Reconnect with the earth”

Bike ride explores state from Tucson to Chandler

Published in SanTan Sun News Nov. 1 issue

A few slots remain for the inaugural Tucson to Phoenix bike ride which concludes with dinner at Tumbleweed Park.

The ride will be held on Sunday, Nov. 9. Bicyclists will meet at 3:30 a.m. at Tumbleweed Park, 745 E. GermannRd., by the tennis courts where the bikes will be loaded before driving toTucson. The bike ride then begins at Oro Valley Bicycle, at 12985 N. OracleRd., in Tucson. Wheels will be on the road by 6 a.m. and cyclists will return to Chandler before 5 p.m.

The more than 85-mile bike ride will allow cyclists to see the beauty of Arizona, as well as an opportunity to stop at historical markers to learn about the history of the Grand Canyon state.

“We have done it twice from Phoenix to Tucson,” says Chandler resident LaVerne Lindsey, owner of One on One with LaVerne. “A couple of riders wanted to do it in reverse from Tucson to Phoenix.”

Tucson to Phoenix bike ride. Photo courtesy of LaVerne Lindsey

       Tucson to Phoenix bike ride.  Photo courtesy of LaVerne Lindsey

Lindsey says the trip is safe and fun.“There is little to no traffic on the roads that we travel,” she says. “It is a low stress ride.”

It’s about “putting your feet down for a minute and …a reconnection with your surroundings.”

The trip costs $100, and that includes transportation, automobile support, dinner and a group rider photograph. The bike ride is open to 10 participants.

For more information or to sign up for the bike ride, visit www.

“I am on the road with the riders,” Lindsey says. “I make sure the last rider always has company.”

An accompanying automobile will provide water and food. The car will also be available to those who may need a break during the bike ride.

“You can hop into the car and eat,” she says. “It is a very well-supported ride.”

At the conclusion of the bike ride, participants will enjoy a pasta meal with garlic bread and a salad at Tumbleweed Park.

Lindsey began riding 12 years ago at age 40. She says she began because she was out of shape and overweight. What started off as riding for better health turned into a passion.

“There is nothing like riding and having the wind blow through your hair,” she says. “It’s something about the quietness and the freedom. You feel alive.”

After raising her daughters as a single, working mom, she hopped on a bicycle and it opened up a whole new world.

“Once I found the love of cycling, I started my all women’s biker group that ride every Saturday,” she says.

Lindsey says the Saturday morning rides allow women to ride for four hours while enjoying the beauty of Arizona. The group rides at about 12 to 15 miles per hour and takes breaks.

“It’s more about camaraderie and establishing women supporting women,” she says.

Lindsey also provides one-on-one coaching for women at any and every level.

“My office is your front door,” she explains.

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


“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

‘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.

‘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.


Ostrich Festival

A few weeks ago I interviewed the Chandler Chamber of Commerce president and CEO about an annual festival that attracts quite a few people. This annual event celebrates the history of ostrich farms in Chandler, Arizona. It sounds like a fun event to attend.

Celebrate Chandler’s history during the Ostrich Festival

Published in SanTan Sun News March 1, 2014 issue

Families can partake in fun and healthy activities while celebrating Chandler’s history during the 26th Ostrich Festival from Friday, March 7, through Sunday, March 9, at Tumbleweed Park.

Ostrich Festival1

The 26th annual Ostrich Festival will kick off with the Mayor’s 5K Fun Run and parade on March 1, but the fun continues Friday, March 7, through Sunday, March 9, for three days of activities.
Submitted photo to the SanTan Sun News

Chandler was the home to the largest ostrich farms in the country in the early 1900s. Twenty-six years ago, the Ostrich Festival was created to pay homage to that.

“We created the Ostrich Festival as a way to celebrate our heritage,” says Terri Kimble, Chandler Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “It’s a great event to bring families and traditions together.”

Terry Locke, chairman of the Mayor’s 5K Fun Run that officially kicks off festivities on Saturday, March 1, calls the festival a signature event for the community. He says nothing else attracts as many people.

“There is something for everyone,” Locke says. “People are amazed when they see all the things to do. There are so many different stages and entertainment and rides for the kids. It’s a lot to take in, in one day.”

The fun run begins March 1 with registration at 6:30 a.m. followed by the main event at 7:50 a.m. Locke says participants can run or walk down Arizona Avenue to help raise money for the Chandler Education Foundation.

“It’s a nice event and it leads into the (10 a.m.) parade,” Locke says. “The two events complement each other very well.”

Kimble says the parade is a nice way to feature local people and organizations.

It builds momentum and community involvement for the Ostrich Festival a week later, Locke adds. Originally, the festival was held in downtown Chandler but it moved to Tumbleweed Park when it outgrew the space.

“That is a testament to what a local favorite it is,” she says.

One of the yearly traditions of the Ostrich Festival is the Great American Ostrich Races. Attendees can ride the ostrich bareback or participate in the chariot races.

Ostrich Festival2

The Great American Ostrich Races, which will be held Friday, March 7, through Sunday, March 9, at Tumbleweed Park is a favorite of the Ostrich Festival. Submitted photo to the SanTan Sun News

“They are fun,” she says. “Ostriches are very fast.”

Ostriches can run up to 45 miles per hour for about 30 minutes.

The festival will also feature Rhinestone Roper, a horse show that has been entertaining Chandler residents for 15 years. The show thrills its audience with trick roping, knife throwing, bullwhip cracking, gun spinning, fast draw shooting and stunts by veteran trick horses Lucky Joe and Handsome Jack.

The Fearless Flores Thrill Show, which features nine generations of Fearless Flores Family circus performers, will showcase the Globe of Death—a 14-foot steel cage for motorcycle tricks.

“They drive a motorcycle in a sphere and they have someone standing in the middle,” Kimble says.

The Birdman will bring eagles, macaws, hornbills, cassowary, cockatoos, cranes, emu, parrots and a 10-foot wingspan condor all in a free-flying avian extravaganza.

Kimble says the BMX stunt bikes are a crowd favorite. It features athletes who have participated in the X Games.

New this year, is a 6.5-foot diameter water ball, which gives individuals an opportunity to go inside an air sealed hamster ball and walk on water.

The Axe Women Loggers of Maine, Family Magic Show, the Freak Show Deluxe, a live stingray exhibit, Survivor Family Game Show, petting zoo, pony and camel rides, bungee trampoline and pig races are other activities at the Ostrich Festival.

“There is really something for everybody,” Kimble says.

Peyton List, who portrays Emma Rose on the Disney Channel show “Jessie,” will be signing autographs and taking pictures during the festival.

Musical entertainment will also be a part of the Ostrich Festival all weekend.

Edwin McCain will play at 6 p.m. Friday, March 7; A Flock of Seagulls at 8 p.m. Friday, March 7; Three Dog Night at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 8; and Rancho Viejo at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 9, on the main stage. The Twisted Blues, Run 2 Cover and TK and the Irresistibles will play on the Ostrich Coop Stage throughout the weekend as well.

“A community stage has been a great tradition,” Kimble says. “It’s a way to celebrate the community, talents and treasures we have here.”

For foodies, there will be gourmet food trucks and stations featuring dishes such as ostrich burgers, hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken.

Tickets are $7 for seniors and children and $10 for adults.

For more information, visit

‘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

Best Food Truck of Arizona

A few months ago I wrote an article about the food truck phenomenon in Arizona. This past Saturday another article I wrote regarding food trucks was published in the SanTan Sun News. It sounds like a rather interesting event to attend.

First food truck competition comes to Chandler

Published Feb. 15, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

More than 50 gourmet food trucks will travel to Tumbleweed Park to win over the attendees’ votes and take home the title of the Best Food Truck of Arizona next weekend.

“The Best Food Truck of Arizona” is a first-time event for Chandler and Arizona, says Brian Denham, co-owner of Novoa Denham Events. An ex-teacher and administrator, he and retired MLB pitcher Rafael Novoa came up with the idea in July.

Photo provided to SanTan Sun News.

Photo provided to SanTan Sun News.

The food trucks will be pushing their best product out the window during the two-day event from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 and Sunday, Feb. 23. Denham explains that this competition is different from others because rather than the food trucks focusing on one dish, they are offering their entire body of work for customers to taste.

“I don’t think you can name a food and say that won’t be represented,” Denham says of the items attendees can purchase during the competition. “The food is definitely a higher level cuisine than most would expect.”

Denham says although the majority of the food trucks are from Arizona, they have a few traveling from San Diego and Las Vegas.

Once attendees purchase a general admission ticket for $12, they will receive a three tab wrist band for voting purposes. Denham says individuals have the opportunity to vote on the quality and presentation of the food and truck, and the overall interaction and engagement they have with those on the truck.

Denham says it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Will the truck with the longest line win, or the truck that has that constant line? The competition will include an update every two-hours on a scoreboard on the main stage as the ballots are counted from each truck.

Photo provided to SanTan Sun News.

Photo provided to SanTan Sun News.

“We are going to update the top 10 trucks and the current standing of how they are doing,” Denham says. “It should be fun.”

At the end of the weekend, the truck with the most votes will be recognized as the Best Food Truck of Arizona and receive a banner.

“That’s the biggest deal for them, the marketing value that brings to the truck,” he says.

The event will also include local live music from the 1970’s through the 1990’sIn addition to the food, there will also be local live music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s on Saturday and Sunday.

In addition to general admission tickets, attendees can also purchase $100 VIP Packages. The ticket offers entrance into the tent featuring leather couches, umbrellas, top-of-the-line outdoor patio furniture, a white picket fence and private bathrooms.

“The tent comes with all you can eat food and five drinks of your choice,” Denham explains, as well as VIP parking.

The general admission ticket includes a free kid zone with inflatables, competitive games and a rock wall, as well as free parking and entertainment.

Patrons can purchase tickets using their mobile devices through PayPal, says David Carter, director, SMB Marketing.

 “I’d encourage everyone to download the PayPal app ahead of time and set up your PayPal account, then look for the PayPal acceptance logo throughout the event,” he explains.

Denham is expecting 15,000 to 20,000 people to attend the weekend event.

“We’re thrilled to be part of the inaugural Best Food Truck of Arizona competition,” Carter says. “It honors the accomplishments of some amazing small business owners and rewards creativity and innovation surrounding food, which we love because it brings people together.”

For more information, visit

‘I know exactly what I want to do’

I was invited to attend this three-day event, which I unfortunately will not be able to make because it is held in Chandler, Arizona. It sounds like a great way to bring the community together while highlighting science and technology.

Three-day festival highlights science and technology

Published Jan. 18, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

A three-day festival in February will provide a glimpse into the science and technology that makes Chandler tick.

The Chandler Science Spectacular, Thu., Feb. 20, through Sat., Feb. 22, showcases the businesses, artists, students and innovators in the community as part of the statewide Arizona SciTech Festival.

The Chandler event is comprised of three free happenings.

The Chandler Tech Crawl is 5:30 p.m. Thu., Feb. 20, and features some of the biggest names in science opening their doors to families.

Technology meets the arts during A Night of Art and Science from 6 to 10 p.m. Fri., Feb. 21, as Downtown Chandler transforms its monthly Third Friday Art Walk into a creative look at the science behind the food and drink, beauty, art and invention.

Chandler’s Science Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat., Feb. 22, has interactive demonstrations by Chandler’s technology companies along with the next generation of science.

“Everything is free,” says Councilman Rick Heumann. “It’s a great event for families. It’s really to showcase what Chandler is all about and the companies that we have.”

Heumann founded the Chandler Education Coalition three years ago to bring the school district, city nonprofits and business community together to benefit students in Chandler.

“It is really designed because everyone has limited funds,” he says.

Heumann and his coalition are behind the localization of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

“More and more cities are stepping up and doing a lot more things,” Heumann says.

The Chandler Science Spectacular, he says, has been successful because of the individuals working behind the scenes.

“Chris Mackay and her team should get some major kudos,” Heumann explains.

City of Chandler Economic Development Director Christine Mackay boasts about the 3-year-old Chandler Tech Crawl on Feb. 20.

“Three of the Chandler companies open their doors and provide tours and scientific demonstrations to see the neat, exciting technology that is happening in Chandler,” she says.

Those businesses include Chandler’s Innovations Incubator, 145 S. 79th St.; Intel, 5000 W. Chandler Blvd., Building CH6; and Infusionsoft, 1260 S. Spectrum Blvd. Mackay is one of the tour guides at Intel.

“The same people come back every year,” she says. “They seem to be really engaged and excited to see what is going on in their community.”

A Night of Art and Science on Feb. 21 takes place at the historic square in downtown Chandler.

“It’s a tremendous draw for the community,” Mackay says. “It’s our best attended third Friday art walk every year.”

Downtown Chandler Community Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Lindley says her organization shows the science and technology behind people’s creative arts.

“We encourage our artists to show a little more about how their craft is created,” Lindley explains.

Typically 60 to 80 artists showcase their art and about half of them offer demonstrations. Last year there was a glass blowing demonstration and SanTan Brewing Co. showcased how to make beer.

The final event, Chandler’s Science Saturday, is Feb. 22.

Air Products demonstrated how to make a frozen fl ower for attendees during last year’s Chandler Science Spectacular, a three-day event that focuses on technology and science. Submitted photo

Air Products demonstrated
how to make a frozen flower for attendees during last year’s Chandler Science Spectacular, a three-day event that focuses on
            technology and science.             Submitted photo

“It’s a good old-fashioned science fair,” Mackay says.Sixty Chandler companies participate in the fair, which closes down Commonwealth Avenue, so the businesses can set up hands-on activities for the attendees. Individuals have the opportunity to move from booth to booth along the street while engaging in science and engineering activities.

“It’s so much fun,” she says.

Arizona State University, University of Arizona and TechShop at the Chandler Innovation Center will have open houses during the event. The Hamilton International Science and Education Festival will also have student projects on display at Hamilton High School.

Mackay remembers watching three little faces last year as they watched an orbital science group, which was the highlight of the event for her.

“You saw the look come over the three little faces: ‘I know exactly what I want to do,’” she recalls. “That moment, they knew exactly where they were going in life.”

The three-day festival, Mackay says, is a way to make sure Chandler residents understand the science behind the community.

“Chandler is strongly and deeply rooted in technology companies,” Mackay says. “Chandler is committed to technology and innovation and that is what we want to celebrate.”

For more information about the Chandler Science Spectacular, visit