Mon, Nov

Nazis were milling around the Multi-Use Complex on the Camp Verde Unified School District Campus last week.

No one seemed that alarmed, neither the group of nuns to one side of the room nor the group of precocious, presumably Austrian children walking across the stage.

It was the dress rehearsal for the upcoming production of “The Sound of Music,” the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that tells the story of the Von Trapp family and their escape from the specter of Adolf Hitler’s Germany at the start of World War II.

The play is an attempt by the school district to reinvigorate the drama program, co-director Helen Freeman said. The 30 or so cast members come from across the Verde Valley and range in age from the very young to senior citizens [a fourth-grader probably wouldn’t make a convincing Mother Superior].

Sound_of_musicSome cast members have had experience on the stage before; for others, this is their first encounter with theater performance. Regardless of which camp the actors belong to, they were all experiencing the excitement and last minute scramble that goes into pulling off a successful show.

Girls on sewing machines were busy making last-minute adjustments to costumes, others were making sure tape was in the right place to mark the location of set pieces and still others were quietly reciting their lines in a corner to make sure their memorization was as close to flawless as possible.

The group has been rehearsing ever since auditions were first held in February, Freeman said. It’s been going fairly well, Freeman said, but of course in this business you’ve always got to be ready to think on your feet.

“It’s been a long experience,” said Mark Hawk, in costume for his role as Frederich von Trapp. “Things were a little confusing early on, but now it’s getting a lot easier.”

Mazzie Jasman, an American Heritage Academy fourth-grader taking on the role of Marta, already got one of the most difficult ordeals for any actress out of the way. She started rehearsals in a cast after actually breaking a leg while riding her bike.

Jasman has been in stage productions before, but she says this one is giving her “a lot bigger part.”

Freeman said she has always had some interest in the theater, based on her own experience and watching her children on stage. The group decided to give “The Sound of Music” a shot in order to put on a show that the community would know and be interested in seeing.

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Freeman said. “We want to get the community to come back and be involved with the theater.”

Aside from providing entertainment to an audience, Freeman said that acting on stage is a terrific way to help young people build self-confidence.

Megan Miller, a drama teacher in her first year at Camp Verde Middle School, is the other co-director. Miller comes from a town in Idaho where the theater was an important part of the community, and she said she’d like to see it take a bigger role here.

“The struggle here is getting the culture in place,” Miller said, adding that she was pleased to see that there was a stage with more resources than she expected when she first arrived in the Verde Valley.

Miller said that she’d like to see at least one production like this each year until a foundation could be built to possibly bring more plays to the stage.

Freeman said that since the community paid for the theater at the Multi-Use Complex, they should get some benefit from it.

The show will go on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 6, 7 and 8, at 7 p.m. at the Multi-Use Complex on Camp Lincoln Road.

Tickets sales, to help defray the costs of production, will be $8 at the door for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens.

For more information, call Freeman at 567-9220 or Miller at 567-8014.

The Yavapai County Attorney dropped charges against a 66-year-old Cornville man involved in the shooting death of his 46-year-old neighbor, according to Dwight D’Evelyn, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office media and public relations spokesman.

The man was probably engaged in self-defense when he shot Vonda Adams to death  April 28, D’Evelyn said. He was released from Yavapai County Detention Center late Tuesday, May 4.

Prosecutors decided to drop the case  Tuesday night, May 4, after evidence, including witness interviews, indicated the shooting may have been justified, D’Evelyn said.

The Yavapai County Attorneys Office did not immediately return a telephone message requesting an interview.

Editor's Note
The name of the man was omitted from the online story due to liability issues.

A 66-year-old Cornville man was booked into Yavapai County Detention Center in Camp Verde on Wednesday, April 28, on a single charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of 46-year-old Vonda Adams, according to Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspect is accused of shooting Adams one time in the upper body, possibly the head, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dwight D’Evelyn said.


Neither rain nor snow, the saying goes, will keep the mail from going through. Last Friday, the local Pony Express lived up to that credo.

Pony_Express_2The men of the White Mountain Sheriff’s Posse rode into Camp Verde after a three-day journey from Pinetop/Lakeside, a leather bag of mail in tow.

It was the third year in a row the riders marched their horses down Main Street to Wingfield Plaza, the site of the town’s original post office in the days when the Old West wasn’t old at all.

While they arrived on schedule, the season’s storms had left much of their usual route over the rim impassible; the riders had to find a new way to get the mail to Camp Verde.

The posse has been doing this sort of thing for nearly half a century. It started as a way for the men to get their horses limbered up for rescuing unprepared people stranded in the middle of nowhere or to help people that just experienced some bad luck, no matter how prepared they were.

Horses have fallen out of fashion in the rescue community in favor of reliable off-road vehicles, but the tradition kept going strong.

The posse was escorted down Main Street by members of the Camp Verde Cavalry dressed up in their 19th century finest, greeted by a small group of residents who turned out to welcome the men to the end of their ride.

It wasn’t just for show. The posse was carrying legitimate U.S. mail, collected from special mailboxes set up along their route. The letters and cards in those boxes will receive a special cancellation stamp, something that attracts the interest of collectors and enthusiasts across the country and even overseas.

In the past, the posse has delivered mail for people as far away as Germany.

Acting Postmaster Monica Loop was waiting at Wingfield Plaza to take the mail from the riders.

“You’ve used your form of horsepower to get the mail here,” Loop told the posse. “Now the postal service will use our horsepower to deliver it the rest of the way.”

Pony_Express_1Cavalry member Howard Parrish said the group used to never ride to the same place more than once, but they have returned to Camp Verde because of the welcome they’ve received here. The welcome goes beyond a simple “thanks for coming.” The posse joined other residents later in the evening for a catered banquet at Field of Dreams on Montezuma Castle Highway.

Parrish said the posse also provides a slight economic boon to Camp Verde, because the men and their families stay in local hotels and eat at local restaurants.

Mayor Bob Burnside also welcomed the large group of men on horseback.

“We’re glad to see you here for a third time,” Burnside said. “And we hope to have you back for a fourth and fifth time.”

Before Chris Veller found himself a new home off Aztec Road in Lake Montezuma, he had an inventive idea.

He whipped out a napkin and sketched out an idea for a side car he could attach to a bicycle and stuck it back in his pocket. And there it remained for eight months, because he didn’t have an outlet to try and bring his idea to life.

Olive_Branch_1At least he didn’t until he moved to the Olive Branch, an assisted living community that has helped meet the needs of adults with developmental disabilities for nearly two decades.

Last week, Veller was proudly showing off his fully functional foot-powered cycle complete with a metal frame welded to the side.

“I carry just about anything in there,” Veller said.

“Making something like this was just something he had never had the opportunity to do before,” Dana Peterson said. Peterson has worked with the Olive Branch for several years. “He showed me what he had drawn and I said, ‘Let’s see what we can do.’”

Giving these men more independence then they’ve ever know is part of what the Olive Branch is all about, Peterson said, and Veller’s bicycle project is far from the only thing keeping them busy.

Some of the residents work in the wood shop making furniture and other items for personal satisfaction and to sell to help subsidize the cost of living at the Olive Branch, a collection of residential properties that has expanded over the years to become a close-knit community. The group takes in adults of different ages and gender, but currently consists of a group of men aged 39 to 79.

Last week, the residents were more than happy to show visitors one of their most recent projects, a “rat rod.” The rat rod, powered by a lawn mower engine and capable of reaching around

40 mph, is, in the best rat rod tradition, a functional Frankenstein of a vehicle.

Welded together from the parts of an old pickup, a Toyota Celica and a golf cart, the purple metal monster sports a homemade chainlink steering wheel as well as just about a homemade everything else.

Olive_Branch_2The idea for the rat rod began when one of the Olive Branch’s founders, Steve Howell, was looking to find some sort of motorized wheelchair to get around, Peterson said.

“The thing was, though, that he wanted something that could go in reverse,” Peterson said.

Staff and residents worked hard on the rat rod, scavenging parts where they could and coming up with innovative solutions to get things to work out. The day it was finally finished a year ago was unfortunately the day Howell passed away.

Today, Howell’s wife, Cyndi, carries on as the program’s director.

The auto shop at the Olive Branch is a favorite spot for many of the residents who love learning how to work with all things mechanical and metal, Peterson said, and especially love being given an opportunity to have a place to bring their creativity and ideas to life. It’s also an ideal location to keep the residents occupied when the Arizona summer sets in, Peterson said.

The group takes the rat rod around to different car shows, Peterson said, but it’s still a work in progress. Currently, the team is looking to find the body of a 1930s-era pickup truck to incorporate into the rat rod’s design.

“Most of those [trucks] end up as decorations in someone’s garden,” Peterson said, “but we’re still looking.”

Nearby, resident Bob Davis contemplates the feasibility of attaching a trailer he helped build to the back of the rat rod.

“We’re gonna need a hitch,” Davis said.

The rat rod was far from the first project undertaken by the residents of the Olive Branch, said Peterson, a man who has been “building hot rods since I was a teenager.”

The residents have also worked on a 1950s Ford pickup that was another dream of Howell’s. This one, he did get to drive.

“He just never thought he’d get one because of everything he invested to run this place,” Peterson said.

Another one of the group’s vehicular creations was shown off in a hot rod magazine, and Peterson said the editorial staff has told him to just let them know when they’re finished with their next project.

It doesn’t particularly matter the type of project that comes out of the shop, Peterson said.

“The biggest thing for these guys is the sense of accomplishment they get,” Peterson said.

More than 120 concerned parents gathered at Oak Creek School in Cornville on Thursday, April 22, to object to its possible closure for the 2010-11 school year.

Oak_Creek_School_closing_1The hastily called meeting of the Oak Creek School Parent Teacher Organization came after the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School district announced April 20 the closure was possible to help make up a potential $2 million budget shortfall.

Closing the school would eliminate the jobs of 40 people and save the district roughly $480,000, COCSD Board member Jason Finger told the gathering.

Many who attended the PTO meeting said they would fight the closure.

“We like our small community school,” Rod Taylor said. “We would probably not have our kids go to this district if they close this school.”

“We moved here because of the tight-knit group of people who live in this small community,” Taylor’s wife, Shawna, said. “It’s not fair.”

Oak_Creek_School_closing_2Finger attended the meeting with COCSD Board member Eric Wyles. Wyles said shutting Oak Creek School would only take place if there was no other way to close the budget gap.

“We, as a board, understand the ramifications of closing a campus, even temporarily. Nobody wants to do that, absolutely nobody,” Wyles said.

The board already voted April 20 to lay off 24 employees, including 15 teachers, and to provide kindergarten in half-day sessions instead of full days as currently offered. These and other cuts will close a $1.1 million budget shortfall predicted for the 2010-11 school year.

The deficit is anticipated as a consequence of declining enrollment and the state Legislature’s decision to reduce funding for kindergarten, according to COCSD Superintendent Barbara U’Ren.

If a 1 cent sales tax increase, as proposed in a ballot initiative titled Proposition 100, fails Tuesday, May 18, more drastic cuts, including the school closing, are possible, Wyles told the parents.

Oak_Creek_School_closing_3Wyles urged residents to call 10 of their friends to get out the vote in favor of the tax increase.

Finger said the board identified several possible cuts in the event Proposition 100 fails, none of which alone can solve the district’s budget problem.

Reducing the school week to four days would save between $75,000 and $125,000, Finger said.

Increasing class sizes by cutting four more teacher positions would save the district $300,000, he said.

Finger said other possible cuts include:

  • Eliminating all music to save $133,000, physical education to save $192,000 and computer classes to save $137,000. Total savings would be $462,000.
  • Reducing pay for teachers and staff by 1 percent to save $103,000.
  • Requiring all teachers and staff to take one day off without pay to save $58,000.

As far as events in a grocery store parking lot go, Saturday’s safety fair at the Outpost Mall was most likely the biggest thing that’s going to happen in that parking lot this year.

While representatives from local law enforcement agencies and emergency responders were on hand, it’s safe to say the biggest draw was Bigfoot — not the mythical monster, but the monster truck.

BigfootIt was the second year in a row that the folks at Tire Pro Automotive organized the visit from Bigfoot, which has been traveling the country and crushing cars since 1981.

Saturday was no different, and if cars had emotion, the automotive victims lined up in front of Bigfoot’s massive tires would have been quaking with fear.

The cars weren’t in the best condition to begin with. By the time Bigfoot was done with them, they were even worse, much to the delight of the crowd.

The day was truly a family event, and there was much more to do when visitors weren’t watching cars get flattened.

While Bigfoot may have been the star attraction, it’s hard to find a kid who isn’t fascinated by police cars and fire trucks, and there were plenty of both on display. Officers with the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office, the Yavapai Apache Police Department, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office were available to answer questions, and to promote child safety and neighborhood watch programs.

Firefighters with the Camp Verde Fire District were happy to give out fire safety tips and child safety seats. There were games for the kids, including a bouncing room and a T-shirt shooting challenge.

There were helmets available for the young bicyclists in the crowd, and they got the opportunity to test their skills in the bike rodeo obstacle course. Better Chester was at the fair on behalf of the Kiwanis Club; she said the kids had been enjoying themselves all morning.

“It’s been a pretty good turnout,” said Pat Kaminsky, another Kiwanis member. Proceeds from concession sales were going to help promote youth and other community programs, including efforts to hand out smoke alarms, and to promote student clubs and activities.

“All of this is for a good cause,” Kaminsky said. “It’s all for the kids.”

Police find allegedly suicidal man later at local restaurant

A 22-year-old Iraq War veteran who talked of suicide was located unharmed at a local fast food restaurant after more than 10 Cottonwood Police Department officers and four members of the Verde Valley Special Weapons and Tactics team surrounded the trailer home where he was believed to reside.

SWAT_in_Old_Town_CottonwoodPolice were called to the 800 block of N. Sixth Street shortly after 3 p.m. on Friday, April 16, after the girlfriend of the unidentified man told officers the man threatened suicide and said he wanted to die, according to the CPD.

The girlfriend told police the man frequently carried a .45-caliber pistol and owned body armor, Sgt. Gary Eisenga said at the scene.

When the man did not answer telephone calls or come to the door of the home, police, aided by members of Citizens on Patrol, blocked access to Sixth from Main streets.

Uniformed in full military gear, including a bullet-proof vest, a SWAT member patrolled the neighborhood carrying an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder and a pistol at his hip. Several SWAT members were seen carrying automatic rifles.

The home, located in a wooded Old Town neighborhood where historic houses constructed of river rock are situated side by side with trailer homes, was surrounded by police shortly before 4 p.m.

Moments later, five houses near the residence were evacuated. Neighbors appeared concerned as they filed out of their homes and gathered outside a yellow tape barrier. They joined in small groups and spoke in hushed voices about the man some said was normally friendly and outgoing.

One man was shirtless, his wife in sleepwear, after being roused from bed following an overnight shift at work. All watched and waited as police set up tables in front of the command center and unfurled wire from a bright red spool for a telephone connection.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m, carrying tall, metal shields and walking behind the SWAT van, SWAT members, weapons at the ready, slowly approached the front of the home to place the telephone inside.

SWAT remained in place as negotiators attempted again to contact the man using the telephone line that stretched back to the mobile command center. Still, the man did not answer.

Shortly before 5 p.m., the girlfriend, who was seated on a chair in the street in front of the mobile command center, received a telephone call from the man.

She spoke briefly, then handed the telephone to Sgt. Darren Harper, who was apparently acting as a negotiator at the scene. The man told Harper he was not home, but at a local fast food restaurant having a hamburger.

CPD dispatched a police officer and SWAT team member to the restaurant to verify the man was where he said he was, Eisenga said.

After speaking to police, the man gave permission for CPD to enter his home, where officers located a handgun, magazines, ammunition and body armor.

The man was checked into Verde Valley Medical Center for evaluation. There were no injuries reported.

Eisenga said the response by CPD was customary when an armed suspect is reported, depending on the circumstances. The fact the man was an Iraq War veteran was not the reason fully armed SWAT members were dispatched to the scene, he said.

“It’s always better to be safe,” Eisenga said.

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