Have a ball at Black & White party

Published in print and online at The Auburn Journal August 27, 2009

The Auburn Chamber of Commerce is prepared to send summer off in style this weekend with a Black & White Ball that won’t disappoint. Things were busy at the Chamber on Thursday, where volunteer coordinator Britney Milbury said tickets sales were going strong.

“There’s a constant line of people buying tickets,” she said. “It hasn’t died down. There are a lot of people wanting to come.”

For those who have yet to purchase a ticket there’s still time left. Milbury said tickets will be available at the Chamber offices and at the Gold Country Fairgrounds until the gates open at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. However, she says that there will be long lines at the gates, and advises those who are interested in attending to come by the Chamber.

If you already have your ticket, don’t forget to reserve a campsite, if you want to spend the entire night. Fairground camping CALSTAR is renting the baseball field above the fairgrounds to allow for free tent camping. Registration begins at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and closes at 8:30 p.m.

Sonja Vargas, a CALSTAR representative, said interest is high for the ball’s first year of offering a camping option.

“I’m getting a lot of calls and e-mails (about the campgrounds) and I do expect a good turnout,” Vargas said. “Everyone is very excited that this is an option this year.

Camping is one way partiers can avoid a driving under the influence arrest Saturday night. The seven law enforcement agencies that are part of the Placer County “AVOID the 7” program, funded by the Office of Traffic Safety, will saturate the Auburn area Saturday. Two officers from each agency will patrol Auburn between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., according to Richard Blanco, DUI officer with the Auburn Police Department and Placer “AVOID the 7” coordinator.

“We’re not out there to ruin anybody’s fun, we’re out there to educate and enforce,” Blanco said. “For those people who are drinking and driving, this gets them off the road.”

Public transportation If camping is not an option, there are other ways to stay off the road after drinking alcohol. Ball organizers have contracted with the city of Auburn transportation department to provide two shuttle buses that will make a continuous loop from the fairgrounds to Auburn area hotels. There are also local taxicab services.

Additionally, ball attendees who tell volunteers that they are a designated driver will receive a special wristband that entitles them to free bottled water and two free soft drinks for the night. Blanco advised designated drivers to remain alcohol-free for the evening.

“If you’re going to have a designated driver, it doesn’t mean the designated driver can have just one,” Blanco said. “It means the designated driver should have none.”

The ball, now in it’s 18th year, will feature a handful of different bands and food from a plethora of local restaurants. Come dressed in black and white or in costume in line with this year’s theme, “Summer Nights.”

“A majority of people wear black and white,” said Bruce Cosgrove, Auburn Chamber CEO. “But we get a percentage that come in costume, which is great because it adds to the show, making it all that much more fun.”

Read online at Auburnjournal.com

Preparations Gear Up for School Year

Published in print and online at The Auburn Journal August 17, 2009

Mapping Out the Semester: Preparations Gear Up for School Year

Local students are in the final stretch of summer as teachers and parents get ready for the return to school.

Classes begin at most Auburn-area schools this week, which means the next few days will be full of preparation, at home and in the classroom.

E.V. Cain Middle School teacher Olivia Conn has her classroom just about ready for a new group of seventh-graders.

“I’m really looking forward to the school year,” she said. “I’ve been here all week preparing.”

In addition to getting her classroom ready, Conn has been busy setting up a class Web site. This will be a lifesaver for many parents who will find it easier to keep up on their children’s classroom activities…

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com

Are You Ready to Head Back to Class?

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal August 9, 2009

Are you ready to head back to class? - Aug. 9 copy

Yep, it’s summer, and as twisted as it sounds, that should mean back-to-school prep for parents to avoid the inevitable nervous breakdown that comes with waiting until the last minute on absolutely everything.

Don’t spoil your family’s fun in the sun by stressing out on break, but give up the notion that you can tick off your long list of school lead-up chores the week before the start of a new academic year.

“Parents enjoy the summer, too, and they don’t want to think about school,” said Stephanie Vozza, founder of Theorganizedparent.com and a mother of two school-age boys in Rochester, Mich.

“Your head isn’t there yet, but so many little things over the summer can make a huge difference.”

Here’s a checklist for tending to back-to-school tasks without summer buzzkill…

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com

Rotary Barbecue is Grill’s Night Out to Benefit Local Organizations

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal Sept. 14, 2009

Rotary barbecue is grill's night out to benefit local organizations - Sept. 14 copyIf you’re looking to help out the community, attending the Auburn Rotary Club annual barbecue might be the most fun you’ll ever have giving back.

Proceeds from the benefit dinner-auction will go to local charities including the PlacerArts Council, student scholarships, Project Auburn, Boy Scouts, Little League, and the Peace for Families holiday dinner.

For dinner, Auburn’s Rotary Club will be barbecuing salmon, chicken, baby back ribs, and tri-tip. Cocktails and dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. Meals are included with the purchase of a ticket, which you can buy at the door or ahead of time from any Rotarian.

Attendees can also bid in a silent auction or test their luck in a raffle. Raffle prizes and auction items up for grabs include a weekend trip to the coast, a week in Squaw Valley, Southwest Airlines tickets, and oriental rugs…

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com

Auburn Churches Extend Helping Hand for Victims of 49 Fire

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal Sept. 8, 2009

This past week, many Auburn residents lost everything in the 49 Fire. Fortunately, local churches are working to help them get it all back.

Several churches are collecting food and clothing, though many take these donations to the Salvation Army and Red Cross and advise those looking to help drop off contributions directly with either group.

However, many places of worship have specific plans for helping fire victims.

At Bayside Auburn Church, Cheryl Brown, associate minister of impact ministries, had a long list of ways to help on Thursday.

“We have been involved from the get-go,” she said. “Our pastor offered the church as a place for evacuees to stay, and then we organized our church community to have a meeting.”

At the meeting, the congregation came together to decide where they could do the most good. One of the church’s small groups organized a “donation tree,” keeping a master list of items donated to the church.

Brown says that the county’s assistance center will be giving the church’s name to those seeking donations, and the small group will match up the need with the “donation tree.”

Brown also said they will be sponsoring a benefit concert organized by the group Speak With Love on Sept. 26.

The group is still looking for a venue to accommodate the large crowd they anticipate, Brown said. All proceeds of the event will go to the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

That evening from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the church’s Nevada Street location, they will host Hopequest, a time of prayer for the community and fire victims.

“It’s kind of a holistic day,” Brown said. “You can hear music, donate money, your time as a volunteer, or clothes, and then you can come in the evening for prayer…”

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com

Officials: Funds Stay in Auburn

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal Sept. 6, 2009

Red Cross and Salvation Army respond to residents’ concerns

Auburn residents have come together to help victims of the 49 Fire recover from devastating losses. However, some locals are concerned about where their donations are ending up.

Rumors have been circulating that money and supplies given to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross won’t reach fire victims.

David Morikawa, the Red Cross volunteer managing the relief effort for the 49 Fire, says that isn’t true.

“It may not be the exact same dollar bill, but it’ll be the equivalent,” he said. “We honor the donation 100 percent.”

Morikawa said he understands the concern, and wants to be sure the community knows exactly where their donations are going.

He explained that though they do offer donors an opportunity to donate to a general Northern California disaster relief fund, the individual decides exactly where their money is going. So money intended to go to fire victims will go to fire victims.

“Our auditing center is in Sacramento,” he explained. “But all of the money comes back, and we don’t keep any of it. We put helping the victims first.”

As of Thursday evening, 49 Fire donations totaled $29,000 in cash and pledges.

Ken Tokutomi, chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board of Auburn, also wanted to assure those looking to donate that their contributions are staying in Auburn.

“One hundred percent of the donations we have gathered that were designated for the fire are being invested back into the community,” Tokutomi said…

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com

Scratcher Ticket Nets Car for Alta Woman

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal July 30, 2009

Scratcher ticket nets car for Alta woman - Aug. 30 copyTanya Worrell of Alta never imagined buying one lottery ticket scratcher would lead her to Los Angeles and a new car.

“I didn’t think I’d win anything that big,” Worrell said. “It was like a party in the parking lot after I bought it.”

After uncovering the words “TV SHOW” three times on her ticket, Worrell, her family, and her brother flew down to Los Angeles to be a contestant on the California Lottery game show “Make Me a Millionaire.”

“My husband and I had decided when we went out that we would make a vacation of it and go to Disneyland,” she said. “But Disneyland was a lot more fun after winning a car.”

Worrell said that at first being on TV was nerve-wracking, but that once she was on the stage she couldn’t even see the audience…

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com

Chamber Hoping for Last-Minute Ball Ticket-Sale Surge

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal July 23, 2009

Though some numbers are down, excitement is high for the 18th annual Black & White Ball.

According to event organizers, lagging ticket sales are nothing to worry about.

“In this economy, people are careful with their money and where they’re spending, and that’s being reflected in the ticket sales,” said Bruce Cosgrove, executive director of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. However, he is confident that sales will meet expectations.

“Eighty-three percent (of the tickets) are sold in the week before,” he said. “And the majority of those are sold that Thursday and Friday.”

Entertainment Chairwoman Rosie Mietzel estimates they are about $10,000, or roughly 150 tickets, behind last year.

“We think it’s going to be a last-minute decision for a lot of people,” Mietzel said.

Though they won’t know for sure until after the event, Cosgrove says the change in venue from Downtown Auburn to the Gold Country Fairgrounds is not responsible for the decrease in ticket purchases. The ball was moved to the fairgrounds after local businesses circulated a petition against having it Downtown, claiming they lost business when streets were closed for the event…

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com

Recession Spurs Sales of Used Books as Residents Turn to Reading

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal Sept. 14, 2009

Mysteries, pop culture topics are top choices

Auburn readers looking to save some cash are searching for cheap entertainment, and are finding it at local used bookstores.

James Van Eaton, owner and manager of Winston Smith Books Downtown, said that this is the first time in his experience that economic downturns have led to increased book sales.

In addition to some loyal regulars, Van Eaton said many readers who are feeling the pressure to cut expenses are skipping Borders and Barnes & Noble and coming into his store.

“We get a lot of people coming back, and coming by when they’re in town or in the state,” Van Eaton said. “But we’re also getting a lot of new customers who didn’t even know we were here.”

Van Eaton said many of his customers come in looking for mystery novels, but that books made popular by movies and media bring in a lot of traffic as well. Copies of Julia Child’s cookbooks flew off the shelves when the film “Julie & Julia” hit theaters, and Van Eaton expects “The Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown’s books to be a big seller when the new Brown book is released on Sept. 15.

Over at A Book Haven, books that have been adapted for the big screen are selling fast as well. Owner Shelle Parsons said Audrey Niffenegger’s book “The Time Traveler’s Wife” has been one of the most requested this summer after the movie version was released…

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com

Body in Park Was Del Oro Grad, 21

Originally published August 27, 2009 in print and online at The Auburn Journal and The Loomis News

Cause of death yet to be determined

Friends and family of 21-year-old Alyse Rachelle Conk, whose body was found on Wednesday morning in Loomis Basin Community Park, remember her happiness as infectious.

“When she was happy she was amazing,” said Terra Dawson, a close friend of Conk’s since the two were 14. “She loved to be goofy, and I loved that about her. She was just so fun to be around.”

Conk’s body was found by a 16-year-old boy in the Loomis Basin Community Park at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday. According to a Sheriff’s Department news release she appeared to have been camping by the creek.

No foul play is suspected in her death, according to Dena Erwin, spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. Friends say she had been out of contact with them for several months, and were unaware that she had been camping in the park.

Acquaintances and friends contacted by the Journal were unwilling to speculate as to why Conk appeared to be camping in the park. It is as yet unknown whether drugs or alcohol played a role in her death. An autopsy was scheduled as of press time…

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com and theloomisnews.com

Despite Law, Many Text While Driving

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal July 31, 2009

AAA study says motorists felt safer in years past

Cell phones are everywhere these days – including in drivers’ hands.

In spite of state law, many still use handheld cell phones while driving. Texting – which usually requires looking at the cell phone – can be particularly dangerous.

In 2008 the state passed legislation that made the use of handheld cell phones illegal while driving, and since January the California Highway Patrol has been pulling over drivers for reading texts and e-mails on their phones.

Though these new laws were intended to protect drivers and make roads safer, an AAA study found that many people feel less safe driving today than they have in the past.

Most Auburn-area residents interviewed Downtown on Thursday agree.

“It’s too distracting,” said Lisa McCuistion, 40. “When you’re texting you have to physically look down, and you never know what’s in front of you…”

Read the full story online at auburnjounrnal.com

Students Can Opt Out of President’s Talk

Published in print and online at The Auburn Journal September 9, 2009

Faced with concerns about potentially censoring the president, the Auburn Union School District has amended its original plan to require a permission slip to view Obama’s speech, which aired on Tuesday.

Several schools will be showing the president’s address in classrooms on Wednesday, and will offer the opportunity for students to opt out.

As of Tuesday, E.V. Cain Middle and Rock Creek Elementary schools planned to air the speech for students on Wednesday. At E.V. Cain, social studies teachers were given the option to show the speech but were told to remind students of the option to opt out with a note from their parents. Officials at Rock Creek Elementary said the speech would be shown in classrooms, and had copies of the transcript available for preview in the front office.

Sam Schug, principal at Auburn Elementary School, said on Tuesday they do not plan to air the president’s speech. Schug said he gave the teachers the opportunity to show it in their classes, but that none had expressed much interest in doing so.

Skyridge Elementary School officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday, but parents received an e-mail notifying them the speech will be shown “later in the week.”

Superintendent Michelle Schuetz said on Tuesday that she thinks most parents are happy with the resolution.

“Most concerns came from parents just not knowing what was in the speech and what their children were hearing,” Schuetz said. She added that given the chance to opt out, no students at Rock Creek Elementary School had done so.

Brad Kearns, father of two students in the Auburn Union School District, said he was glad the school board changed its initial plan, but is somewhat disappointed with the outcome.

“The speech was on live during school hours so people could gather,” Kearns said. “I’m glad they’re playing the tape, but some of the magic of gathering together and watching it is lost…”

Read the full story online at auburnjournal.com

Some Parents Decry Speech Censorship

Published in print and online at The Auburn Journal September 9, 2009

Parents of some students in the Placer Hills Union School District think the president is being censored.

President Obama requested his televised speech to schoolchildren in Washington D.C. be broadcast on Tuesday in schools across the nation. In response to this news, area parents voiced their concerns to Auburn-area school districts. Some felt that the president would try to promote his political views, which led to postponed and selective airings of the speech.

Several parents with children at Sierra Hills Elementary School were upset that they were given no indication of the school district’s plans for showing the address to students prior to its live airing.

Hannah Schwartz, a former high school social sciences teacher and mother of two children who attend Sierra Hills, heard from her kids after school that they didn’t watch the speech.

“I don’t know how you can prepare kids to be part of a society if you don’t let them be a part of it,” Schwartz said on Tuesday. “They (students) have to have a connection, and for some of these kids watching their own president can be that connection. Our country is only as strong as our educated citizens.”

Molly Wollff, also a mother of two Sierra Hills students, was told by a district official that her children would only see selected portions of the speech.

“It sounds like this is censorship,” Wollff said. “It sounds to me like school policy is being set by a loud-mouthed anti-government group, and [superintendent Fred Adam] is not doing anything to assuage my concerns…”

Read the full story at auburnjournal.com

Some Fire Victims Critical During Community Meeting

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal with the headline “Residents Vent Frustrations at Fire Follow-Up Meet”

Officials explain response to 49 Fire, services available to residents

Emotions ran high Tuesday night at an informational meeting for Auburn residents and other victims of the 49 Fire.

Representatives from the numerous agencies involved in fighting the fire and dealing with the aftermath were on hand to inform the community about how the fire started, how the different agencies responded, and what is being done to help victims return to a normal lifestyle.

Many members of the audience had lost their homes in the fire, and were given an chance to ask questions and voice their opinions.

Connie Krishner, whose house burned down in the fire on Sunday, was critical of Cal Fire’s actions in responding to the initial 911 calls, and was dissatisfied with the agency’s attempts to answer her questions at the meeting. She said Brad Harris, the Cal Fire’s representative, did not provide an adequate explanation.

“I did not feel … that they responded quick enough, and also they didn’t respond with enough engines,” she said. “When I asked him when the second engine arrived he said ‘about the same time.’ What does he mean ‘about?’ He didn’t say what time it arrived…”

Read the full story online at rosevillpt.com