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In the News - Friday, June 10, 2011


See this week's front page


Three Rivers Union School Class of 2011

Grad photos and awards


Park packers are

  At best, the weather was iffy in Bishop for the 42nd annual Mule Days held over the Memorial Day weekend. In fact, it was downright frigid in the arena, situated at an elevation of 4,100 feet on the east side of the Sierra Nevada.
   But one constant the competitors and the thousands of fans could count on beside the cold weather was this: if it was a packers’ event, the team or its members from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks would be in the winner’s circle.
   To call this young team the class of the event is an understatement. In fact, Mule Days was clean sweep for the packers from the local parks, and they overcame some adverse weather and their lack of experience working as a team to do it -— something that is unprecedented.
   The last time Sequoia-Kings Canyon won the team championship outright was in the 1970s, but a clean sweep of all the events vs. nine skilled teams and all their best packers might be a first time ever.
  “It seemed every time we stepped out into the arena it would start snowing,” said Beth Lasswell, one of two rookies and the first woman ever to compete on the local four-person team. “Even in the cold and the wind, everything went like we practiced and the stock performed above and beyond.”
   Dan Baker, the senior member of the team, was the weekend’s biggest winner. Baker won the individual World Champion Packer award and besides his three championship buckles, a rightful claim to being among the best packers on the planet.
   Baker accomplished this by having the best time among the competitors in tying a box hitch, a diamond hitch, then making his way out of the gate with his horse and mule, navigating a one-third mile course, then returning into the arena. But, wait, all that precision packing occurred after fetching his stock that the arena clown spooked by firing several rounds from a shotgun.
   Each of the packers’ events are wild and frenzied scenes and it takes a cool, skilled hand to win. Evidently, there’s an abundance of skilled hands in the local parks because Nick Knutson won the individual Reserve Champion Packer award.
   The entire team, composed of Dan, Nick, Beth and Tyler Willis, also a Mule Days rookie, won the World Champion Pack Team award in the team event.
   Each member of the team, in addition to their buckles, won a custom-made pair of Justin boots. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was awarded a handsome trophy to be displayed proudly at Ash Mountain.
   Dan said he believes it’s only the second time a single team has swept all the packer’s categories at Bishop’s Mule Days.
  “Once you win, you have the other teams gunning for you,” Dan said. “It all depends how bad they want it. We know how bad we want it.”

Body recovered from Lake Kaweah

  An autopsy was performed Wednesday, June 8, on the body of a man who was found two days earlier in Lake Kaweah by members of the county Lake Patrol. The identity and cause of the man’s death is expected to be released soon pending notification of family.
   The body was located near Horse Creek Campground. An anonymous tipster reported that the body may be that of a 40-year-old Three Rivers man who has not been heard from in several weeks.
   According to a Tulare County Sheriff’s report, the man had dark, medium-length hair and a goatee. He was wearing a brown jacket, T-shirt, and jeans.
   There was evidence at the scene indicating that the man has been in the water for several days. As is routine in these cases, the Violent Crimes Unit is investigating the incident for evidence of foul play.
   Sgt. Chris Douglass, Tulare Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, said that their office is not aware of any missing persons reported recently. Anyone with information in the case can call the department’s anonymous tip line at 725-4194.

Power outage facilitated emergency repairs

  The power outage on Tuesday, June 7, just before 5 p.m., occurred while lots of folks were headed home from work. Many commuters didn’t even notice the widespread power outage unless they came up on the traffic lights on Highway 198 near Exeter or tried to make a cell call on AT&T.
   For a number of others in Three Rivers homes or businesses, there wasn’t much to do except wonder why and for how long. Power was also off in the nearby national parks all the way from Ash Mountain to Grant Grove.
   One park employee reported that the outage involved both PG&E facilities in Grant Grove and SCE equipment in Sequoia National Park.
  “There just wasn’t anything we could do to warn our customers that there was going to be an outage,” said Brian Thoburn, region manager for Southern California Edison Company.   “Emergency repairs were necessary as a result of an outage earlier in the day in the Exeter area. We certainly apologize for any inconvenience but the work had to be done to ensure the safety and reliability of the system.”
   Power was restored for all customers along the Highway 198 corridor at approximately 7 p.m.

Wireless network to upgrade local Internet service

  There‘s an opportunity for local residents to connect to a new broadband wireless network that’s being built with a federal stimulus grant. That connectivity, according to Mike Stewart, who spoke at Monday (June 6) evening’s Town Hall meeting at the Three Rivers Memorial Building, would be possible if there was sufficient local demand.
   The sufficient demand, he said, would be dependent on getting 40 or 50 subscribers who would sign contracts for the new service. The collective response from the audience was that a substantial number of those potential users were present in the audience.
   Stewart, a project manager for a marketing group that is building a 1,300-mile network from Bakersfield to Colusa, said a branch of the service could be extended to Three Rivers.  He said the local broadband signal here would be five to 10 megabytes and would be superior to the DSL now being offered by AT&T and more reliable than any of the satellite providers.
   Stewart said his group, Central Valley Independent Network, will eventually be able to offer the new local service for a base package at $29.95. They can offer the reasonably priced service because it will be subsidized by the federal grant to extend broadband to rural areas.
   The project is currently in the environmental review phase. Stewart said there will be little or no environmental impact because the routes for the fiber optics will be in existing rights-of-way.
   Seventeen members of the audience signed up to be contacted for the new service if and when it becomes available. Any other Three Rivers resident interested in finding out more about the new service may call Tom Sparks at 561-0406.
   Supervisor Allen Ishida also introduced two county code compliance officers. Dennis Lehman, representing Tulare County’s newly reorganized compliance office, made a presentation on behalf of the department.
   Lehman said the bread and butter of the department’s work is building and permit inspections. With 5,000 square miles of county territory to cover, the officers spend a lot of time just getting back and forth to Visalia.
   Currently, there are 14 open cases in Three Rivers; three have been closed recently. Lehman referred to Three Rivers with its stockpiled autos and excessive junk piles as a “target rich” compliance environment.
   Once a potential violation is logged, a case is opened and his office, Lehman said, starts the code compliance process by writing a letter.
  “We have a conscience,” said Lehman. “Our goal is not to run up excessive fines or to go to court, but to get ‘compliance’ with the law.”
   Lehman said Three Rivers is one area of the county that is seeing an uptick in permit activity. So that means more frequent inspections and visits to Three Rivers. He also said that the success of what they do depends on locals who notice gross violators and permit infractions and call the county compliance hotline at 624-7060.
   The regular monthly Town Hall meeting is now on summer hiatus. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3.

Fire works…

  Derek Staberg, who was raised in Three Rivers, has worked for Cal Fire since 1986. On Friday, June 3, Derek was officially “pinned” as the Tulare Unit’s newest Battalion Chief. Performing the ceremonial duties is Unit Chief Kirk Swartzlander.

  In attendance at the Three Rivers Cal Fire Station were family, well-wishers, and a host of Derek’s co-firefighters and best friends. Derek said he will be assigned for most of the summer fire season to the area he knows and loves the best – Three Rivers.

Chamber music coming to 3R

By Bill Haxton

  Surprisingly, tiny Three Rivers has rapidly emerged as a potent center for classical chamber music in California. Even at this early stage, Three Rivers rivals its larger neighbors in the Valley and on the coast with the Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute’s Winter Concert Series of six events and this summer’s Center Stage Strings Music Camp and Festival presenting six concerts and two master classes over two weeks from June 13 to 26.
   Center Stage Strings is the creation of national prize-winning violinist Danielle Belen. Mirroring similar events in Aspen, Vail, and New York, the camp focuses on national and international music prodigies, in this case violinists, violists, and cellists. In fact, many Center Stage Strings students go directly to Aspen from Three Rivers.
   From the very beginning, Danielle, who teaches violin at the prestigious Colburn School of Music, has reached for the top. Now in Center Stage Strings’s second year she has brought together a stellar group of musical paragons who during the day teach at the Music Camp and in the evening will perform.
   Some very fine internationally acclaimed musicians will perform as soloists, including violin virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn, whose Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius inspired the award-winning 1998 film The Red Violin. Pitcairn is widely known for the beauty and grace of her violin sound. As one writer put it, she employs her impressive talent and extraordinary instrument to delve beneath the notes to reveal the inner music within.
   British viola superstar Sarah Sutton will also teach and perform at this year’s camp. Sarah has given a command performance for Pope John Paul II and has also performed for Nelson Mandella, Queen Elizabeth II, Diana Princess of Wales, the Duchess of York and the Duchess of Kent.
   Also performing is cellist David Requiro whose name is often mentioned in that same sentence with Yo-Yo Ma. He has won more competitive prizes than can be mentioned here. David’s playing produces an immensely evocative string tone, a nimble and resonant sound that seems to leap from the instrument. A reviewer in a major newspaper said of him, “Most musical performers play upon an instrument. But, there are some rare ones who merge into a symbiotic relationship with their instruments that make us think of them as one. And, that is Requiro. Look for him to be a musical leader of the future.”
   Danielle Belen will also perform, as well as Juilliard-trained pianist Jennie Jung, the inimitable cellist Diego Miralles, and San Francisco Opera violinist Elbert Tsai. Together, this constellation of inspired musical excellence will present some of the most memorable and uplifting music ever written.
   Among the compositions presented at this year’s Summer Festival will be Brahms’ heartfelt and passionate Piano Quartet in G Minor, Richard Strauss’ pivotal Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Flat, Chopin’s memorable Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Dinicu’s mesmerizing Hora Stacatto, Prokofiev’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major and much more. Additionally, there are two free student concerts.
   Tickets for the four professional concerts are $12 and are available online at www.CenterStageStrings.com or at Chumps Video. Series tickets for all four concert series may be purchased for $40.

A heartfelt thank-you from Three Rivers School

By Susan Sherwood, superintendent

  The end of another school year always brings a time of review and reflection for me. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the many individuals and organizations who have supported the students throughout the year.
   Thank you to the Three Rivers Woman’s Club, Senior League, Lions Club, Historical Society, Sierra Traditional Jazz Club, Redbud Garden Club, Arts Alliance, local churches, and merchants that are asked for their support over and over and happily donate.
   Thank you to Amy McElroy, who coordinated this year’s art program, and all the amazing, talented, and wonderful artists who gave their time to the children. Not only did the students get the benefit of a diverse group of instructors, but they also got to interface with an important aspect of our community. Art was awesome!
   Thank you to all the volunteer coaches and referees in both the recreation sports and school sports. It is a big commitment of time, and I know you do it because you want the children to have the opportunity to play. Thank you, too, to the volunteer board of the TRUS Recreation Committee for their planning and organization.
   Thank you to the parents and volunteers who step forward and donate their time and resources to help wherever needed.
   Thank you to the Eagle Booster Club for its support of students and staff. The Halloween Carnival is a big undertaking and an important tradition in our community. You make it happen! And your surprise “staff appreciation” luncheons and treats were always wonderful.
   Thank you to the TRUS Foundation, its board members, and supporters. The Foundation dedicates it resources to the students, programs, and facilities at Three Rivers School. Over the last two years alone, the Foundation had contributed $12,000 for new technology, in addition to funding the art program and providing support for music, maintenance and grounds, and other programs and facilities.
   Thank you to TRUS parent Larry Davis for his efforts in spearheading the Three Rivers 500 donation drive after the failure of Measure V.
   And, THANK YOU, to the hundreds of donors from near and far who so unselfishly wrote the checks totaling $24,000! Times are challenging for all schools and TRUS is lucky to have a community, alumni, and boosters who are willing to provide financial support until the budget crisis is resolved. On May 24, a check in the amount of $32,000 was written from the Foundation to the District General Fund. Of this, $27,000 will be used to support the salaries of the TRUS music teacher, Athena Saenz, and technology specialist Barbara Merline. In addition, $5,000 is being earmarked for materials and supplies.
   Finally, thank you to the TRUS Board of Trustees and the TRUS staff for your dedication, service, and caring for the children in our community. Times are tough but you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and dig in to look for solutions. You make tough decisions and always keep the welfare of the children in the forefront.
   All of the above donors of time, talent, and dollars recognize the value of Three Rivers School in this community and of public education in our society. I am humbled to be surrounded by a group of such quality individuals serving our children and am honored to be trusted to lead the TRUS District in our goal to provide the best education possible for our students. This is a wonderful community.
   Susan Sherwood has been the TRUS superintendent/principal since 1995.

TRUS band will play on…

  The members of the Three Rivers Union School Eagle Band performed their Spring Concert last month under the direction of Athena Saenz, instructor. As a result of generous donations from the general public and the overwhelming success of the inaugural Hidden Gardens of Three Rivers Tour, the TRUS Foundation was able to fund the position of the band teacher for the 2011/2012 school year.

  In addition, the Foundation funded the technology specialist position held by Barbara Merline, ensuring the students will continue to have access to and instruction in all aspects of computers and their components.


Fancy that!

By Allison Sherwood Millner

  Has food gotten too fancy? I was thinking this a few weekends ago as I was individually placing capers on top of smoked salmon slices perched on mini chive biscuits.
   These particular bites of deliciousness were topped with crème fraiche (French sour cream) and a chive spear and positioned on a glass platter. They, along with other small tastes, made up a beautiful and fancy brunch garden party. And they got me thinking.
   As someone who obsesses over food, I am forever on the lookout for new ideas, new recipes and new tastes. I enjoy creating, tweaking, experimenting, and inventing dishes that challenge my skills and delight my tastebuds.
   The preparation of a meal, from the chopping of the ingredients to the moment it’s placed on the table is a creative endeavor. While I like preparing food that’s special, sculpted, and seductive to the eye, the number-one criteria is that it must taste good.
   So that brings us back to the question at hand. Has our food gotten too fancy?
I’ve decided that the word fancy is somewhat conditional and has several applications depending on the circumstances. In the case of the garden party, I think the food fit the occasion and its elegance was matched in taste. One point for fancy.
   I must admit that this is not the first time I’ve pondered this subject. Last year, a cookbook called Modernist Cuisine was released that cost $625, consisted of five volumes and was 2,200 pages long.
   Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold studied the anatomy of food in depth and put this cookbook together. The photos included in the book are breathtaking and the preparation needed for each recipe is revolutionary, it is the fanciest food most of us have ever seen.
   Herein lies the problem. I can safely say that I don’t ever want to eat a mussel, encapsulated in its own seawater and gelatin, made to look like an egg.
   It is a vision to behold and an incredible feat of gastronomic proportions, but tasty? I have my doubts.
   Likewise I don’t plan to use homogenizers and ingredients such as hydrocolloids, which are featured in the book, the next time I prepare dinner. Beautiful? Yes. Sexy? Yes. Fancy? Yes. Is it food that I want on my table? No. Minus one for fancy.
   With that, we need to address the fact that the concept of being “too fancy” is dependent on each person’s individualistic definition of the word. We all have different steps and criteria that elevate food to that “next level.” This is absolutely conditioned by what we grew up  eating, the food we prepare daily, and our dining experiences.
   My idea of fancy is certainly different from yours and so on and so on. Everybody’s opinion varies and this makes labeling something as being “too fancy” a sticky situation. Minus one for fancy.
   Down in the count, our “food” sits precariously on edge of being overdone and glutinous. However, there has been a counter trend over the past decade to pull away from this excess and return to food in its natural state.
   Signs that read “Organic,” “Sustainable,” and “Locally Farmed” now give shoppers options. Farmer’s markets have popped up in almost every city, bringing the food directly from the farm to the table.
   High-end restaurants are choosing whether or not they continue with fresh, flavorful food or take the modernist/new age approach to preparation. It makes me wonder where we got the need to reinvent cooking.
   Weren’t we doing just fine? And with this, I recall a recent trip to Santa Barbara in which I realized that basic, good, simple food could be catapulted to extraordinary heights.
   While staying at my mother-in-law’s house, I discovered that food sometimes falls under the category of being “situationally fancy.” Allow me to explain.
   After a day enjoying the town we returned home to rest and prepare dinner. The clock struck 5:30 p.m., cocktails were poured, and the merriment began.
   On the menu: grilled sausages, potato salad, baked beans, and green salad. We sat on the outside patio, sun warming our skin, ocean breeze rustling through the eucalyptus, and the salty sea crashing below. We ate with silvered utensils, linen napkins and fine china, stuffing ourselves full of food and drink.
   It was a wonderful evening filled with family and classic American barbecue that seemed, dare I say it… fancy.
   Allison Millner and her husband, Dane, serve it fancy or not at their Sierra Subs and Salads eatery.




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