Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

Saguaro removed October 23, 2016

Filed under: businesss,green,Pinal County,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 12:10 am

Quail chatter in an adjacent lot wondering where their eggs in hollowed-out dirt bowls  are now resting. Confused deer dash through the area as they are losing their shelter. A bulldozer pants in the background after clearing a 1-acre lot and making a pad for houses. The For Sale sign at 16th Avenue and Sixshooter Road beckons.

In Pinal County, Az., there is no protection for riparian areas or washes and landowners can remove cactus after following specific regulations. If the landowner wishes to move or sell a saguaro, the owner must apply for a permit through the Arizona Department of Agriculture. There are no restrictions forbidding the owner to knock the plant down.

However, the Pinal County Partnership’s Open Space Task Force has made a presentation to the county manager about a proposal protecting land.

A model showing the locations of riparian areas in the county in south-central Arizona is being contracted out for reviewing ordinances and studying the potential effect on landowners, said Kent Taylor, the county’s open-space manager.

The proposal won’t come before the board while the county is still in a fact finding mode, he added.

Saguaro vanishes100_1055


Little owl January 29, 2014

Filed under: green,Pinal County,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 12:35 am

The little owl on our back porch this morning sits quietly and silently blinking at me as I listen to the birds. While the owl is silent, a curved-billed thrasher digs around in the leaves for food, a cardinal calls, doves coo, and a raven sounds its announcement that it has arrived in the neighborhood. Two hawks swing back and forth across the sky, but steer clear of our area. We’ve had this type of owl visit before to drink when it’s very hot, and we’ve had a much larger great horned owl on our porch. The small owls sometimes sit on the pillars holding up the home’s overhang where they are disguised and somewhat protected. When I return in the afternoon, it has moved on.


Protected: 2010 Noise complaints for Phoenix Gateway Airport in east Mesa, Arizona December 19, 2011

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Sail on Dolly Steamboat for fun and sun December 17, 2011

Filed under: travel — Candace Hughes @ 3:55 am

Sail on Dolly Steamboat for fun and sun

Just about anyone can go on Dolly Steamboat. From wheelchair users to hikers – all can see the petrified wood and other wonders of Canyon Lake from the shaded boat.

And don’t let the captain’s most favorite tune – the theme from “Titanic” – bother you. The boat has a backup generator and plenty of life jackets.

There also is a double deck with some shaded tables and a snack bar. Bring binoculars since there are occasional sightings of bighorn sheep and bald eagles.

“The boat provides access to anyone from a baby to age 105,” says

Jeff Grimh of Apache Junction. He operates the business with his sister Cindi Busboom of Mesa.

They are celebrating 21 years of running the business they are continuing for their father, Roger Grimh.

“People who are handicapped can come on and we provide awesome views of the canyon and wildlife. Just the other day we saw bald eagles and on occasion we see them scooping fish. We see bighorn sheep on a routine basis.

“That’s what we do. We take people and out there and our goal is to come and experience nature and by the time we’re finished they’re awestruck,” he adds.

The boat takes visitors close to petrified wood deposits on the secluded inner waterways where close-up photos of nature are encouraged. Part of the fun is looking for rock formations that may resemble ET or elephants.

Cruisers look for stars while dining

The dinner cruises extend the usual 90-minute time period to about two and one-half hours on a 14-mile roundtrip. Monthly star nights feature an astronomer to narrate the cruise.

“We have a slow ride and we see more going at that speed than anybody else on the lake. You can relax and take the hustle and bustle out of life.

Jeff, whose children are graduates of Desert Vista Elementary School’s Ridgewalkers hiking club, continues to help hot and tired walkers celebrate by giving them a boat ride as they arrive from a 10-mile hike starting at First Water trailhead near the Apache Trail.

The boat features double diesel John Deere engines and is a replica of a 103-foot sternwheeler from America’s riverboat days.

“Our business dropped a little in 2000, but since then it’s steady. I get to pilot a boat on the most beautiful lake in the state instead of driving to Mesa or Phoenix for work,” he quipped.

Canyon Lake activities

Fun fact:

Songs played during a typical Dolly Steamboat ride: “Theme from Titanic,”  “Hello Dolly” and “Sail Away.” There is a 12.5 KW generator for auxiliary power.

Who: Owned by Capt. Jeff Grimh of Apache Junction and Cindi Busboom of Mesa

What: 40-ton 103-foot long Dolly Steamboat constructed at the lake in 1983 and is 18.5 feet wide and 31 feet high. She holds 155 passengers and is powered by twin 225HP John Deere diesel engines.

When: 90-minute nature cruises noon daily. Closed Mondays in the summer. Additional times in fall, winter and spring. Reservations at 480-827-9144.

Where: Canyon Lake. Take U.S. 60 to Apache Junction, turn north on Idaho Road and follow to Arizona 88 or Apache Trail, travel 16 miles northeast on the paved roadway. Just past the second one-lane bridge, turn left.

Why: Nature, astronomy and dinner cruises. Charters available for weddings and other events.

Tickets: Adults $18, Children 5-12 $10.50, 4 and under free. Dinner cruises are two and one-half hours. Adults $51.95 and children 5-12 $33.95. Cash and checks only. Call for times.

Web site: http://www.dollysteamboat.com

More Canyon Lake activities:

Kayaking 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at Canyon Lake Marina, $10 per hour for single kayak, $15 per hour for double, must be 21 to rent a kayak. Other boats also are available for rent. For more information, call 480-288-9233 or e-mail: info@canyonlakemarina.com. There also is a campground near the marina and reservations may be made by calling the marina. In addition, Lakeside Restaurant and Cantina is near the dock.


Phoenix Business Journal profiles of Women in Public Policy December 12, 2011

Filed under: businesss — Candace Hughes @ 5:49 pm

Women in public policy

Non profits

Cathi Herrod, Center for Arizona Policy president

Cathi Herrod, who recently assumed the president’s role at the Center for Arizona Policy, said her biggest challenge is communicating how issues affect the daily lives of families.

“What goes on at the Arizona Capitol and in Washington D.C. impacts our lives each and every day,” said Herrod, who is an attorney.

“For example, at the closing of the election season it’s important for people to understand how critical it is for each individual to participate in the process, especially when we see low voter turnout and confusion over how to register to vote,” she explained.

Herrod became involved in public policy due to concerns about her children, now ages 21 and 17. “Social issues such as abortion and marriage affect the world our children are going to be in,” she said.

Herrod served as the spokesperson for the Yes on 107 Protect Marriage Coalition. While similar measures passed in some states, the concept was voted down in Arizona earlier this month.

In addition, she has worked with the state Legislature to pass a law requiring parental consent before a minor could have an abortion.

“It’s a very critical medical decision in our daughters’ lives – especially in such a life-changing decision as to whether to have an abortion,” she emphasized.

Her deepest concern for Arizona is the reluctance of the state to regulate abortion.

“We need to protect women from the harms of abortion and to protect the lives of their unborn children. How we regard the sanctity of human life is my No. 1 concern. If we have no regard for this we won’t survive as a society for long,” she emphasized.

Herrod has been in the field of public policy for 20 years and counts three national-level authors, commentators and talk show hosts as her mentors.

They are: Beverly LaHaye, Janet Parshall and Jane Chastain. “They are women who have greatly shaped my thoughts and they are making a difference by speaking out on issues,” Herrod said.

She started her full-time role as president of the Center for Arizona Policy in August after a period of reflection. “Balance is always is always a challenge,” she said of her new position with the organization related to Focus on the Family.

Marie Sullivan, Arizona Women’s Education and Employment Inc. president and CEO

Marie Sullivan is watched by women and girls in her job as president and chief executive officer of Arizona Women’s Education and Employment Inc., a fact that surprised her after years of public service.

She said she continues to be amazed that a girl told Sullivan she was her hero and was writing a biography on her as a school board member. “I had no clue that she had written a paper about me or come to a school board meeting. You find that you’re a mentor and you’re not consciously in that mode,” she said

Sullivan, who started her public service role on the Madison Elementary School Board, said in a telephone interview that her education work is the proudest accomplishment in her career. “I felt I was working on a direct public policy level changing the lives of children,” she exclaimed.

While Sullivan serves as a mentor, she also has sources of her own inspiration.

“My 18-year-old daughter, who’s in her first year of college, is my mentor as I have watched her emerge as a young woman with a strength and personal character I wished I had when I was younger.

“She has lived the power of her convictions at an early age and transferred those into action,” Sullivan said.

Women seen at AWEE every day are collectively mentors, Sullivan added.

“They really exhibit personal courage in overcoming desperation and struggling with barriers whether it is addictions or other problems to get to the other side. While some may falter, many are still able to pick themselves up.”

Sullivan encourages other women to enter public service. “We need more women wanting to be engaged in the process,” but they must be aware they will be attacked.

“I tell them to examine how much they can take and be true to their values and convictions and to be open to learning. They shouldn’t be acting out of self-service, but out of the greater good.

“Women do bring a combination of values to the table that can counterpoint or blend with more strident views,” Sullivan says. “I also add: Enjoy the ride,” she quipped.


Bonnie Saunders, Arizona League of Women Voters president

Helping the nonpartisan League of Women Voters reach a consensus on issues is the most difficult part of Bonnie Saunders’ job as president of the state league.

“We’re nonpartisan, but we do have people with very strong partisan views. We’re all biased and we may not know it, but my job is to make sure they don’t contaminate the league,” said Saunders, an adjunct history professor at Glendale Community College.

The league doesn’t endorse candidates, but studies all sides of an issue and then reaches a consensus for a position on the topic.

“The process is very detailed and it’s a good process,” she said of the organization’s effort to continue its founding purpose of educating voters.

She has been working on informing voters about civil liberties and the U.S. Constitution. “People need to know about the separation of powers and the three branches of government and the Bill of Rights.

“People are too interested in the scandals and not in what’s important. We’re trying to promote understanding,” she added.

Saunders, who doesn’t like partisan politics, said she used the mute button during the recent election. “I don’t like the nasty ads and I won’t listen to the political ads because they’ve gotten so horrible.

“I’m really interested in public issues and I’m passionate about history and politics,” said Saunders, who is a resident of Surprise and writes a column on unconventional Arizona women for the Daily News-Sun.

She has studied Mary Jane Coulter, an architect, and Sharlot Hall, Arizona’s first state historian. She’s also written about Nellie Bush, a teacher, lawyer, airplane and river boat pilot and state legislator.

Saunders said in a telephone interview that her proudest accomplishment is her doctorate in U.S. history.

“I got it after seven years. It was hard work in terms of courses, research, writing and traveling. But all of that comes together.” However, she credits the league with expanding her knowledge and giving her the encouragement to get the degree.

Carolyn Warner, National Committeewoman – Arizona Democratic Party

Education and the ability of students to find work in the world market is Carolyn Warner’s greatest concern about Arizona.

“Our ability to compete for 21st Century jobs is difficult with the 19th century mentality of the legislature,” said Warner, a former state superintendent of public instruction.

“Arizona must stop talking about California vs. Arizona or us against other states and move toward thinking of Arizona in measures of it’s the United States vs. the world,” she said.

“At the moment, Arizona’s not competing. We have a lot of good things going for us such as a new research institute and Arizona State University moving downtown.

“All of these things are good, but we need more and need them faster,” she emphasized in a telephone interview.

The hardest part of her job with the political party is the organization of free-thinking Democrats. “It’s like herding cats,” she quipped.

“The time commitment is difficult, but I do it gladly. You run for this position and I knew the responsibilities when I decided to do this,” she said, adding that two other national committee members assist in the work.

Warner, who started as a local school board member, described her educational work as the best accomplishment of her career.

“I am proudest of serving students, educators and taxpayers for 12 years as state superintendent and I also had the opportunity of serving on the state Community College Governing Board and the Board of Regents,” she added.

The daughter of a mother who raised a family on a teacher’s salary after her husband died, Warner said she converted the state Department of Education into a service agency.

She emphasized that she increased the involvement of business and industry bringing the Jobs for Arizona Graduates program to the state.

Warner, who lost in a three-way race for governor, said she followed her grandmother’s advice not to take defeat personally. “At least you’ve been in the race,” she said.

Now the owner of Corporate Education Consulting, Warner said women entering politics should be prepared to “work hard, underpromise and overperform. I also tell them to listen.”

In December she will be hosting a group of mayors from the Ukraine who will visit an elementary school near the Grand Canyon, meet with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and study neighborhoods to learn more about democracy.

Sharon Giese, National Committeewoman – Arizona Republican Party

Continuing the effort to get Republicans elected until there is a veto proof state Legislature is Sharon Giese’s first priority as the Arizona GOP’s national committeewoman.

In a telephone interview, Giese said the proudest accomplishment of her career is representing the Republican Party as national committeewoman since 2004.

“I really enjoy so much traveling around the state. Although the time constraints are the most difficult part of the job, I have a great time, lots of support and I find it very rewarding.”

One of the possible duties of her job would be to appoint a candidate to run if the party’s chosen nominee for an office becomes unable to serve between the primary and general election, Giese said.

She said she has chosen politics due to its importance to the country’s future.

“As a parent and grandparent I have some small input in making this a better place. I have done a lot of traveling in Greece and Africa and it makes you so proud to be part of this country. If I can be of service in some small way, then I am pleased to do it,” she added.

Giese’s mentor has been Mesa Republican Lela Steffey. Giese was Steffey’s campaign manager in 1981 when Steffey ran for the state House of Representatives. She added that she has had many friends who have been helpful and kind.

“My best advice for women entering politics is to find a consensus. No one really told me that but it became one of my strongest points. “We all have to learn to get along together,” she added.

Giese said there is a place for everyone in the Republican Party, but particularly for young women.

In addition to her work with the national Republican Party, she also serves on the National Federation of Republican Women Board of Directors and is a member of the Republican Women’s Coalition National Advisory Committee.

She also is a registered parliamentarian and is vice president and finance chairman for the Arizona State Association of Parliamentarians. She was president of the Arizona Federation of Republican Women from 1992-1993 and president of Mesa Republican Women in 1983.


Victoria Cummiskey, Commissioner, Arizona Commission on the Arts

Discovering that it takes only one person to make a difference inspires Victoria Cummiskey, a member of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, to continue in the public policy arena.

Cummiskey is currently involved in chairing the American Masterpieces grants panel for the Arizona Commission on the Arts. It’s part of the National Endowment for the Arts initiative launched last year to support American masters and 2006 is the program’s pilot year in Arizona.

“The initiative seeks to ensure that all Arizona citizens have access to America’s greatest cultural legacies.”

“My work at SRP in government relations exposed me to the public policy arena,” she added. Her proudest professional accomplishment is overseeing a program that helps other countries learn how SRP manages water and power.

Cummiskey said her number one concern regarding Arizona’s future is the improvement of schools in her neighborhood and across the state. She and her husband Chris have three young children and the years of tighter budgets have brought concerns about cutbacks until some schools have no arts programs.

The most difficult part of her life is managing the time and priorities for community involvement with her position as SRP international relations public affairs representative.

She continues her public policy work after following the advice of a newspaper columnist that at the end of the day, the most important aspect of one’s life should always be family. Cummiskey uses the recommendation made by Richard DeUriarte, an Arizona Republic opinion writer.

Women interested in public service should know that this work is not for the faint of heart, Cummiskey said in an e-mail interview. “You need to be armed with good ideas and a thick skin.”

She also serves on the Arizona Character Education Foundation as SRP prepares to host 1,000 children from kindergarten to twelfth grade in the annual Character Celebration Event. It recognizes students who have participated in character education training.

Anne I Woosley, Ph.D., Arizona Historical Society executive director

Arizona shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of growing smart, said Anne I. Woosley, Ph.D., executive director of the Arizona Historical Society, explaining that Arizona should protect its natural resources of beauty which draw people to the state.

“I would hope that we continue to preserve what we have and that we don’t spoil things with ill-advised development. We want to continue to be able to offer people the kinds of services that make this a good place to live,” Woosley explained by telephone.

Her current projects include working with the city of Tucson on the Rio Nuevo revitalization project, helping write an Arizona history textbook for fourth graders and assisting Yuma in the restoration one of the oldest buildings in the state as well as establishing a community museum.

The best advice she has ever received involves listening to others and this coordinates with the most difficult part of her job, Woosley said. “I was told by my mentor not to be afraid to be thoughtful and listen to the people around you, but also not to be afraid to make the decision and to be a leader,” she added.

Her mentor, Emil Haury, former chairman of the University of Arizona Department of Anthropology, encouraged her to come to Arizona after joint work on a field program while she was an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University.

“I was a beginning academic and he and I just clicked and he gave me all sorts of good advice,” she continued. As part of her current position, interaction and communication with her governing board, chapter societies, advisory groups and volunteers is essential to success.

She believes that public policy is very challenging and rewarding. “We serve the public in terms of promoting public history and promoting public education.”

At the same time, public service has a measure of frustration, she warned. “It means working in a complex environment with complicated procedures and policies that can slow down decision making, but it’s just part of the environment. You must be able to navigate in a sometimes frustrating situation.”

The most difficult part of her job involves providing constituents with “the level of services we’d like and with what they deserve whether it’s programs or being able to have access to all of the vast historical resources available to them.”


Best newspaper in the state of Ohio December 6, 2011

Filed under: businesss,Uncategorized — Candace Hughes @ 3:15 pm
Tags: ,

Best newspaper in the state by a dam site

By Candace S. Hughes

Like many Ohio University students, Alfred Craft Jr., A.B. ’35, didn’t want to leave Athens after graduation. He knew how hard his father worked in the family’s newspaper business in nearby Glouster and wanted to get a master’s degree and instead become a history professor.

When he returned to The Glouster Press that summer, it was clear that his father wasn’t able to continue in the business, so the son picked up the struggling operation serving 1,300 subscribers so that his parents would have an income.

His ties to his family and the Glouster community brought him back to the newspaper business where he turned the paper into a profitable business.

The 1935 “Athena” yearbook at Ohio University pictured Craft, as Phi Delta Theta president, sitting in the fraternity house reading a newspaper, foreshadowing of his upcoming responsibility. At the time, however, Craft felt he was fortunate to have his room paid.

He had been selected as one of the outstanding students of his senior class, and served as a business manager for the Green and White, a semi-weekly student newspaper where he earned $12 per issue.

Before entering OU however, he was elected president of his high school senior class in 1931. He went on to be a leader at OU, showing more interest in business than journalism. He was a liberal arts major with a minor in history, but he also took economics classes.

The decline of mining from 1925-1931 made it difficult for the family to send Al Craft to Ohio University, so he stayed with an aunt and uncle in Athens during his first year in college and did chores in exchange for room and board.

“When I moved into the fraternity I felt like one of the rich guys,” quipped Craft. “I had more money than I ever had for two-three years after getting out of college. I lived a great life my senior year. I was quite busy, but because I worked for the newspaper I got passes to the senior prom and theater passes so I could take my dates there. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I would have stayed on for a few years if I could have.”

The Ohio University graduate followed in his father’s footsteps in several ways ranging from continuing the paper’s improvement of village life to caring for his parents and wife when she became ill.

Long hours and no vacations took their toll on publishers of small newspapers, including W.A.Craft. He died Dec. 11, 1941 at the age of 64, four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was forced to retire several years before then. Alfred ran the paper until he left to serve in World War II in 1943. The last weekly issue published by the Craft family was Jan. 7, 1943.

W.A. Craft left school during the seventh grade to support his elderly parents who had been swindled out of all their savings after retirement. He learned to set type by hand at The Messenger, and it was there that W.A. met his wife, Nona, the owner’s secretary.

Founded by W.A. Craft, Al Craft’s father, and Calvin D. Myers, The Glouster Press began publication Sept. 17, 1896 and folded 71 years later on April 22, 1971. Publication was suspended during part of World War II.

The Craft family published the paper for 47 years, with at least eight of the last years under the direction of the Ohio University graduate. Craft’s father had partners from 1896-1920, and then owned the paper with his wife, son and daughter until his death in 1941. Alfred, his mother Nona, and his sister, Phyllis, owned the paper until the family sold it in 1946.

The Glouster Press touted itself as “the best newspaper in the state by a dam site” due to its promotion of the dam at Burr Oak State Park and showed a devotion to community involvement. Subscribers from out-of-state who left the mining community as the industry closed down eventually outnumbered locals who were willing to pay $2.50 annually to receive the paper.

The Glouster Press helped its community look for solutions to problems, assess the impact of new projects and laugh at its mistakes.

It also provided entertainment, and was a source of information about local people as well as natives of Glouster who had moved away. Without this vital communication link, Glouster residents would have been without the one aspect of their community which consistently worked to unify its citizens and build a town of which they could be proud.

Except for the period from 1943-1946 when Al Craft was in the service, the paper was a continuous influence on community affairs for 71 years. An Athens Messenger reporter now covers the area.

Craft’s destiny as an OU alum was foretold in The Glouster Press’ first issue: The paper carried an Ohio University ad on page four. The copy here is reprinted as it appeared.

Ohio University

                                                   Athens, Ohio

A thorough equipped institution for undergraduate work with facilities to give instruction in Art, Music and Business. Library and labs for original researches in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, etc. There is




In the collegiate preparatory studies.  Summer term every year. Superior advantages afforded to those who wish to prepare for teaching or superintending. An elegant boarding hall for ladies. Cost of living very low. Send for catalogue to L.M. Jewett, Secretary of the University, Athens, Ohio.

Called simply The Press until 1905, Craft’s father supplemented the son’s education by including him as a typesetter and made sure he was a good speller. In the summers he spent four hours a day setting type by hand, an experience which also helped improve his grammar. He did not help cover news however, until he began to work at The Press full-time in July 1935.

After taking on the job of providing an income for his parents, he found the years from 1936-1943  “rough.” He said, “We should have given up, but we didn’t.” Although his father was still active in the paper’s operations in 1935, “my objective was to make him less active.”

Al learned to run the press, do stereotyping and cast metal mats for ads, and by 1938 his father had retired. Although W.A. still played a role in the paper, his son had begun to cover news and run the business. He never thought he would work in journalism after leaving college, and he continued to run the paper much longer than he originally thought.

When The Glouster Press published its first issue in 1896, the village was a thriving, expanding community determined to build a town of which the miners and business owners and their families could be proud.

Glouster grew gradually from 2,527 persons when the first census was taken in 1910, to a peak of 3,140 in 1920. A rapid decrease in population began in 1925 due to a general depression in the coal fields. The most recent U.S. Census found 1,972 people living in the village north of Athens.

The Sunday Creek Coal Co., at one time the second-largest coal company in the world, had its headquarters in the town.

Printed every Thursday without missing an issue until Jan. 7, 1943, when Al Craft was drafted, the paper printed an apology Nov. 12, 1942, explaining the difficulty in obtaining paper as the reason for the abbreviated four-age issue:

“We had planned to stop publishing two weeks ago to enter the Army, but we have been allowed to continue for three more months as newspapers have been considered essential during the war. An eight-page issue will now be published every two weeks until more paper arrives.”


Arizona Opry provides local entertainment November 17, 2011

Filed under: travel — Candace Hughes @ 4:43 pm

Opry food and fun

attracts music lovers

By Candace S. Hughes, Editor

Pinal Ways


Apache Junction — A wide variety of talent, music, jokes and instruments is among the offerings during the 21st season at Barleen’s Arizona Opry Dinner Theater ending in April.

From classical selections to Broadway tunes to Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” to pop such as “Boogyin’ Beethoven” by Julliard trained violinist Kevin Wong (complete with wig), the entertainment pleases most tastes. In fact, about 60,000 attend the Opry each season.

Some of the instruments include an Alp horn on which George Staerkel plays “Amazing Grace” and a saw, also mastered by Staerkel, with a recognizable version of “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Staerkel, a graduate of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wis., uses as many as 18 instruments in one song. He is the show’s music director and producer, and his wife Barbara is the co-producer.

“Barb is a great idea person. She comes up with a lot of neat stuff and most of the new ideas. Then it’s my job to get it from the idea stage to the performing stage and write the arrangements,” Staerkel said.

Broadway tunes such as “New York New York” by twins Brenda Barleen and Barbara Barleen-Staerkel round out the full range of songs.

Family act entertains audiences

The “girls,” in the show, who are now 45, began singing at age 2 in Waterville, Kan., “where there was always something going on,” says Brenda, who sings and plays the drums as well as managing the Opry.  Their first professional engagement was in 1979 at age 17, when the family opened a dinner theater in Estes Park, Colo.

The act moved to Apache Junction in 1987 to open the Opry, and

Brenda lives in Gold Canyon. Barbara, a vocalist, and her husband George, a musician, are snowbirds who travel from Mountain Annie’s dinner theater in Ruidoso, N.M., in the summer, to Apache Junction in the winter.

The twins’ father, 87-year-old “Daddy Lloyd” lives one block from the location on Old West Highway, but is unable to attend shows now due to health problems.

“We experiment with new material quite a bit during the summer,” the 53-year-old Staerkel added. “The stuff that works the best is brought over to Arizona for the show there.”

One of the new selections is a medley of songs using the ‘celebrity’ horns, all playing the original hits recorded on them such as the “Lonely Bull,” “Tijuana Taxi,” “Java,” the ‘Rocky’ movie theme and others,” he said.

New show and album

“Barb has some new stuff and a new album. She’s stretching out quite a bit. She does some Sarah Brightman material including Broadway and light classical and a New Orleans medley combining the songs of Billie Holiday and music made famous by Al Hirt played on his original trumpet,” Staerkel said.

“That has been a crowd favorite,” he exclaimed.

Others include a Johnny Cash and June Carter segment with Brenda singing the tunes, and she’s also featured on a drum solo. Rounding out the family act is Staerkel’s father, who performs some Dean Martin and Louis Armstrong pieces.

Bill Wells, another winter visitor from New Mexico, brings rock-and-roll from the 50s with his Les Paul including a performance of “Mariah.” The musicians aren’t afraid to get silly, and Wells brags that he could imitate Elvis (dressed in a shiny Spandex jumpsuit) without throwing a hip.

Shows alternate, so not all selections are heard every night, and entertainment is updated with the seasons. “The Beatles” have even been known to appear, complete with mop top wigs.

Instruments on display

The audience can enjoy admiring instruments during the intermission. They include an 18-karat gold trumpet played by Al Hirt when he recorded the 1960s hits. Other horns include a Herald trumpet used to open the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles with the official flag attached.

In addition, Doc Severinsen’s 24-karat gold trumpet used on his farewell tour is part of the collection.

Other celebrity instruments are a tenor sax used by Tex Beneke to record “In the Mood” with the Glen Miller Orchestra. The 1936 hand-crafted model was the top professional instrument of its kind in the 1930s and is the first “famous” instrument Staerkel acquired.

The audience also may hear tunes played on Herb Alpert’s trumpet, which has interchangeable bells and lead pipes to make different sounds. Staerkel has a CD for sale featuring all the “celebrity” horns.

Others include a 7-foot tall, 90-pound contrabass saxophone used to play a song by the Dominoes. The custom-made instrument comes from the Orsi Co. in Milan, and only 14 have been manufactured with two of those at Disneyland and Disney World.

“Screamer” instrument acquired

A recent acquisition is the legendary saxophone of Boots Randolph, who played “Yakkity Sax” in the 1963 hit. “What a screamer!” Staerkel said of the instrument.

Staerkel communicated with Randolph shortly before he died earlier this year to negotiate a lease of the instrument however, the 80-year-old musician died before sending the terms to Staerkel.

When Randolph’s son discovered the agreement, he finalized a sale of the instrument to Staerkel in a letter: “I hope you enjoy my father’s saxophone. I can only assume as he made arrangements for you to have it that it is going to a good home and that his legacy will be taken into consideration by you as you use it in your performances.”

Staerkel displayed and performed on the instrument in New Mexico this summer, and makes its winter home in Apache Junction where listeners hear “Yakkity Sax” and other Randolph tunes.

The Opry’s collection includes 88 instruments, with about 50 of them on stage at a time, Staerkel said.

Jokes are abundant throughout the show, which includes Ardis Larson bringing a humorous edge to aging as she is helped onto the stage and visits the audience during the intermission to demonstrate flashing ruby-red lips and other toys available for sale. Larson also adds yodeling to the act.

Other jokes include banter about Staerkel’s “acquisition habit” with a spouse questioning how many instruments are necessary and how much the purchases cost.

If you go

Location: Take US 60 (Superstition freeway) to Tomahawk Road (exit 197) and go north one mile to the Old West Highway. Turn right or east and go one-half mile. The theater is on the south or right side of the road at 2275 Old West Highway.

Prices: $27 for adults, children 12 and under $20. Includes dinner and show. Show only tickets are $20.

Times: Though April. Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m. with the show at 7:30 p.m.

Telephone: 480-982-7991 for required reservations Group: 480-215-2396

E-mail: info@azopry.com

Web site: www.azopry.com


Coolidge library would benefit from tax increase September 6, 2011

Filed under: travel — Candace Hughes @ 4:36 pm

County considers small library tax rate change

By Candace S. Hughes

Editor, Pinal Ways

Please note: Historic photos of the Coolidge Library are in the summer issue of Pinal Ways available at The Coolidge Examiner for $1.50.

The Coolidge Public Library will receive an additional $8,500 in books from Pinal County if the Board of Supervisors approves a 2 cent change in the county tax rate at its meeting Wed., Aug. 15.

The proposed library tax rate increase from .057 to .077 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation will be voted on during a meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, Administration Building A, 31 N. Pinal St., Florence.

If approved, the change could raise as much as $450,000 and Coolidge’s amount will grow from $11,500 to $20,000. The Coolidge library has eight employees and its overall budget for the 2005-06 year, the latest available, was $275,000.

There will be no increase in taxes due to the change, if it is approved as part of the special library district, said Denise Keller, county library district director.

The 2006-2007 county library district budget would increase from $783,000 to $1.2 million with the money to be used for books, Internet and database services, self-check machines and replacement of computers, furniture and copiers, according to documents provided to the county Board of Supervisors in a study meeting June 27.

The presentation also included information that $230,000 would be used to improve technological access to library patrons in rural communities and $228,000 to improve customer service

Library taxes are part of a special district or secondary tax rate and, if approved, the small increase for library services would not increase the overall tax rate for homeowners and businesses, said Keller.

The library tax rate has not increased during her nine-year tenure and she did not know when the last library tax rate change had been made.

For a house assessed at $150,000, the taxpayer currently pays about $8 yearly for the library district, and that would increase to about $11, however because the overall tax rate is going down Pinal County homeowners won’t be paying any additional fees for libraries.

County considers small library tax rate change

By Candace S. Hughes

Editor, Pinal Ways

Please note: Historic photos of the Coolidge Library are in the summer issue of Pinal Ways available at The Coolidge Examiner for $1.50.

The Coolidge Public Library will receive an additional $8,500 in books from Pinal County if the Board of Supervisors approves a 2 cent change in the county tax rate at its meeting Wed., Aug. 15.

The proposed library tax rate increase from .057 to .077 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation will be voted on during a meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, Administration Building A, 31 N. Pinal St., Florence.

If approved, the change could raise as much as $450,000 and Coolidge’s amount will grow from $11,500 to $20,000. The Coolidge library has eight employees and its overall budget for the 2005-06 year, the latest available, was $275,000.

There will be no increase in taxes due to the change, if it is approved as part of the special library district, said Denise Keller, county library district director.

The 2006-2007 county library district budget would increase from $783,000 to $1.2 million with the money to be used for books, Internet and database services, self-check machines and replacement of computers, furniture and copiers, according to documents provided to the county Board of Supervisors in a study meeting June 27.

The presentation also included information that $230,000 would be used to improve technological access to library patrons in rural communities and $228,000 to improve customer service

Library taxes are part of a special district or secondary tax rate and, if approved, the small increase for library services would not increase the overall tax rate for homeowners and businesses, said Keller.

The library tax rate has not increased during her nine-year tenure and she did not know when the last library tax rate change had been made.

For a house assessed at $150,000, the taxpayer currently pays about $8 yearly for the library district, and that would increase to about $11, however because the overall tax rate is going down Pinal County homeowners won’t be paying any additional fees for libraries.


Arizona Capitol Times p. 1 Dec. 2006 warns about mortgages May 13, 2009

Filed under: businesss — Candace Hughes @ 12:40 am

Adjustable-rate mortgages carry warnings

When fax machines overflow with tempting offers of low mortgage interest rates, consumers having difficulty balancing holiday wish lists with mortgage payments may look at the “1 percent*” interest rate and call the toll-free number.

“If a consumer gets a fax and it says call this number to find out about a loan you really should just throw those faxes in the garbage,” said Felicia Rotellini, superintendent of the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions.

Because the state sometimes cannot regulate out-of-state firms making solicitations on the Internet, Rotellini recommended that borrowers find a licensed mortgage banker or broker or get a referral from someone who has had a positive mortgage lending experience.

“Stay away from Internet lenders or solicitations,” she cautioned. “They may be recommending something the consumer can’t afford and often are just looking to close a deal in order to get a commission.”

The advertised “1 percent*” interest rate can move upwards rapidly as fine print reveals that the adjustable-rate mortgage changes with the economy.

One of the effects of the cooling real estate market is that tens of thousands of Americans are having difficulty paying mortgages based on rising interest rates, said Renee Gerke, senior mortgage consultant with Homeowners Financial Group in Tempe.

Nearly 25 percent of mortgages or 10 million carry adjustable interest rates and most of them went to people with sub par credit ratings who accepted higher interest rates, according to statistics provided by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

These creative products are growing in popularity in Arizona and other states, with the offering acceptable for sophisticated borrowers who can afford a large monthly payment down the road, said Richard Fergus, the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions complaint manager.

Complaints are going up

Although the department doesn’t keep statistics, complaints against mortgage brokers and bankers have increased over the past several years. The number of licensees also has grown, he said. The department regulates 2,145 mortgage brokers and bankers.

Their names are available at the department’s Web site at www.azdfi.gov under list of licensees. The site also has regulatory alerts and final orders against disciplined brokers and bankers.

The state currently has 295 active complaints, Fergus said, and closed complaints dipped slightly from 474 in 2005 to 502 in 2004, he added.

The closed complaints were cases in which the consumer’s concern was resolved, there were no violations of state law or a licensed mortgage broker or banker was disciplined.

Rotellini said that while the state doesn’t regulate foreclosure rescue schemes or bridge loans that claim to help homeowners behind on mortgage payments, the department can intervene if the company is taking an interest in the property and engaging in mortgage lending without a license.

Consumer warnings and solutions

“As interest rates rise, many homeowners who have adjustable-rate mortgages may see increases in their forthcoming annual adjustments,” Gerke warned.

Because the prime rate always rides at 3 percent above the current federal funds rate, now at 5.25 percent, the monthly payments for ARMs or adjustable-rate mortgages go up, Gerke explained.

Current mortgage interest rate information may be found at www.mortgagenewsdaily.com , but be aware that this site has imbedded ads for refinancing “as featured on Oprah Winfrey” or “1 percent Pay Option Arm Loans,” the type of firms the state Department of Financial Institutions warns about.

The site also shows examples of how some offers fail to include taxes, fees, insurance and other costs as well as the rising interest rates which can change monthly until the payment may be almost twice the amount at the start of the loan.

“Consumers who foresee paying an interest rate that is significantly higher may want to consider refinancing to take advantage of the stability of a fixed-rate mortgage,” Gerke suggested.

“This is also a good time for borrowers who started out in an adjustable-rate loan due to a poor credit score to transition into a fixed-rate loan if they can,” Gerke added.

“Once a track record of making mortgage payments on time and in full has been established, this should have a positive effect on the credit score and there’s a good chance the borrower may now qualify for a loan with a lower interest rate,” she said.

“As with any decision to refinance, it is important to take the terms of the existing loan, the cost of the new loan and the borrower’s long-term needs into consideration,” Gerke cautioned.

Others who have used one of the option mortgages in which extremely low payments fail to pay the interest may find that the unpaid interest is put on the mortgage balance and the borrower ends up with a loan greater than the original balance.

Potential consequences for nation’s economy unclear

America’s real estate boom was partly fueled by an array of cut-rate mortgages that assisted millions in qualifying for home or refinance loans. And to afford the increased prices, many turned to adjustable-rate loans, option arms and other loans with low initial payments. This brought America’s home ownership rate to a record 70 percent.

The overall effect on the United States’ economy as it slowed down was that investors sold off stocks and reallocated money to bonds and mortgage-backed securities, Gerke explained.

“The purchase of mortgage-backed securities drives interest rates down. When economic data say there is growth in the economy, the stock market typically rallies and mortgage-backed securities sell off to fuel that stock market rally. This drives mortgage interest rates up,” Gerke said of recent changes.

The current market affects home owners with adjustable-rate mortgages tied to indexes based on short-term interest rates such as the twelve-month treasury average, she explained.

The superintendent testified before the United States Senate Banking Committee in September regarding alternative mortgage products, but said it is too soon to say how these lending practices might affect the overall economy.

“The overall picture is that the higher home values motivate people to get a loan with options so they can afford their house. “It’s too soon to tell, but we are concerned that down the road borrowers can’t afford the increased mortgage payments and will default or have to refinance,” Rotellini said.

“If they are able to refinance, it’s a boon to the lending industry in 18 months to five years. But if a person can’t afford to refinance and the value has gone down there will be a large number of foreclosures and more homes on the market. Lenders will be taking the loss.

“These are the potential risks down the road and what we’re telling our banks and credit unions is to utilize good underwriting to put borrowers in loans they can afford over the amortized life of the loan and to follow very good policies and practices,” Rotellini added.

The federal government has recommended that chartered banks and credit unions offer products to manage the risk. “There should be a balance between innovation in lending that allows people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get into a home vs. heightened regulation when you’re concerned that using products may help someone get into a home but unsure if they can stay in the home,” Rotellini cautioned.

“We don’t want to chill that innovation in lending that provides credit to a greater number of borrowers, but there needs to be a level of soundness for regulated entities,” she said.

Consumer tips for a mortgage appropriate for the borrower

Key ingredients for loan shoppers to consider are: disclosure in plain language of the terms of the mortgage loan and interest payments and how much notice there will be of increased payments.

“Borrowers should shop around, don’t sign anything that’s incorrect and don’t sign anything with blank spaces,” emphasized Richard Fergus, the state Department of Financial Institutions complaint manager.

He added that they also shouldn’t sign anything asking them not to look for a better deal.

“Correct information should be on the application package to ensure loan officers and lenders are assisting consumers in getting into an appropriate product,” he cautioned.

There should be a toll-free number for consumers to check for information on the lender, and if it is a financial institution licensed to do business in Arizona, records are available at the state Department of Financial Institutions.

When a fee is charged to apply for a mortgage, it must be clearly stated in a written agreement, according to Arizona law found at azleg.state.az.us under statute 6-946.

For more assistance, visit the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions web site at http://www.azdfi.gov or call (602) 255-4421. A complaint form can be downloaded from the site or consumers may visit the office at 2910 N. 44th St., suite 310, Phoenix.

The Web site includes links to national and federal offices regulating other types of organizations such as Bank of America, JPMorganChase, Wells Fargo Bank and others not regulated by the state.

Some out-of-state promotions may not be covered by state laws depending on whether the company is doing business as a mortgage broker or banker.

These could include the fax marked for urgent review by all employees and calling for a reply regarding the “lowest mortgage rate” available in the market today. Although some offers promise a monthly payment of $648.28 for a $200,000 loan, the starred fine print reveals that this is an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Even the fax promising a “2.6 percent* fixed minimum payment for five years with approval in minutes and no income verification, low credit scores = not problem, delinquent, foreclosures, liens, bankruptcy – OK and get cash now and consolidate debt = OK” also have an adjustable rate that can go much higher in five years.

Others offering refinancing with “Good Faith Principles” by Christian Familyloans.com,  carry in fine print the revelation that the company is not affiliated with any religion or faith-based institution.

Be careful about responding to the ASAP, because, just as the promotion states, rates may change.


My back porch April 15, 2018

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,green,Pinal County,wildlife,writing — Candace Hughes @ 1:13 am

As the sun shines and illuminates spiderwebs in the early morning, I straighten my shoulders and tilt my face toward the rays. The Arizona Spring sun is strong even at 8 a.m. and I glance away to see a hummingbird with magenta mustache marks hovering by the crimson aloe blossoms. The buzzing sound alerts me to the bird’s proximity and his flashy colors sparkle in the light. I turn to feel the sun on my staff neck and breathe a sigh of relief as the warmth hits my arthritic joints. From this direction, I smell creosote and palo verde blossoms — a delight. Bees fly from one flower to another with their hind quarters heavy with pollen. I rise to touch the smooth aloe stalks but I stop myself from cutting a branch. The bees and hummingbirds need the nectar.

A brightly colored yellow and black oriole arrives to shock my eyes with its stark color contrast as it sips nectar. I refill the  birds’ water dishes and clean the hummingbird feeder. Inside, sugar water for the hummingbirds cools on the stove. I am reawakened from a reverie by the loud call of the oriole as it moves from one aloe to the next, inserting its bill and tongue to sip nutrition. My slightest movement send the oriole away, while hummingbirds are more tolerant. I hear doves cooing in the distance and view a mother dove on a nest on my back porch. The bird eyes me closely but stays put even when I am directly below her. Another mother dove with an iridescent blue patch on her wing sits on a small nest built on a cactus pad. I love hearing the house finch call as she decides whether to come close enough to me for a drink.img_2292


February 9, 2018

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,green,Pinal County,travel — Candace Hughes @ 4:39 pm

Candace Hughes’ photographs continue in Apache Junction City Hall and Library art show.img_1844


New target restrictions on Tonto Forest January 25, 2018

Filed under: green,Pinal County,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 2:12 pm

Effective Nov. 20, 2017, exploding targets are prohibited on the Tonto National Forest along with refuse for the purpose of target shooting. Biodegradable clay targets such as clay pigeons are allowed along with self-healing targets removed after shooting. It is expensive to clean up targets, shells and refuse, unsightly for hikers and horseback riders, and damaging for wildlife. No shooting is allowed within 1/2 mile of roads and occupied structures.image


January 23, 2018

Filed under: writing — Candace Hughes @ 2:30 pm

Shout out to Nicole Carroll


Today I would like to commend Nicole Carroll, editor and vice president/new for The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. Her column interviewing Len Downie, former Washington Post editor and reporter, highlights the importance of our free press. The column ran in the Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 issue of The Arizona Republic. Carroll included the June 30, 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the right of newspapers to publish the Pentagon Papers. IMG_0857


January 22, 2018

Filed under: Books,writing — Candace Hughes @ 2:39 pm

Keep on writing


Practice you: A Journal by Elena Brower has meditations helpful for writers. In addition, Daphne’s Diary has an entry in the summer 2017 issue “Do you follow your head or your heart?” By writing it down, a tip becomes an idea and the idea helps the writer grow and learn and focus on a theme.IMG_1105


Daily journal prompts begin writing process January 19, 2018

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,Books,writing — Candace Hughes @ 4:03 pm

A daily recording of thoughts such as the choice to get started with writing is assisted by The Daily Stoic Journal 366 Days of Writing and Reflection on The Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. Today I also used a blog post from “The art of writing” by Paulo Coelho which reminded me to use the pen as if it is a precious object. Other concepts include “idea-ology” stickers by Jim Holtz with phrases to guide me onwards.image


Morning pages get me started January 18, 2018

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,Books,Pinal County,writing — Candace Hughes @ 4:19 pm

I use The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and in particular her Creativity Cards to begin each day’s session of writing. “Finding it hard to begin a project does not mean you will not be able to do it. It means you will need help–from your higher power, from supportive friends, and from yourself.” This card is particularly appealing as I look at all the ways I receive assistance with my writing life. Another daily habit is studying a page from The Elements of Stimg_2119yle. “Omit needless words in my favorite entry.”