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.

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

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