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Final Six Months Of 2015 Reviewed
Recent Escalon High School graduate Adam Roberson who battled colon cancer his senior year wraps his mom up in a heartfelt embrace during a special mother-child dance following a symbolic balloon release on Saturday evening at Relay For Life of Escalon. Marg Jackson/The Times


Kicking off with the city’s annual ‘Park Fete’ festivities in July to lots of holiday celebrations helping wrap up the year, this week we take a look back at the top stories from July through December for Escalon and the surrounding communities, taken from the pages of The Times.



Weather that was hot – but not unbearable – was the backdrop as nearly 300 participants gathered at Escalon High School’s Engel Field for the fifth annual Relay For Life of Escalon. The goal for the 24-hour signature fundraising event of the American Cancer Society was $48,000 and, with money raised prior to the event and more than $10,000 brought in during the June 27-28 Relay itself, this year saw the effort raise $51,124. “Escalon has always made its goal or exceeded it,” said chair Arianna Kennedy, a member of the Wings of Hope team, in saluting the teams and participants on Sunday morning.

Celebrating fifty years in business isn’t something that happens all too often – especially when the business has been in the same location and owned by the same person all five decades. But that’s exactly what happened on Sunday, as Nel Vieira hosted an Open House at her 1514 Second Street business, Nel’s Hair Fashions, in Escalon and welcomed back former employers and customers, community supporters and current clientele.

Adam Jones wants to refurbish the historic caboose in Escalon’s Main Street Park – and he is hoping to utilize the project as his stepping stone to the rank of Eagle Scout. The teen, who will be a senior at Escalon High in August, has proposed the work as his Eagle Scout service project and it will include painting and restoring the caboose, including sanding and paining inside and out, replacing damaged flooring and more.

An accident while cleaning a peeling machine left a 68-year-old Escalon Premier Brands worker with major injuries, the man losing both his arms in the industrial accident on Thursday afternoon, July 2. The plant, in the 1900 block of South McHenry, was the scene of a rescue operation, as fire and emergency officials were called to the location about 12:15 p.m. Thursday.

Crowds enjoyed great weather, good friends, food, music, merchandise and more at the 2015 edition of the Escalon Park Fete. Against a backdrop of nearly perfect July weather – temperatures in the upper 80s to lower 90s with a cooling breeze – there was no reason not to attend the annual city celebration. Along with special events early in the week including the Historical Society open house, Senior Mr. and Mrs. Escalon Luncheon, the Miss Escalon and Little Miss and Mr. pageants, the weekend brought a full slate of activities to the Main Street Park and stage area. Newly crowned Miss Escalon, Vanessa Kualapai, was excited following her coronation at the Wednesday night pageant, eager to take on her duties and happy that she pushed herself past her comfort zone to enter the pageant.

With a new budget in place for the 2015-16 school year and opening day fast approaching, several summer work projects are being done at sites around the Escalon Unified School District. “We are doing some routine maintenance, painting a couple of schools, just finishing up on the last part of the high school,” District Superintendent Ron Costa said of work being done. “We also fenced off the high school; one of the things the board has done is fence the schools to try and increase safety.” Costa said the fencing project is one being done at all sites, with some completed and others still in process.

Toughbooks and hydraulic lift gurneys – the face of emergency care has changed – but thanks to donations, Escalon Community Ambulance is changing along with it. A previous donation from the Escalon Lions Club of $15,800 for a hydraulic lift gurney finished out the fleet, said Chief Mike Pitassi, with all ambulances now outfitted with the state-of-the-art hydraulic gurneys.



Schools will be back in session next week in the Escalon Unified School District, with classes resuming on Wednesday, Aug. 12 for all students. Teachers get back a little sooner – including a New Teacher Orientation Day set for Friday, Aug. 7 for the 19 new teachers joining the district staff this year. “The high school has nine by themselves,” District Superintendent Ron Costa said of new teachers. “The middle school and elementary schools have 10.”

Jailed on $5 million bail, a Riverbank man will face his next court appearance later this month. He is being held on a charge of murder in connection with the death of his wife in late July. To hear the daughter and a good friend of murder suspect Roque Palomino, 53, murdering his wife of 27 years, Cynthia D. Palomino, 49, would be one of the last things they thought would have ever occurred. “They had a very good relationship and it was a very happy household,” said Cynthia J. Palomino, the couple’s 26-year-old daughter who lived down the street from their Sierra Avenue home in Riverbank. “All my life, they never fought.”

Trying to summarize nearly 38 years of service to one community is virtually impossible. But that’s exactly what Dorothy Vandagriff tried to do recently, as she said goodbye to her role with the Escalon Police Department and retired from the city as of July 31. She had been with the city since late 1977, originally starting as a clerk shared between city hall and the police department.

Running a lot of mutual aid calls over the past few weeks – and with a corps of just a dozen firefighters – the Farmington Fire Department is looking for some new volunteers. “I am so down on manpower, I can’t afford to send three people out of my district,” Fire Chief Conni Bailey said on Thursday, noting that Farmington hasn’t been able to serve on any strike teams to battle wildfires around the state. “We have just had a lot of mutual aid calls, last month we had 38 calls, that is so unusual for us, if we get 18 a month, that’s high.”

Fresh produce serving as centerpieces, tiki torches circling the dining area, tables set up amidst the orchard … everything about Saturday evening’s Farm to Fork dinner was rustic and down to earth. Right down to the grilled zucchini and fresh peaches with homemade tarragon marshmallow sauce. Hosted in the orchard adjacent to Grandpa’s Barn, a local venue along Enterprise Road, the event was put on by Lorina Cajias of Lorina’s Edible Garden in conjunction with the Escalon Chamber of Commerce. It was designed as a fundraiser for the Chamber, with proceeds benefiting business scholarships.

A male in his 50s is the first confirmed human West Nile Virus (WNV) infection in San Joaquin County this year. That, according to Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, Assistant Health Officer from San Joaquin County Public Health Services (PHS). The man’s health is being monitored in a hospital. To date in 2015, West Nile virus has been detected in 13 other California counties.



As they do before each home football game during the season, members of the Escalon American Legion Colorguard marched on to Engel Field on Friday night to present the colors. Prior to the playing of the National Anthem, however, PA announcer Greg Largent asked for a moment of silence in remembrance of longtime Escalon High teacher and coach, Pete Arellano, who passed away in June. Following retirement, Arellano was still a familiar face at the school, regularly attending all sporting events and helping coordinate the annual girls basketball tournament in December. He had also served as a ‘spotter’ for Largent in the booth at football games for years and was an active member of the Escalon Lions Club. Following the brief tribute and the anthem, the crowd was treated to a home victory, as the varsity Cougars got past visiting Calaveras by a final score of 14-6.

As hazy conditions caused by the Butte Fire impacted the air quality in the valley, a crowd gathered on Friday morning outside the Escalon Fire Department on Coley Avenue to mark a somber occasion – the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Escalon and Farmington continue to have mosquito issues and – with an unconfirmed case of West Nile Virus in the area – have seen both ground and aerial spraying throughout the region. One woman that contacted The Times indicated she had been told she tested positive for the virus but that had not been confirmed by the county’s health department as of press time.

They cruised in from locations throughout the Central Valley, some classic cars shined to a pristine finish, others obviously still a work in progress, but for all, the idea was to share some stories and spend a day admiring vehicles of all shapes and sizes, makes and models. And hopefully, take home a trophy. Escalon Lions Club hosted its 22nd annual Autumn Cruise on Saturday, with an estimated 330 vehicles in the park and the surrounding area along Main Street for the show.

The community is encouraged to come out on Saturday, Sept. 26 to support local pastor Jim Davis as he continues his battle against brain cancer. The longtime resident, who is pastor at Trinity Church Assembly of God in Escalon, also serves as chaplain for the Escalon Fire Department and is currently working on a major project, getting the Escalon Youth Center plans in place. Davis was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year and has been undergoing treatment. Organizers hope to welcome Davis and his family to the weekend event.

Dedication day on Saturday, Sept. 26 brought a group of 40 family members, friends, and representatives of the Escalon Historical Society members together at the First Firehouse Monument in Main Street Park as the latest order of bricks was put in place by local contractor Roger Peters.



There hasn’t been too much in the way of water wasting in the city, which suits officials just fine. In rare instances where consumption amounts in individual households have shown a spike from month to month, the problem typically has been dealt with quickly, said Escalon City Manager Tammy Alcantor.

From First Street to California, from Sophie Lane to Yosemite, shoppers had a heyday on Saturday. It was Escalon’s annual City Wide Yard Sale and, along with the roughly 100 addresses listed on the map for sales, others were available at a variety of locations, with some multi-family sales and local venues providing a showcase for out-oft-city-limits residents to bring their wares to show and sell.

Escalon’s Mar-Val Main Street market is one of seven Mar-Val stores around the region and all are cooperating in an effort to raise $20,000 for Habitat for Humanity. With a matching donation from the Mar-Val corporation, a total of $40,000 would be donated to help victims of the Butte Fire rebuild their homes and lives.

A passion for ‘brave bulls’ that eventually led to the establishment of the Campo Bravo Arena on Escalon-Bellota Road has now been recognized by the Tuleburgh Chapter 69 of E Clampus Vitus. A Saturday morning dedication of a plaque honoring the life and work of the late Frank V. Borba drew many family members and friends to the longstanding bloodless bullfighting ring. The location was also the site for a two-day Clampers ‘doins’ event – featuring an encampment at the location – following the plaque dedication. Chapter President Gary Britt Jr. of Sonora said the ceremony was a first for the Escalon area.

A late night accident along Santa Fe Road south of Orange Avenue on Tuesday, Oct. 13 resulted in the death of an Escalon man and left two other people injured. According to the Stockton California Highway Patrol office, the crash occurred shortly before 10:45 p.m. Tuesday when a southbound 1998 Honda driven by a man identified as Misa Meza, 19, of Escalon crossed into the northbound lane directly into the path of an oncoming car. That vehicle, a 2014 Ford sedan, was being driven by a 23-year-old Escalon woman. Authorities said a passenger in the Honda, identified as 24-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez, sustained fatal injuries as a result of the collision.

A sure sign of fall – and the fast-approaching holidays – the Farmington United Methodist Church hosted its annual holiday bazaar and soup luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 17. While diners gathered in the kitchen-dining room area of the Elm Street church in Farmington, others took time to visit each of several church classrooms, jam packed with handmade items, food, novelties and more.

Like water rates, those for sewer services in Escalon have not been raised in more than 20 years. And while the community has enjoyed a low rate for that time, they are about to jump, if a proposal under consideration by the Escalon City Council is approved.



In action at their Monday night, Nov. 2 council meeting, Escalon City Council members accepted the report on proposed increases to the city’s wastewater (sewer) fees. That, following an informational meeting on the plan on Oct. 26, in which a handful of residents and representatives of the city’s two industrial customers spoke out regarding concerns with the dramatic fee increases proposed.

Escalon High School will recognize its senior football players and cheerleaders on Friday night, just prior to kickoff of the varsity game against Modesto Christian. A tough season in the Trans-Valley League currently has Escalon on the outside looking in, the Cougars holding out slim hope they can squeeze into the playoffs with a Friday night win at home and some help from other teams.

With a loud crowd urging them on, the varsity soccer Cougars put away Hilmar 3-1 on Thursday to clinch the Trans-Valley League championship. It was Escalon’s second win of the week and left them in sole possession of first place in the TVL with a final 9-1 record.

They made the most of what turned out to be the final game of the season. Escalon’s varsity football Cougars – for the first time in years – did not get a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, but they put an exclamation point on their season with a resounding 38-14 win at Engel Field against Modesto Christian on Friday night, Nov. 6.

Escalon High School was the scene for a special ceremony honoring area veterans on Tuesday, Nov. 10 and that was followed up with the downtown parade and ceremonies at the Community Center on Wednesday, Nov. 11. Wednesday, the traditional Veterans Day, the morning parade saw watchers lining up both sides of Main Street and waving small American flags as the various groups made their way along the route. Music, horses, cheerleaders, floats, all were a part of the festivities, led off by the American Legion Post 263 colorguard. Performing the flag ceremony at the historic Main Street caboose was World War II veteran Ralph Verschoor.

An evening accident on River Road west of the McHenry Avenue intersection resulted in the death of a pedestrian on Wednesday night, Nov. 18. According to the California Highway Patrol office in Stockton, the incident occurred about 7:40 p.m. when the pedestrian – identified by authorities as 24-year-old John Duncan of Escalon – was struck by an eastbound vehicle.

Stacks of brightly colored red and green Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes filled a meeting room at the Escalon Covenant Church this past week, with the donations then boxed up, taken to Modesto’s Calvary Chapel and from there taken to southern California late Monday. The boxes will next leave California, some headed overseas, some staying in the U.S.

Taking on different roles as they moved through various stations, participants in Escalon’s first ‘Walk for Water’ event learned how hard it is to haul water for everyday use when you can’t just turn on the tap and have it at your disposal. Hosted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes of Escalon High School, the event was staged Saturday at the EHS football field, participants walking or running laps around the track for pledges and also taking part in exercises designed to show how people in other countries have to work for their water.



Twenty-one turkeys, 125 pounds of potatoes, 100 pounds of dressing and about 120 pounds of green beans. Just your average Thanksgiving dinner. Escalon resident Robin Jones took on the task this year of cooking up the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Escalon, bringing in plenty of family members to help prepare and serve the meal. Volunteers also gathered at the Escalon Community Center on Thursday, Nov. 26 to help make the holiday memorable for diners.

San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) and its partners, including Escalon’s eTrans bus service, collected over 41,000 pounds of food at the 17th Annual Stuff the Bus food drive from Friday through Sunday, Nov.20 through 22. This year, the events collected 676 turkeys for local food banks – more than any past Stuff the Bus event. Since 1999, RTD and its partners have raised over 287,000 pounds of food donations at Stuff the Bus events.

Citizen volunteers are being sought by the Escalon Police Department, as they look to enhance service to the community in 2016. “We are looking for adults, especially those who may be retired, who are looking to contribute to their community and assist the police department in its mission of providing quality service to our community,” said Police Chief Mike Borges. “Volunteers will be tasked with assisting the agency in many different areas.”

From the musicians and dancers on stage to the s’mores pits and some unexpected ‘snow’ fall, there was a feeling of celebration in the air on Saturday, Dec. 12. Escalon gathered for its annual Christmas on Main with a holiday light parade, a visit from Santa, food, vendors, and more.

More than 50 families signed up for this year’s toy distribution in Escalon, and it was a new effort – coordinated by the Escalon Fire Department in cooperation with the Escalon American Legion Post.

Catherine Johns is ready to embrace the New Year – and her second century of life. The resident of Magnolia Ranch outside Escalon will mark her 100th birthday on Friday, Jan. 1, having been born in 1916. She recently celebrated the occasion at a birthday party attended by about 45 family members and friends, hosted at the home of Mike and Irene Schenone.