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  • Marana High teacher honored before UA basketball game

    Marana High School teacher Alf Bergesen was honored prior to the University of Arizona men’s basketball game against Stanford as a finalist for the Arizona Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Circle K Corporation “Outstanding High School Faculty Awards Program.”Bergesen presented with a crystal trophy at midcourt to commemorate his status as a finalist.  The award honors outstanding high school teachers in Southern Arizona and all the finalists will be honored Feb 20 at a Hall of Champions/University of Arizona banquet.Bergesen, who has been with Marana High School since 2007, said he became a teacher to “have a positive enduring effect on the world.” Armed with a UA degree in history and anthropology, Bergesen taught middle school world history and geography before moving on to MHS.Currently he teaches both advanced placement and standard U.S. history. He likes his lessons to have the “right mix of humor, challenge, writing, relevance, listening, speaking, and support, all grounded in positive relationships with students.”In addition to his classes, he serves as a member of the Instructional Leadership Team, assisting new and returning teachers. He also serves as the social studies department’s U.S. History Professional Learning Community Lead, creating curriculum and planning instruction.

  • Oro Valley turns out in crowds to walk the block

    Last Saturday, hundreds of Oro Valley residents turned out to the corner of North La Ca- ñada Drive and West Lambert Lane to let town officials know about their interest in developing a 21st-century downtown feel in the growing surburban community.Setting off from in front of Noble Hops gastropub, participants took a stroll around one of the two intersections identified in the concept, the other being North Oracle Road and North First Avenue. The crowd made stops at several stations along the way, at which they learned more about the project, were shown various architectural and design examples and asked to cast their vote on what they would most like to see in Oro Valley.“We would like to build off of what we have already, a great cluster of local business in that area, and just amplify that,” said Oro Valley Long Range Principal Planner Elisa Hamblin. “Allowing there to be more development, have streets that people can walk along, enjoy that environment and feel like there is a sense of place. For us it is more development, but it’s also about integrating plazas and park spaces, public art that really celebrates Oro Valley’s character.”Heading into Walk the Block with information collected from last year’s public outreach efforts, Hamblin said that three responses came back “loud and clear”: creating a central gathering place for residents to meet one another and find food or shopping, creation of a “family friendly” environment and creating more services were people can “work, shop, live and play—here in the town.”The Main Street Project got its start nearly four years ago when the town council began kicking around the idea finding and nurturing “the heart” of Oro Valley, according to Oro Valley Planning Manager and Planning and Zoning Administrator Bayer Vella, who says creating that cohesive gathering space could take another two decades of incremental work.Vella said there would be some difference between the two intersections under consideration. Whereas the La Canada and Lambert intersection would focus more on native appeal and local establishments, Vella said that the Oracle and First intersection would be more of a traditional hub or larger civic space, considering the proximity to a major thoroughfare.

  • By teens, for teens: A ‘cool space’ taking shape at the Oro Valley Public Library

    After first stepping foot in the Oro Valley Public Library as a seventh grader, 17-year-old Jennifer Xiao said she quickly became a regular. The library was a “cool space” to study, discover new books and make new friends. Now a senior at BASIS, Xiao is still hanging out at the library and has helped create an even “cooler” space for teens to meet one another, discover new technology, get help with homework—and even play a few games.Alongside her fellow members of the library’s Teen Advisory Board, Xiao recently raised a toast of sparkling apple cider and enjoyed cake to celebrate the grand opening of the 101Space.For the past year and a half, the entire advisory board has been working under the supervision of young adult librarian Bethany Wilson to survey fellow teens to develop a space uniquely suited for students to congregate, do homework, prepare for exams and get to know one another.With the opening of the 101Space, Xiao said that kids will not only have their own space to study, but a place to develop new interests. Even if that means a game of Dungeons and Dragons, or a bit of yoga.“Libraries are more than just books,” Xiao said. “They represent an open democracy where all ideas are welcome, no matter how strange or weird. … It can be a cultural center where cool things are going on, and I was really glad to hear that the library was taking steps to adapt to the new, changing technology and new, changing social media environments. I was really glad to hear that they were going to be revamping the teen zone so that it was going to be a place for teens to hang out, a place for them to discover new technology,new hobbies in art or writing, and things like that.”

  • Welfare check leads to homicide arrest

    A welfare check of a Marana resident led to a homicide arrest. Marana Police Officers conducted a welfare check on Feb. 9 at the 8900 block of North Valhalla Drive and discovered 62-year-old Debra Elaine Fouts deceased inside the residence.According to MPD officers there were obvious signs of trauma and Marana Police Detectives were sent to the scene to conduct the investigation.As a result of theinvestigation, MPD Detectives arrested 35-year-old Nathan Ray Fouts for alledged 1st Degree Murder and Unlawful Possession of a Weapon. As of now the circumstances and motive surrounding the murder are still under investigation.  Information gathered by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department led them to believe something may have happened to Debra Elaine Fouts and due to her Marana address, PCSD requested Marana PD conduct the welfare check.

  • Catalina State Park concert series brings music to nature

    For residents of Oro Valley, Catalina State Park has long stood as one of the area’s greatest focal points. With management for the park incorporated in 1974—the same year as Oro Valley’s founding—it has acted as a pillar for family entertainment in the north Tucson area going on over 40 years as a place for recreation of all sorts: biking, camping, horseback riding and beyond.For its over four decades in operation, the park has done an upstanding job in embracing traditions common of national parks throughout the world, from preserving nature to hosting outdoor hiking trails and encouraging campouts under starry Arizona skies. What recent years have proven for the parks, though, is that even old dogs truly are capable of new tricks.With a little help from their associates at the non-profit organization Friends of Catalina State Park, the park has decided on bringing an innovative twist to stand amongst its more traditional proceedings. It is now hosting Saturday concert series, with the events specifically being hosted not too far into the park, all amidst a gorgeous setting of the trees, cacti, flowers and medley of desert wildlife for which the establishment has become renowned.Iterating his thoughts on the series and assisting the Catalina State Park rangers in organizing their Saturday Concerts-in-the-Park, FCSP president and secretary Richard Boyer said, “Friends of Catalina State Park has been involved with notices to our 300 contacts about the Concerts-in-the-Park, and the concerts have been a great hit with visitors and locals alike. The outdoor setting at the trail head stage in the park is beautiful and the Catalina Mountains provide a stunning backdrop.” When asked about the attraction to the series for performers and attendees alike, Boyer said, “It appears to me—and I have attended almost every concert since they started a few years ago—that the concerts enhance the park experience by providing a different experience for those attending, rather than the usual hiking, biking, or running. It is a relaxing event for those attending, providing a variety of musicians at each concert.  Musicians love coming to the park and many artists are already scheduled through 2017.”“Folks attend, often bringing friends and pets and food to enjoy the free entertainment,” he says with a smile. “Obviously, the park benefits through increased visitation, and through funds brought in at the entrance station. Mostly, though, I believe that the park benefits by having those attending experience a relaxing evening and a variety of music in a different kind of outdoor setting than they might be used to with other concerts around Tucson.”

  • The Hacienda at the River development: A new kind of senior living

    If in 1987 you asked David Freshwater and David Barnes if by 2017 they thought they’d be managing 39 retirement communities nationwide—and now creating one of their very own state of the art facilities in Tucson—you might get a laugh.“Senior housing at that time was sort of an obscure and esoteric kind of product,” Freshwater says. But that’s exactly what they’ve accomplished since teaming up to run the Fountains at La Cholla nearly three decades ago, which ironically sort of happened by accident. When Freshwater, who has degrees in architecture and business, took on development of the Fountains—one of the region’s first senior housing projects—he had no intention of running it. But thanks to the infancy of the industry and the lack of third party operators, Freshwater would create a team to do just that. “The industry by and large learned by trial and error. No one knew what they were doing,” Freshwater says. “We were feeling our way through it, doing the things we thought were right, making mistakes, but going with our gut instincts and educational background.”It was around that time Barnes, with a degree in management information systems, had begun his ascent through the Fountains company, first operating as an operation trouble shooter and eventually working his way to becoming senior vice president of operations and president and CEO by 2001. 

  • Meh. “Fifty Shades Darker” not as good as original

    Once again, the month of February has drawn upon us and a handful of friends sheepishly asked if I were going to see this second erotic rollout based upon best-selling author E.L. James’ trilogy collection?  Yes, I unabashedly responded.  And, no, like most book-to-film endeavors, I haven’t read any of James’ three “Shades” smut novels.  These questions point to the fact that sex fantasy films generate a whole different theater vibe and allure for viewers than a typical movie due to their more graphic sexual and kinky content. Such soft-porn movies create the need to review both the overall storyline and the over-publicized sordid sex scenes.Great (ben wa) balls of fire!  “Fifty Shades Darker” contains exactly one titillating (and humorous) string of events that quickly escalates from foreplay to masquerade dinner, before climaxing into mattress mayhem.  Young Seattle billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) resumes his control freak persona into Anastasia Steele’s personal and professional life. This time, however, we find Dakota Johnson’s Miss Steele character never taken aback by her former lover… a more willing accomplice to Grey’s dominance between his 1800 thread count bed sheets.Christian Grey is the same helicopter boyfriend who never allows his possessions or women to stray far outside of his arm’s reach. Everything must be available at his disposal to provide immediate gratification and stimulation. In a subtle scene as the always working Anastasia, Dakota Johnson pays a small on-screen tribute to her true-life mother, Melanie Griffith, and 1988’s “Working Girl”.   Unfortunately, this film’s story is not nearly as entertaining as last year’s predecessor, “Fifty Shades of Grey” -- which I gave a B+ letter grade.  Little heartache or convincing is required of Christian Grey to pursue and compel the younger Anastasia to recommence her submissive afterhours sexual prowess.  The true culprit for the movie’s less satisfying plot resides in its lack of depth given to several competing, smaller sub-stories…none of which spurns any excitement, interest, or suspense for viewers in this installment. While “Fifty Shades Darker” is a major drop-off from the series’ original bedroom punisher, it does faithfully accomplish its main goal of creating the potential for a thrilling finale in 2018.  Unapologetically, I will be there to review it.

  • Cooking up Creole, Cajun traditions in Old Pueblo

    It’s more than just a few letters that distinguish the Cajuns from the Creoles in the Pelican State.While the terms are often used synonymously, the gulf between these two regional Louisiana styles of cooking is as wide as Lake Pontchartrain. So in preparation for Fat Tuesday, the one day of the year when that gulf is bridged, I caught up with two local chefs for a better understanding of these tasty traditions. Robert Iaccarino was born and raised in New Orleans and spent nearly 20 years in Europe as a self-described “journeyman chef.” He then worked in several New Orleans restaurants, including stints in the kitchen with legendary Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme, an Iaccarino family friend, before his passing.Iaccarino tells me that creole cuisine is drawn from European influences, from what he calls the “top of the aristocracy.”“These were the people that had the means, the education and the money to purchase a lot of fresh foods, produce, meats, sausages and the like,” said Iaccarino, executive chef at Sazerac Creole Kitchen and Cocktails, 4340 N. Campbell Avenue, “and that’s what our food is based on at Sazerac; 19th century style cuisine with modern appliances.”In addition to classic creole dishes such as crawfish etoufee and jambalaya, Iaccarino’s menu also features some original selections, like the bronzed salmon filet with meuniere, a sauce made from a veal demi-glace that Iaccarino defines as “rich, decadent and complex.”

  • KAPOW! “Lego Batman” brings laughs to all ages

    Three years after co-directing the wildly successful and Academy Award nominated “The Lego Movie”, Chris McKay finds himself sitting alone in the director’s chair for this sequel.  And the same can be said for Gotham City’s own Caped Crusader—as Batman headlines this Lego spin-off and must come to terms with his lonely, inner-self and inability to share his crimefighting success with anyone else.  This adventure-comedy offers the perfect mix of funny one-liners with an explosive and emotional archrival, The Joker, who once again acts as the nemesis to Batman. The computer-generated animation film features dozens of superheroes and villains for viewers to choose from and watch throughout.  With a serious-minded human element softly added thanks to Tom Cruise’s “Jerry Maguire” character, “The Lego Batman Movie” brings smiles to viewers of all ages over its 90-minute therapy session for Bruce Wayne.Will Arnett’s likable voice as Batman will draw easy comparisons to Facebook and YouTube viral sensation BatDad (“JEN!”).  That’s a good thing, with Arnett oozing overconfidence and an uneasiness to play well with others. Likewise, similar spectacular performers who make this film feel fresh and on top of its DC Comics’ game include Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, Rosario Dawson as Batgirl, and Ralph Fiennes as the consummate professional butler, Alfred.  Rated PG for crude humor and some action, the very few adult jokes all fly by fast and high enough to probably miss any attentive youthful ears. KAPOW!  After two dreary, less fulfilling gambits last year in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” leave it to this animated action pleaser to pump much-needed life back into DC Entertainment. With rapid-fire laughs and well-timed hat tips to the 1960s “Batman” television series and Adam West, “The Lego Batman Movie” not only saves Gotham City, but, perhaps DC Comics as well. It nicely introduces us to a pair of main characters and their lesser known backgrounds, both of which have become staples in the Batman storyline.    Once again, everything is awesome.  

  • MLS Red Bulls practice, play in Oro Valley

    Although Tucson lost baseball spring training, Major League Soccer spring training has flourished in Pima County. While many games are played near the county’s sports facility at Ajo Way and Kino Boulevard, the New York City Red Bulls are practicing this year at Naranja Park in Oro Valley.On Saturday Night, the Red Bulls hosted a friendly exhibition game with FC Tucson.The Red Bulls prevailed 3-1 in the exhibition against FC Tucson, which is a semi-pro team from the Premier Development League. An estimated 600 fans took in the game, with most of the fans able to sit just a few feet away from the pitch. It was a great opportunity for fans to get up close and personal with the teams. “They are just loving the talent on display here and the excitement under the lights,” said Oro Valley Councilmember Mary Snyder. Many of the fans were young families, with a number of kids in attendance donning their youth soccer jerseys in front of the pros. 

  • Mountain View Prescott Valley Event Center

    Mountain View High School won the Division II state wrestling championship over the weekend, edging out Queen Creek 177.5 to 171 at the Prescott Valley Event Center. The Mountain Lions were led by a pair of state champions and a total of seven medalists overall. Jayce Cunha and Marcus Castillo won individual state titles at 120 and 136 pounds, respectively. Cunha closed out his high school wrestling career by beating Sahuaro’s Armando Valcencia. Cunha got the pinfall victory in the final seconds of the match to seal the championship win. Cunha cruised to the semi finals getting a pin and a 5-0 victory in his first two matches. In the semifinals he edged Jacob Frias 6-2 to earn the championship match bid. Castillo is just a sophomore and served notice that he will be a wrestler to contend with over the next few years after going 38-2 this season. He had little trouble in his first three matches. He opened the tournament by pinning Mesquite’s Nick Thomas in just 22 seconds. He won his next two matches 12-2 and 12-1, which set up the championship match against Liberty’s Atilano Escobar. It was his toughest match, but Castillo came away with the 9-5 win. 

  • Busy Signing Day for high school student athletes

    National Signing Day is a huge milestone for area athletes. Athletes from five area high schools made their college decisions and to continue their athletic careers at the next level. Student athletes signed letters of intent or documents of commitment, which made their decisions final. Some of the student athletes accepted scholarships to four-year schools, while others agreed to become preferred walk-ons, which means their place on the team is assured and they get a number of the support services for being on the roster, but they do not get tuition assistance. Canyon del OroThree CDO athletes signed last Wednesday. Two football players signed and faxed their letters early in the morning, but had a small ceremony in the high school gym. “I couldn’t be more proud of these two,” said CDO Head Coach Dusty Peace. Offensive lineman Jonas Leader signed with Northern Arizona. The 6’5”, 261 pounder made great strides as a senior to earn the full ride in Flagstaff.  

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