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Final Six Months Of Year Revisited
The pages of The Escalon Times were filled with plenty of news for the second half of the year, from Homecoming to championship seasons for soccer and football, a focus on affordable housing to work on the railroad being completed to help the flow of trains through the community. There was also Park Fete, which this year also included a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the city's incorporation and holiday time brought plenty of food and coat drives for the less fortunate in the community. Following are highlights from July through December.


The three Farmington Fire Department members that spent nearly a week on the front lines of the Angora wildfire in South Lake Tahoe are back home, safe and sound. Farmington Fire Chief Conni Bailey, Battalion Chief Matt Bailey and firefighter Mike Gastello made up the contingent of firefighters that traveled with a strike team sent out on Sunday night, June 24. They returned to Farmington about mid-afternoon Friday, June 29.

Extra patrols will be out for the Fourth of July holiday in and around Escalon and throughout the county, with the local police department, California Highway Patrol and San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department on high alert for the long holiday period.

In the spirit of an old-fashioned barn raising, the Escalon community turned out for a spur of the moment pool draining on Friday, July 6. Unable to get the calcium levels regulated in the pool, officials called in an expert who indicated that the only way to get the pool back into balance was to drain it and start again.

For a trio of Escalon teens, it was the trip of a lifetime. They got to see another part of the world and served as young ambassadors at the same time. Taylor Denczek, Alyssa Gilbert and Sammy Little spent nearly three weeks abroad in the People to People program, traveling to Australia, learning about their host country and sharing some American insight. Escalon's youth were among a group of 31 students from the Central Valley that made the trip, June 22 through July 9.

A weeklong series of events culminated with the Friday and Saturday, July 13 and 14 Park Fete in the city's Main Street park, and organizers said they were generally pleased with the overall event. Historic photographs, spanning the decades, were set up in rows around the Escalon Library, detailing the city's history. Representatives of state legislators were on hand with proclamations and certificates. Recollections were offered from the city's oldest living 'native' and all around, residents celebrated 50 years of Escalon at a special Friday night ceremony. In conjunction with this year's Park Fete celebration, events were also staged throughout the week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the city's incorporation in 1957.

New hours are about to go into effect at the Escalon Public Library and, along with that, a new staff is now there to meet and greet patrons. Stockton-San Joaquin County Library officials said the change in staff brings fulltime people to Escalon from other branches to accommodate the longer operating hours. New branch librarian is Anne Stevens, with Mudgie Brent the circulation assistant, Nancy Snipes the library aide and Michael Saul the new library assistant. All but Saul have been with the Stockton-San Joaquin system for years; this is Saul's first assignment with the library system. Stevens did a fill in stint as librarian here for about a month in early 2006 and said she is pleased to be back fulltime.


Taking over the reins at El Portal Middle School in the midst of a required program improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act, new principal Wilson Nacario is up to the challenge of spearheading school improvement. A veteran with some 30 years in the educational field, Nacario's first job was as a teacher at a Juvenile Hall school in Martinez. He has had many teaching and administrative posts since, including his most recent stints as a superintendent/principal in Los Angeles and a teacher in Oakland.

The cowboy tradition is alive and well in Escalon's Guzman family. One needs to look no further than Alex Guzman, 10, to witness a cowboy in the making. Guzman was at Market on the Main Thursday, Aug. 2, impressing the crowd with his roping skills. He can lasso and twirl with the best, but it is his rope tricks which allow him to stand out.

An Escalon teenager succumbed to injuries sustained in a Monday night auto accident and a 20-year-old man was arrested in connection with the accident that resulted in his death. Edmond "Eddie" Bridges, 19, of Escalon died on Tuesday, Aug. 7 at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. He was seriously injured in the Monday night crash, Aug. 6, near the McHenry Recreation Area on River Road. The California Highway Patrol office in Stockton reported that the driver, Donnie Boatman, 20, of Escalon was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence at the accident scene.

Five stops are on the schedule so far for Escalon's version of National Night Out, which will be observed on Tuesday, Aug. 7. National Night Out is celebrated across the country, with neighbors gathering to 'take back the night' from crime, drugs and criminals. By staying outside, sharing a summer evening with neighbors, the goal is to raise awareness, work in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, and build community spirit. Hours for the event are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and a caravan of Escalon police, fire, ambulance and city personnel will visit each of the neighborhood gatherings.

From his first day on the job, Patrick Riggs has immersed himself in Escalon. The newly hired Public Works Superintendent, Riggs came on board earlier this month and one of his first 'after hours' events was attending the National Night Out festivities on Aug. 7, joining the caravan of local officials to get out and meet and greet the public.

There's precious little summer vacation left for students in the Escalon Unified School District, with classes scheduled to resume on Monday, Aug. 13. In an effort to get students geared up and ready for the new year, both El Portal Middle School and Escalon High School are hosting 'kick off' days and also a freshman orientation at EHS.

San Joaquin County Public Health Services announced recently that an 86-year-old male living in the central area of San Joaquin County died from complications due to West Nile Virus (WNV). This is the first reported WNV death of a San Joaquin County resident in 2007. With the warm weather, there has been a rapid increase in mosquitoes in the county and increased spread of WNV.

By a 3-0 vote - with two members absent - the Escalon Planning Commission has voted to move forward with the Liberty Business Park project, approving both the Specific Plan and the Environmental Impact Report presented at their recent session. "It was well attended," Escalon City Planner Duane Peterson said of the Tuesday, Aug. 14 commission meeting.

Two programs designed to help meet the needs of Escalon's senior citizens have gotten a new lease on life ... and are now being offered in a new location. The Senior Gentle Exercise Program, offered Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the Senior Meals, also served on those days, have relocated to the Escalon Presbyterian Church on First Street from their previous spot at the Escalon Community Center. The reason is the pending remodel of the Community Center and though there is no official start date yet for that project, Escalon City Manager Greg Greeson said it was better to have the programs moved well in advance of the project starting, rather than waiting to the last minute and then having them try to arrange for a new location.

For the first time in its history, the City of Escalon has put some 'affordable homes' on the market, working in cooperation with Visionary Home Builders out of Stockton and Morrison Homes. Families that qualified under a new Affordable Housing Program went through a process of pre-qualification and attended a homebuyer's education workshop, then were entered in to a lottery to determine the order in which they will have the chance to purchase the available homes.


For several decades, the annual Labor Day Weekend rummage and yard sale hosted at the Escalon United Methodist Church has been a staple in the community. This year was no different, as, despite the unrelenting triple digit heat, bargain shoppers converged on the church along Highway 120 Friday and Saturday to seek out the best value they could find.

Applying for a grant a few years ago has finally paid off ... with the delivery of some topnotch equipment to the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District. Three representatives of the Stockton Fire Department, Deputy Chief Ray Call, Resource Officer Capt. Sharlene Brown and Matt Duaime were in Escalon this past week, making the special delivery. Through the grant, Escalon received tools including a Hurst power plant to operate hydraulic rescue tools, Mach II cutters, spreaders and Caldo mini torches, a rescue torch that can cut through metal.

From the outside, it looked like a homeless encampment. From the inside, it was a different kind of slumber party. Escalon High School students, with counterparts from Edison High in Stockton, made their home for the night Friday, Sept. 14 at the Escalon High football stadium, putting together makeshift houses out of cardboard boxes. The event was 'Kids In A Box,' designed to raise awareness about the plight of the homeless. Proceeds from the Escalon event went to Haven of Peace, which is the homeless shelter for women and children in San Joaquin County.

Making sure there was just enough polish to catch and reflect the sunshine, cars by the dozens were lined up in Escalon's Main Street Park on Saturday, Sept. 15 for the annual Escalon Lion's Club Autumn Car Cruise. By 9:45 a.m. there were 83 cars registered and their proud owners were happily swapping stories of restoration efforts and trading car care tips.

Groundbreaking for a multi-million dollar solar array at the South San Joaquin Irrigation District's water treatment plant on Dodds Road was earlier this month, and preparation for the ground to begin the actual construction started Monday, Sept. 24. The project will see a 2 MW array installed at the plant, working in cooperation with Sun Technics Energy Systems Inc. out of Sacramento.

Designed as a way to help people live more independently, the Escalon Covenant Enabling Residence is planned on a 12-acre parcel along Escalon Avenue. The plans were previously approved at a regular meeting of the Escalon Planning Commission and officials are eager now to get the word out about the project. It's planned adjacent to the Escalon Covenant Church and is being built in cooperation with the church through Covenant Solutions Business & Development Support LLC.

One of the latest groups of collected mosquitoes testing positive for the West Nile Virus was found in Escalon. That, according to the update bulletin issued weekly by the San Joaquin County West Nile Virus Task Force.


Firefighters from more than a dozen departments from around the state converged in Escalon this past week, in town for some hands on training in the latest extrication equipment. Co-sponsored by the Escalon and Ripon fire departments, the two-day workshop was offered Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 3 and 4. Dubbed the 'Rip'n It Up' program, the training included classroom instruction at Ripon Station 2 on Wednesday morning, with some hands on training at Escalon Station 2 near Van Allen Elementary along Highway 120 on Wednesday afternoon and a full day of training on Thursday at Escalon Station 2.

From the wildly popular Tuesday night Powder Puff football game to the festive Friday afternoon parade, Homecoming 2007 hit all the right notes this year in Escalon. Capped off by a shutout win from the varsity football Cougars against Linden on Friday night, Oct. 5 the special event was a true success. And it couldn't have been more perfect for Homecoming Queen Staci Gentry, who received her crown at halftime of the varsity game, surrounded by some of her closest friends. Staci was in the running for the Queen honor with fellow cheerleaders Chelsea Davis, Julie Reid, Kristen Steves and classmate Brittany Diniz.

With roughly half an inch of rain coming down in a relatively short time late Friday afternoon, Oct. 12, Escalon coped pretty well with the first major storm of the season.

Celebrating its 20th year of students helping students, Escalon High School's Peer Interaction Team, PIT, is still going strong. Open to students from sophomores to seniors, the team is designed as an in house peer counseling group, with members assigned to work with students on the Escalon High, El Portal and Dent Elementary campuses.

Making their presence felt all around the community, members of several Escalon churches gathered with the Escalon Ministerial Association for a Community Service Work Day on Saturday, Oct. 13. Crews were dispatched to three different sites, volunteers working at the city's Corporation Yard, at the Escalon Heritage House senior housing complex and at Escalon Covenant Church.

Every third grade student in the Escalon Unified School District now has a dictionary to call their own That's close to about 250 dictionaries, handed out recently by members of the Escalon Sunrise Rotary, with distribution crews heading to all elementary school sites in the district to present the books to students in their classrooms.

Knowing they had to win to at least hang on to a share of the Trans-Valley League title, Escalon went to Modesto Christian on Oct. 30 and came home champions. With some help from Ripon - which upset number two Riverbank - the Cougars emerged in sole possession of first place in the TVL. Riverbank's loss, combined with Escalon's win over Modesto Christian, got the Cougars the title and the number one seed for the playoffs.


Going in with one goal in mind - qualifying for Sections - the Escalon cross country teams met that goal on Saturday, Nov. 3. The running Cougars traveled to Angels Camp for the Sub Section competition and coach Rick Heflin said he has 37 moving on to Sections this week at Folsom.

With an eye to the future - but cognizant of residents' lingering concerns - Escalon City Council members have approved the final Environmental Impact Report and Specific Plan for the Liberty Business Park. The 4-0 council approval, with councilman Ed Alves absent, came after about a roughly 90-minute public hearing on the plan during Monday night's City Council meeting, Nov. 5. Liberty Business Park is an area designated for commercial and industrial use, at the northeast corner of Brennan Avenue and Highway 120. The specific plan covers 178 acres and provides for a variety of uses, from rail-oriented industrial, light industrial, commercial, office and retail space and some open space.

A two-mile stretch of double track has been installed along the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks, stretching from St. John to River Road between Escalon and Riverbank, with the project just completed. "Those rails were activated as of yesterday," Escalon City Manager Greg Greeson announced happily at the start of Monday night's Escalon City Council meeting.

For the seniors on the football field, Friday night, Nov. 9 brought a little redemption. For the juniors, they saw what it means to avenge a loss that has stuck with you for a year. Escalon claimed the Trans-Valley League championship with a win on the road, defeating Modesto Christian 28-14. Last season, the Crusaders came to Escalon and won the title in the final game of the league campaign so the Cougars were more than happy to return the favor. Escalon went 5-0 in league play this season.

Coming in more than $600,000 under estimates, the low bid for the Escalon Community Center renovation project has been awarded by the Escalon City Council. Titan Structures of Modesto turned in the low bid, coming in at $2,037,800.

Applying for a grant of roughly $198,000 this past March, Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District officials have been notified of an award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the program. The award came in at $118,822 but Fire Chief Rick Mello said he was extremely pleased with the amount. FEMA officials had previously contacted the department, he added, in somewhat of a 'negotiation' to ask whether they would accept the lower level of funding.

With a new location, a larger facility, and more area in which to set up tables, the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Escalon went off well this year. Organizers said it appeared that the turnout may have been a little smaller than last year, but the increase in take out orders and the home delivered meals took up the slack, with the community effort reaching at least the same amount of people as the 2006 event.

Jesus Duran was flat on his back, his mouthpiece held in clenched teeth. Joe Cowan lay face down, his hands gripping at the grass just across the line into the end zone. Nearby, Patterson players were also on the ground, but in a tumultuous roll of happiness and exuberance, securing their first-ever trip to University of the Pacific in Stockton for the Division V football finals. Escalon came up literally inches short of yet another return trip to the final round, the Patterson defense stuffing the final play of the game on Friday night, Nov. 23 at Engel Field and defeating Escalon, 12-7.

Setting some goals for themselves at Saturday's State Cross Country Meet, Escalon's two representatives to the high school competition hit those targets and came home satisfied. Sophomores Khrista Delucchi and Matt Barnum ran the course at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday, Nov. 24 and both turned in outstanding efforts, according to coach Rick Heflin.


Students from all over San Joaquin County - from high school and young adult day programs and special day classes - gathered for the annual holiday dance put on through the Escalon Unified School District on Wednesday, Dec. 5. Getting to enjoy a day of socializing, dancing and eating, the students came from districts ranging from Stockton to Manteca to host school Escalon, Linden and more.

Escalon's annual Christmas on Main Street this year could be summed up in one word: "Wow!" That was the reaction from coordinator Amanda Swift, who was happily surveying the scene in the city's downtown Main Street Park on Saturday night, Dec. 8. Mother Nature smiled on the celebration, which was blessed with clear, chilly weather and a perfect evening for the holiday light parade, Christmas caroling and making s'mores in the fire pits set up especially for the event.

Escalon senior Nick Aprile is headed to UC Davis. The Trans-Valley League's Offensive Player of the Year for the recently completed 2007 football season, Aprile has committed to play football for the UC Davis Aggies. He received a full ride scholarship to the Division I University.

An effort spearheaded by 11th District Congressman Jerry McNerney prompted some Dent Elementary students to put their artistic skills to work, drawing, designing and writing holiday cards to injured servicemen and women recuperating in stateside hospitals. McNerney earlier asked 11th district residents to participate in his "Holiday Cards for Our Troops" program and several classrooms at Dent joined the project.

Hiring one more person has allowed the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District to restructure its command system, with one Fire Chief and now three 'Battalion Chiefs' on the job. Joe Pelot is the new hire, coming aboard earlier this month, moving to the Escalon department from a post as a captain with East Contra Costa Fire.

Escalon's Growth Management Ordinance has been tweaked. But that tweaking didn't change the 75 new permit allocations allowed per year, rather, it makes provisions to provide some affordable senior housing. In a continuation of a public hearing from Dec. 3, Escalon City Council members approved the changes to the ordinance at their Dec. 17 council meeting. There were no questions from the floor regarding the issue, though there were a couple of council questions prior to approval.

After going through all the entries submitted in a contest offered several weeks ago, Electra Chong of Escalon was named the winner of the Escalon Name the Bus Contest. Her winning submission was the name ETRANS, which stands for Escalon Transportation.

With Christmas now behind us, the next big holiday looming is just around the corner, with New Year's Eve and New Year's Day coming up Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. Holiday revelers are cautioned to play it safe, with local law enforcement agencies on the lookout for impaired drivers and midnight shooters. "We're putting on some extra patrols," said Escalon Police Chief Doug Dunford. "The goals are to cut down on the thefts that typically occur around Christmas and to deter driving under the influence." The extra personnel are due to be on starting Thursday, Dec. 27 and the higher staffing level will run each day through the New Year.