Features

Falcon Fans: Looking for a Playoff Home Run

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Youth


Photo Credit: Mike Harvey
The Cactus Shadows High baseball program is the equivalent of a well-hit fly ball, soaring off the bat, flying high, going deep, back, back - and, just as a towering ball has fans jumping to their feet to see if it will clear the wall for a home run, so this season has Falcons fans eagerly wondering if the team can go all the way.   The Falcons baseball team twice won the state championship, in 1998 and 2006, and was a runner-up in 1990 and 1996.   Can they go all the way again this month? After a 14-2-1 start in March/April, the baseball team looks like a strong threat to bring a title back to Cave Creek. If it happens, it will be an affirmation of the philosophy of the program’s leadership.   Cactus Shadows has a unique coaching staff, as two of the mentors have professional baseball experience. Head coach Guy Gianni was a fourth-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds back in 1988. The catcher-outfielder played four pro seasons before turning to coaching.   While Gianni can talk... More

Go with the Glow

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Community


If you thought you missed Cave Creek’s Balloon Festival, have no fear; the event, which in years past had taken place in January, is set to glow May 23. What’s the reason behind the date change? According to event organizers, warmer weather.   January proved to be just too chilly and unpredictable to enjoy the myriad of family-friendly events planned for the evening. Coats won’t be needed this year while roaming the beautiful grounds of Rancho Mañana’s driving range to enjoy the fun bounce houses, tasty food and beverages, beautifully lit balloons and musical entertainment by local musicians Heartlyn Rae and Lauren Riley. Something else is new this year, too: fireworks.   To end the festival, the Cave Creek sky will be set afire with hundreds of fireworks to celebrate Memorial Day and the beginning of summer.   What started out as a simple idea back in 2009 has turned into one of Cave Creek’s most anticipated events of the year. About 10,000 people attended last year’s... More

Found in Translation

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Inspiration


It takes several shelves to display the collection of 35 elephant figurines in her home. For some, the majestic animals represent good luck; to others, they are decoration. But to Misha Mendicino, they represent what’s important: family, creativity and community.   They’re also the signature and purpose of her resort wear clothing brand, Misha Mendicino Designs.   “Fashion is the best way to merge all of my dreams together,” says Misha.   Her mother, who recently celebrated her 87th birthday, is enamored with elephants and has collected figurines throughout her life. Last fall, she gave her collection to Misha, igniting the next generation of elephant lovers in Shilo, Misha’s six-year-old daughter. So far, the first grader has contributed another 11 items to the elephant collection, although hers are of the non-breakable kind – think stuffed animals and other kid-friendly trinkets.   “She’s obsessed with elephants. She wants every single dress in her size,” says... More

Schnepf Farms: Painting the town Peach

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Community


Photo Credit: Foskett Creative
The Schnepf family can truly say that they built their business from the ground up.   Fifty years ago in the middle of the desert, Ray Schnepf planted his first peach trees. Two years later, the farm started picking and shipping peaches all over the country. People who drove to Queen Creek for a quaint day trip noticed and were surprised to see peach trees in the growing in the dusty soil.   It started out small. At first the family picked the delicate fruit to sell at their little roadside stand. Five years later, they opened their orchard for “UPICK.” Customers came from all over Arizona to taste the dainty but succulent Arizona peaches, which just so happen to be recognized as the best peaches in the country, according to Wine Spectator magazine (take that, Georgia!).   The annual Peach Festival at Schnepf Farms is upon us. The dates span two weekends, May 9 and 10, and May 16 and 17, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. But don’t wait too long to make your way down to the festival,... More

Stronger Together: The Sonoran Distance Project

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Inspiration


At 51 years old, Susan Loken is preparing for her fourth Olympic Marathon Trial. With her agile body and determined spirit, it would be hard to believe that she didn’t start running until the age of 35, after the birth of her third child.   “I was the girl that skipped gym class, hated to get her hair sweaty and was always picked last for any team sport,” she says. “I had no idea there was an athlete hiding inside my body for over 35 years! I began walking, and then running, to give myself some alone time, get outside in the beautiful sunshine, lose weight and feel personally accomplished. The gift that running gave me was the lesson to believe in myself.”   Now she is the athlete everyone looks up to, sweaty hair and all, as she trains with 15 other female runners as part of the Sonoran Distance Project (SDP), an elite all-female running team where members are hoping to qualify and compete in the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials, and ultimately, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio... More

Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce Celebrates 50 years

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Community


The technology has changed; the message and mission remain the same.   The Carefree-Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce has been the glue that has held the area business community together for the past 50 years.   From its dusty Old West beginnings to the commercial hub it is today, one thing has remained consistent for the business community: the chamber’s supportive efforts to promote and foster the civic and economic welfare of its member businesses.   In 2015, as the organization commemorates its 50th anniversary, it continues to grow and thrive, providing networking opportunities, relevant educational tools and business advocacy efforts to offer a solid foundation to the local business community.   Today, the non-profit serves more than 300 members, according to Patty Villenueve, chamber executive director. “Our members represent those who have businesses within the community, and those from outlying areas who want to do business within the community. Membership is evenly... More

Trail Blazers

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Lifestyle


Photo Credit: Brenna Zumbro
They whir through the desert nearly stealth-like, their breath a hard, steady rhythm as pedals and chains whisper in sync, driving treaded tires harder, faster along winding, dusty trails. Over rocks and around cholla-rimmed curves, the mountain biker becomes part of the desert landscape, developing a rhythm and flow, leaving behind only the imprint of rubber tracks in dirt.   According to the International Mountain Biking Association, more than 40 million people spend time on mountain bikes in the United States each year. It’s an astounding number for a sport believed to have originated in northern California as recent as the late 1970s. The combination of exercise, challenge, outdoor experience and ever-evolving gear has led casual and hard-core riders alike to take the trails on two wheels.   With hundreds of miles of trails ranging from tranquil toodles to technical tests of skill and balance, it’s no wonder that the North Valley is quickly becoming a mountain bike... More

Andy Warhol: Portraits & More at Phoenix Art Museum

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Art


An exhibition of portraits by Andy Warhol, one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century, is on display at the Phoenix Art Museum until June 21. It contains the largest showing of his work ever in Phoenix and spans his career from student artist in the 1940s up to the end of his life in 1987. This broad-based show includes a large variety of pieces including nearly 200 screen prints, paintings and drawings, photographs, and many surprises.   The exhibition examines Warhol’s interest in capturing the likenesses of celebrities, as well as of himself. The portrait subjects range from Prince and Queen Elizabeth II to Jackie Kennedy and Sylvester Stallone, along with many whose 15 minutes of fame has since faded. There are also several paintings, photographs, photo-booth pictures and Polaroids – which, in his time, were an innovative, instantaneous and spontaneous way to capture images. He took many images of himself, presaging today’s passion for... More

The Joy of Giving

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Inspiration


Photo Credit: Bryan Black
On the banks of Cave Creek, where soldiers once made regular stops to quench their thirst and rest their horses on the dusty trail to Fort Whipple in Prescott, Paula Scully examines the seedlings in the large garden behind her home.   Not one for flash or pretense, her cropped blond hair brushes her shoulders as she browses through rows of raised planters sprinkled with squash, strawberries, carrots, lemongrass, cucumbers, zucchini, herbs, flowers and other treats. Grape vines, still dormant for the season, form promising tangles on the wire mesh above; they will provide much-needed shade as the days get longer. Chickens, ducks and goats greet her from their pens, eager to let her know they are hungry.   The natural beauty of the garden and the surrounding five-acre property are a breathtaking find in the North Valley desert, but as Paula has learned, beauty alone means little without someone to share it with. And, like the garden which may, at first glance, appear to have no rhyme... More

Gallery at el Pedregal

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Art


Photo Credit: A O Tucker
Make your way to the second floor of el Pedregal at The Boulders, and on the southeast corner you will find a very special art space brimming with energy and excitement.   Sonoran Arts League has teamed up with The Boulders Resort to bring the public an exceptional collection of art and more – all in one beautiful place. Offering a rotating collection of juried work by 40 to 50 artists, artists-in-residence, workshops for all skill levels, special events, and enthusiastic league staff, the gallery is truly one of a kind.   You know you are about to enter a special place when you look through the front glass window and observe artists at work, engrossed in their creations, but at the same time inviting you to watch. The artist may be Joye DeGeode, oil painter at her easel wearing her bunny slippers; Judith Rothenstein-Putzer, working with an alcohol transfer, sans alcohol; or Liliana Schuett catching the sunlight that sets the stones aglow in her fine jewelry.   The inviting... More

Meet The MacCarter Family

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Family


Ever wonder what your Roller Derby name would be? Well, you can scratch “Savage Sapphire” and “Toxic Skillz” off the list. They’re already taken.   Siblings Tatum and Gavin MacCarter, aka “Savage Sapphire” and “Toxic Skillz” respectively, channel their alter egos as members of the Phoenix Derby Brats, a flat track roller derby league for juniors ages 8 to 17. Tatum, 17, is part of the Teen Terrors team, and Gavin, 12, is just starting out in the league. Their parents, Mario and Amber, sometimes join them for family skate night, but they don’t don any derby names just yet – or at least none that they’ll admit to.   According to Amber, roller derby is something that brings them together as a family. The kids learned about the sport from one of Amber’s cousins, who lives in Montana. Intrigued, the family sought out some local options and found the Derby Brats. Tatum signed up and soon she was off rolling – literally.   “It’s great exercise,” says... More

Pinnacle Power: Baseball & Softball Teams Rev Up for Playoffs

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Youth


Photo Credit: Mike Harvey
The hotly contested playoffs of May should be a big month for Pinnacle High School, with boys’ baseball and girls’ softball teams jockeying to make runs at state titles.   John Casey averaged 20 wins in his first four seasons as Pinnacle High’s baseball coach, peaking at 23-10 with a trip to the playoffs last season.   After losing a big batch of seniors, it looked like this would be a rebuilding season for Casey’s baseballers. But, proving again that baseball is an unpredictable sport, such has hardly been the case.   The 2015 team got off to a flying start, going 14-7 through the first part of the season. “The pitching and defense have been the keys,” said Casey, who, in 1991, was a Division II 1st Team All American.   After his college career at Stanislaus State, he spent a few seasons in the minor leagues before moving on to coaching, first in New Jersey, later at Desert Mountain High. He has learned that, with young arms being carefully monitored, having a stock of... More

Laugh Local: Taffy Room Stretches Valley Comedy Scene

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Community


Do you know anyone who doesn’t like to laugh? Probably not. While what is funny is where the subjectivity comes in, just about everyone loves that moment of throwing back the head and emptying the lungs.   When scores of people are laughing with you - that usually makes the moment all the funnier and more enjoyable.   Laughter has become big business around Phoenix, with 20-some comedy clubs operating around the Valley. One of them is a little different - a club within a club.   Funny story behind the Taffy Room at Stand Up Scottsdale …   It started in 2013, with Season 3 of the Spike TV show “Bar Rescue.” Jon Taffer, host of the show, lit into club owner Howard Hughes, telling him he just wasn’t funny and shouldn’t make repeated appearances on stage. Taffer did a bar makeover, making the green room (where comics hang out before and after performing) much bigger, which took away seats. He also changed the exterior and pushed for a name change.   Hughes was not... More

Hale Stewart Takes on New York

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Youth


Photo Credit: Amanda Reif
Maybe in preparation for all the competitiveness of adult life, high school is growing increasingly competitive. Of course, there are all the sports, but now there are also debate, math, science and other academic competitions.   And, believe it or not, there’s the 2015 English Speaking Union Phoenix Branch Shakespeare Competition, with students challenged to deliver monologues and sonnets.   Sounds pretty dramatic, right? Well, the drama for Hale Stewart was nerve-wracking - and that was before he even stepped on stage.   It was only natural that Hale, a Notre Dame Prep junior, would enroll in the competition. He has been a natural since stepping on stage shortly after he enrolled at the North Scottsdale campus.   “My freshman year was when I really started,” he says, of his budding acting career. “The first few weeks of school, I was just going and getting accustomed to the new school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and heard about the drama club. I went there and... More

Meet The Cicogna Family

2015-05-01 | ImagesAZ | Family


Photo Credit: Keri Meyers Photography
There are some connections and relationships in life that are meant to be. One of those is the relationship between two local native New Yorkers, Nick and Danielle Cicogna.   Both moved to the Anthem area with their families in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Danielle attended Sandra Day O’Connor High School and Nick attended Boulder Creek High School. They were both part of their schools’ inaugural graduating classes. Even as non-natives, their ties to the North Valley are strong, as well as their ties to each other.   Nick has a communications degree from Arizona State University. After spending many years working for Chase bank, he now works for Zenefits. During his downtime he loves watching baseball and supporting his wife, Danielle.   If you live in the North Valley, it is probable that you have already seen the work of Danielle Cicogna. Danielle has dazzled audiences with her original, award-winning choreography for several competition teams in the Valley. For the past five... More