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Year In Review Part II: Final Six Months Of 2018
After taking a hard fought win off the field in their home season opener, members of the Escalon varsity football team celebrated by facing the crowd and, with help from the Cougar cheerleaders, sang the alma mater. It is part of a new tradition that head coach Andrew Beam is starting with this year’s team. Marg Jackson/The Times
Police Officer Rob Lackey is at the wheel of the cruiser as he arrives at the Sophie Lane gathering for National Night Out, one of several stops for the caravan of police, fire, EMS and city officials Marg Jackson/The Times

The year gone by brought plenty of headlines to the pages of The Escalon Times – from a newcomer elected to the Escalon City Council in November to a new head coach for Friday night varsity football. Following are some highlights from the last six months of 2018.



They didn’t have to evacuate or move any cattle … but they were ready just in case. Escalon resident and elementary school teacher Michelle LaRossa, her daughter Logan and her mom Josephine ‘Jo’ Chaffee were on high alert and had to spring into action when the Waverly Fire broke out on Friday afternoon, June 29. LaRossa’s mom lives on property on Waverly Road, the JMR Ranch, and the trio – with help from neighboring property owners – had the cattle ready to go if necessary.

Escalon’s Hogan-Ennis Community Center Park and Pavilion was the setting on Sunday evening, July 1, for a fun Fourth of July holiday party for all in the community. Hosted by the nearby Escalon Covenant Church, the Independence Day celebration has been put on by the church for several years with the exception of a one-year hiatus a few years ago.

The expenditures outpace the revenues – which is fairly typical in small cities – but with the use of reserves to cover the shortfall, Escalon City Council members have adopted the budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

A career in education didn’t bring the satisfaction Brianna Anderson thought it would … but it did bring her to Escalon. The new Escalon Branch Librarian made the move to Escalon from her previous post as a library assistant in Lathrop, arriving here a few weeks ago.

What the Save The Stan organization has advocated against for years occurred Friday, as the State Water Resources Control Board announced plans to divert billions of gallons of water a year from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.

Meeting up with classmates, touching base with friends not seen in a while … the weekend Park Fete celebration in Escalon offered plenty of fun and family-friendly events. Hosted each July, the Park Fete has been overseen the last several years by the Escalon Lion’s Club but with plenty of assistance from other community organizations and individuals.

More than a dozen people took to the podium at what was initially anticipated to be a very quick Escalon City Council meeting on Monday night, July 16 – the majority questioning police procedures and staffing in the wake of a violent assault on an Escalon officer. The incident occurred just after 6 a.m. Thursday, July 12 as Officer Steven Quilici was on patrol and was dispatched to a reported hit and run collision in the 1900 block of Roosevelt.

Situated near the intersection of Highway 120, McHenry Avenue and Escalon-Bellota Road – the city’s main intersection – a new electronic sign towers above the roadway and offers both information and advertisements. The new sign was recently installed by Escalon Public Works crews, financed through the Escalon Lions Club as a gift to the city. Electrical wiring work for the sign was donated by the local Grossi Electric.



After more than 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service – the last 14 of them in Escalon – Laura Tornquist has punched the time clock for the final time. She officially retired on Friday, July 27, working her last shift at the local Post Office.

Summer vacation is officially over and school bells are ringing once again on campuses throughout the Escalon Unified School District. A few new faces have joined the administrative team, teachers have had their ‘work days’ to get their rooms ready and a staff barbecue has been hosted at Escalon High School to welcome teachers and administrators back.

The sale of Escalon Golf Course has been completed, with the new owner taking over as of the first of this month. Escalon Golf was a “realized dream” of Tom and Betty Hagan in the 1980s, said daughter Carol Adams, serving as the family spokesperson.

It didn’t quite hit a hundred degrees – but the heat was definitely on as the community observed the annual National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 7. With temperatures that peaked in the mid-90s, residents of Escalon didn’t let that stop them, as they came out of their homes, joined their neighbors and welcomed in a caravan of police, fire, EMS and city officials for the ‘night out’ against crime and drugs.

The mid-August sun was unrelenting as the football Cougars took the field for both JV and varsity scrimmages against visiting Argonaut, coaches getting a good look at where their players are and players getting a chance to line up across the line of scrimmage from someone other than a fellow purple and gold combatant. Overall, for new varsity head coach Andrew Beam, the day was a successful one and helped set what he hopes is a good tone for the season ahead.

Honored for 25 years of service to the Escalon Planning Commission, local resident Barb Willis received a special proclamation from Mayor Jeff Laugero at the Monday, Aug. 20 Escalon City Council meeting.

Modesto City Councilman Danny Madrigal paid a visit to the Escalon City Council Chambers on Monday night with a question and a request. He questioned the practice of ‘relocating’ the homeless to his city and issued a request the two councils work together to address the issue.

A new Type 6 brush truck has been put into service for the Escalon Fire Department, funded primarily with a grant from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Escalon High School graduate Andrew Beam knows a little bit about tradition. He was a standout quarterback for the Cougars during his high school years and now, he is at the helm of the varsity football program. A daunting task; taking over for the now-retired and longtime coach Mark Loureiro, one of the most decorated head coaches in the Sac-Joaquin Section during his decades at the helm. Friday night, the Cougars crafted a 21-7 win over rival Calaveras, a team that has defeated them the last few times the two have met.



With a new crop of freshman students to join their ranks, the Escalon FFA hosted its first meeting of the school year on Aug. 29, with a ‘welcome back’ barbecue for students, information for parents and a rundown of the activities for the organization.

Keeping a tradition going – so the day will never be forgotten – Escalon fire, police and emergency services personnel gathered with dozens of community residents on Tuesday morning for a ceremony at the fire station on Coley Avenue.

The event marked the 17th anniversary of 9/11, the day in 2001 that hijacked planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon and one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

Owners cruised in to Escalon on Saturday, Sept. 8 for the 25th edition of the show hosted by the Escalon Lions Club, the annual Autumn Cruise marking its silver anniversary.

JV Lady Cougar cross country runners Trista Matthews and Isabel Marcelo-Villarruel assisted a Ripon runner, holding her hands as they helped her along the course. The Ripon girl was having an asthma attack and head coach Rick Heflin said his runners made sure she got to her coach for assistance. Touching another runner on the course means disqualification but Heflin said he was proud of the decision his runners made.

With the weekend weather nearly picture perfect for mid-September, the Saturday evening Escalon Chamber of Commerce Wine and Spirits Stroll drew in a huge crowd.

Escalon City Council hopefuls – including two incumbents and two challengers – turned out for the Sept. 19 forum hosted by the Escalon Chamber of Commerce. One candidate was a no show but the four that did take seats on the panel had the opportunity to outline their reasons for running and then also handled a variety of questions posed. Challengers Peter Krumeich and Will Smith joined incumbents Ed Alves and Robert Swift on the panel, while challenger Richard Percey did not attend.



With bright sunshine and cool fall temperatures, the setting was perfect for some Saturday yard sale shopping … and Escalon residents pulled out all the stops in providing that opportunity for the community. The annual citywide yard sale was hosted on Oct. 6, with sales scattered across the city, as well as some in designated spots such as the Main Street Park and church parking lots.

Homecoming Queen candidates this year were Sylvia Guevara, Sarah McPherrin, Madison Matsunami, Arely Ochoa and Hailie Webster. Winning the crown was Hailie Webster, the daughter of Chad and Dawn Webster.

In case you didn’t know – the Escalon City Council can now be followed on YouTube. The council went ‘live’ on Monday night, after having previously broadcast an earlier meeting that had pictures but no sound. Now, said City Manager Tammy Alcantor, it appears all the ‘bugs’ have been worked out and those that want to watch council meetings can do so from their home computer or other device.

Measure ‘E’ will be on the ballot in the Escalon Unified School District for the Tuesday, Nov. 6 election, a $25 million general obligation bond for school improvements.

Emotions were running high – as senior cheerleaders and football players were recognized and honored for their contributions to the school prior to kickoff – but the end result was a satisfying shutout win in the regular season home finale for the varsity Cougars.

With plenty of elbow grease, sweat, expertise and loving care, a group of volunteers helped renovate and update the Escalon American Legion Post rooms on Second Street. An open house and dedication ceremony for Post 263 was hosted on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 13, to celebrate the project.



It wasn’t on the agenda – and in fact came up during the ‘comments from the audience’ portion of the meeting – but it took Escalon City Council members and those attending Monday night’s regular session a bit by surprise. The proposal presented focused on bringing a marijuana manufacturing business to the city, specifically with the use of new technology that reduces the growing time and increases the number of harvests per year.

It was a long trip to Colfax for semifinal action in the Sac-Joaquin Section volleyball playoffs … and it likely felt a little longer on the way back. After taking a 25-22 victory in the first set, Escalon battled but could never find a way to get back in the win column, falling in a 3-1 final to host Colfax on Oct. 30, ending their section playoff run.

A day ahead of the actual Veterans Day holiday, members of the Escalon community and those from the surrounding area came together on Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Escalon Community Center. Following a downtown parade earlier in the morning, ceremonies were hosted at the Memorial Wall adjacent to the city’s Community Center with music, a guest speaker, the laying of a wreath and a 21-gun salute, along with the playing of Taps. The Escalon High School choir performed the National Anthem to begin the festivities.

It became official late Tuesday afternoon: Democratic challenger Josh Harder has an insurmountable lead over incumbent Republican Congressman Jeff Denham in the race for Denham’s 10th Congressional District seat. Harder will take over the seat, which includes Stanislaus County and a portion of San Joaquin County.

Escalon Unified School District voters rejected Measure E, a $25 million bond for school modernization and athletic facilities improvement, with 1,618 ‘No’ votes to 1,472 ‘Yes’ for the measure as of the Nov. 13 vote tabulation. That shows a 52 to 48 percent disapproval; the measure needed 55 percent approval to pass.

After winning the coin toss and opting to kick off, Escalon held visiting Calaveras to a three and punt on the first possession of Friday night’s game at Engel Field. Escalon then scored on their first possession – and the next three in succession – to advance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoffs.

Some families stopped in, dinners were delivered to those who couldn’t get out to eat and a few folks came to the Escalon Community Center to get a ‘take out’ meal for the Thanksgiving holiday. Altogether, it meant a few hundred people enjoying a filling, delicious turkey day dinner.

An early lead did not hold up for the Escalon Cougars varsity football team on Friday night, Nov. 23. Taking on Hilmar in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI semifinal game, the Cougars came out on the wrong end of the 28-18 score, ending their season short of a chance at the Section title.



Escalon’s annual Christmas on Main celebration escaped the raindrops that roared through the region on Saturday morning, Dec. 1 – as the skies cleared and the sun even made a brief appearance just before booths opened for business. The city’s Main Street Park was the center for all the activity, with vendor booths, entertainment, food and fun kicking off at 3 p.m. Saturday and running until about 8 p.m. that evening.

The City of Escalon hosted the second annual eTrans Holiday Tour D’Lights holiday light tour on Friday, Dec. 14, departing from the Escalon Park and Ride Lot at 7 p.m. and returning one hour later, with a second tour also added.

It was a night of thankfulness, a little looking back and plenty of gazing into the future, as there was a changing of the guard in the Escalon City Council Chambers on Monday night, Dec. 17. Longtime councilman Danny Fox was recognized for his years of service, not only to the council, but also first as a member of the city’s police department. Then it was on to the swearing in of those elected to serve the city for the next four years, with incumbent Ed Alves and Robert Swift earning re-election and Peter Krumeich earning his first term on the panel. City Manager Tammy Alcantor administered the oath of office and the meeting resumed.

A satisfying, exciting week of work saw Escalon’s varsity basketball boys put four games in the win column and earn the championship at the round robin Denair Tournament.

Escalon’s JV wrestlers and the Lady Cougar grapplers had a strong showing at Saturday’s annual Mel Focha Tournament. At the JV level, the Cougars had 12 wrestlers hit the mats and nine of them left the tournament with some hardware. Four girls wrestled for Escalon and three were crowned champions.

Toys and gifts for over 150 youngsters were distributed in a festive pre-holiday event on Wednesday at the Escalon firehouse on Coley Avenue. The annual toy giveaway is a joint effort of the Escalon Fire Department, the Escalon American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post 263 and the Escalon Lions Club. This year, the local Les Schwab Tires in Escalon also joined the effort in a big way.