Serving the communities of Valley Springs, Burson and Wallace
Dreams of Sugar Plum Fairies
A holiday tradition continues
when Top Hat School of Dance presents “The Nutcracker” the weekend
of Dec. 12 to 14. Show times are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with
matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. All four shows will be at the
San Andreas Town Hall on Church Hill Road. Tickets are $10 each and
children under 4 are admitted for free if they sit on their parent’s
lap. For more information, call 786-7771 or 772-2662.
Calaveras County Sheriff Dennis Downum at the Nov. 19 Valley Springs Area Business Association meeting.
Sheriff working on restoring substation in Valley Springs
A lean budget forced Calaveras County Sheriff Dennis Downum to
close the Valley Springs Sheriff’s Substation, but he is working on at
least a temporary solution.
The sheriff was the featured speaker at the Nov. 19 meeting of
the Valley Springs Area Business Association and gave a brief
presentation about the department’s budget before answering questions
from the public.
Sheriff Downum characterized the current budget as
“desperate” and said he had a choice of cutting back on leases, such
as the one for the substation in Valley Springs, or personnel. Rent for
substation space in Copperopolis and Valley Springs was costing the
department $22,000 a year.
Owners of the office space in Copperopolis worked with the
department and are providing the facility for the Copperopolis
substation free-of-charge until the department’s financial picture
improves, Downum said, but he did not have a similar experience with
owners of the Valley Oaks Center, site of the Valley Springs substation
until it closed in mid-July.
In the meantime, sheriff’s deputies have begun using a room at
the Foothill Fire Station in Burson, Downum said, and utilizing a
portion of the fire station as a temporary sheriff’s substation is
“We’re not leaving the area, we just need to find someplace
we can afford,” he said.
Downum added he turned down an offer from the Calaveras Unified
School District to use one of their vacant rooms for free because he did
not want the possibility of a potentially dangerous situation spilling
out on school grounds.
Next year’s budget, he predicted, will be leaner and he may
have to cut personnel.
When asked what can the public do, Downum said they could contact
their supervisors and let them know that other things should be cut in
the county budget prior to cutting back on law enforcement.
The sheriff said Proposition 172 funds intended for public safety
services are disbursed to a number of county departments other than the
He added that the county should take another look at increasing
the Transient Occupancy Tax, the tax on hotel and motel rooms, which
stands at 6 percent in the county.
He predicted the outcome of another TOT election would be
favorable toward passage if the money would be earmarked toward law
Ken and LeAnn Evoniuk use a 1920’s era building at the old Rocca Bella olive canning plant for their Better Floors showroom.
Big plans for former Rocca Bella canning plant
A former centerpiece of Calaveras County’s agricultural
industry has a new lease on life.
The former Rocca Bella olive canning plant located on Highway 12
between Burson and Wallace once produced 5 millions cans of table olives
before ceasing operations sometime in the 1960s. The property and
facilities fell into disrepair, but that began to change four years ago
when Ken and LeAnn Evoniuk purchased the property.
Ken’s original intent was to use the site for storage for his
flooring business in the Bay Area. He found it less expensive to buy the
8.5-acre site and buildings than to rent warehouse space in the Bay
As he began clearing tons of debris and garbage that had
accumulated at the Rocca Bella site over the years, Ken began seeing
some different possibilities for the site and shifting his plans.
Ken, LeAnn and their son Kenny have moved from the Bay Area to
Valley Springs and shifted the family flooring business more to a retail
One of the Rocca Bella buildings, dating back to 1929, has been
remodeled to serve as the showroom for their company, Better Floor
Ken, who is third generation in the flooring business, did mostly
tract and commercial work. He is branching into the retail end and
Better Floor Systems has 50,000 square feet of inventory on hand in its
Ken said he concentrates on buying first-run, close out, or
change of product line materials and passes the savings to his
customers. The savings are substantial, he said, and he has better
prices than Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Lumber Liquidators. Customers can
purchase his flooring cash and carry or have it installed.
In addition to carpeting and wood flooring in their showroom,
they soon will have a warehouse with at least 400 ceramic tile samples.
The business is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday
and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
However, Ken has additional plans for the site. He eventually
would like to see a restaurant and wine-tasting facility located in the
concrete building just off Highway 12.
The concrete buildings and adjacent steel warehouse will receive
new siding with a Tuscany-style look to resemble what they’ve already
completed at the 1929 adobe building that is the showroom.
Ken has installed new electric, plumbing, water and septic
systems at the site for the anticipated development and has ample
He foresees the old olive plant becoming a point of interest such
as the new town square in Copperopolis.
Plans also call for a wrap around deck along their 1929 building
and the area behind it including an amphitheater and venue for events
and wedding. He also would like to plant a vineyard and orchard in the
back part of the property.
The origin of the Rocca Bella olive canning plant dates back to 1916 when Louis Sammis of Connecticut moved to his wife’s family property in Calaveras, according to Sal Manna, founder and president of the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History.
Sammis shortly after his arrival decided the family should begin processing their own olives, Manna said. That led to him and others forming the Rocca Bella Oil Association, which attracted olive growers for miles around the area.
An article in 1954 attributed the plant with producing 5 million cans of olives a year and it employed approximately 50 people.
In addition, Sammis held two patents for olive processing machines, Manna said.
Jeff Palm in 2005.
Foothill official faces charges in Sonora
A Foothill Fire Protection District official hopes to clear up
several pending charges when he makes a court appearance this week in
Jeffrey Brian Palm, 37, a director on the fire district’s board and its former chief, was booked Oct. 25 in Tuolumne County on suspicion of drug possession and weapons charges.
Palm said he was carrying his prescription medication in a zip
log bag and he has a permit for the weapon. He plans to submit his
doctor’s prescription and the weapons permit when he appears in court
Palm’s job is near Sonora, and the incident occurred when he
left work at approximately midnight Oct. 25. Palm said he stopped at the
Subaru dealership, located on Mono Way, to check the sticker price on a
car when a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s deputy stopped and asked what he
Palm said the deputy then asked him whether he was high and if he
would consent to a search. Palm said he consented and told the deputy
about the medication in his pocket. The deputy then asked if he could
search Palm’s vehicle and again Palm said he consented, telling the
deputy about the loaded weapon in the vehicle.
Palm said the original news item that appeared in the Oct. 30
issue of The Union-Democrat out of Sonora “basically reads a whole lot
worse than what it is.”
Palm was particularly concerned with the charge of carrying a
concealed weapon in a vehicle with a prior felony.
“I’ve never been in that kind of trouble with the law,” he
said. “I have no idea why it was on there that I had a prior felony,
but I’ve learned that there are at least 126 Jeff Palms in the state
of California and I wonder if I’m being confused with one of them.”
Usher in the holidays with “The Gift of Song” where The Stockton Portsmen Men’s Chorus will share the stage with the Mountain Melody Female Chorus of Calaveras on Dec. 14.
Ticket sales under way for "Ovations" series
Five performances plus a prelude holiday concert will be featured
this winter in the “Ovations” performing arts series of the
Calaveras County Arts Council.
For 28 years the non-profit arts agency has been presenting a
variety of high quality concerts to the residents of the Gold Country.
All of the performances will be in the Bret Harte Theatre, newly named
the Dr. Elliott Smart Performing Arts Center, at 323 Highway 49, Angels
Season Tickets for all six concerts are available now at $120;
Arts Council members are $105. Individual
concert tickets at $25 each will be available starting Nov. 19. Tickets
may be purchased online at www.highsierratickets.com.
There are reduced rates for children up to age 18 and for groups of 12
“Ovations” begins at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, with “Prelude
to the Season - The Gift of Song - A Holiday Concert for Families.”
Two 20-member choral groups will comprise this performance,
perfect for the season. Mountain Melody Women’s Chorus is recognized
for its soaring melodies and lush harmonies. The Stockton Portsmen will
shine with their tight barbershop-style harmonies and showmanship.
Singer and songwriter Peter Rowan his bluegrass band will perform
at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 11. Rowan is a “Chameleon of Musical Genres”
because of his limitless energy – for 36 years - singing, yodeling,
playing numerous stringed instruments and the saxophone. Mentored by the
great bluegrass artist Bill Monroe and mandolinist David Grisman, Rowan
is now a leading international performer and one of the great music
icons of the 21st century.
Cabaret songstress Wesla Whitfield will take the stage at 3 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 25.
Until recently, she sang cabaret for 20 years in San
Francisco’s Plush Room. Oprah Magazine called her “a phenomenal
woman” because of her life story, impeccable artistry and wit. She’s
been on numerous NPR programs. Her collaboration with
husband/pianist/arranger Mike Greensill has to be one of music’s
greatest pairings. They’ll be joined by a bassist and perform great
standards and neglected gems from the likes of Cole Porter, Irving
Berlin, and Rodgers and Hart.
“Duende Drama – Preserving Gold Rush Heritage through
Theatre” will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15.
Duende was founded 10 years ago by two Sonora theater artists to
bring to life the voices that made California what it is today. For
Ovations, two 45-minute original one-person plays will convey nearly
forgotten stories during the 1800’s. One tells the story of Chinese
immigration, hope and betrayal through the eyes of a girl disguised as a
boy; the other is about the native Me-Wuk people during the Gold Rush.
Raices de mi Tierra Folklorico Dance will entertain the audience
at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 8.
Intricate footwork, tight action-packed choreography, and
authentic dazzling costumes are the trademarks of this group of eight
couples who strive to preserve Latino traditions through dance. With
live musical accompaniment, this will be a high-energy, happy event
celebrating the roots of Mexico.
The Mother Lode Friends of Music Orchestra will perform at 3 p.m.
Saturday, March 28.
Experience the joy of a live, top-flight 60-member orchestra. The
irresistible program includes: Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of
Figaro, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, and Beethoven’s Symphony No.
7, op 92. Guest Conductor Andrei Gorbatenko from the San Francisco
Academy Orchestra will be on stage, along with violin soloists Florin
Parvulescu and Yun Jie Kiu with the San Francisco Symphony.
For information, call the Calaveras County Arts Council at (209)
754-1774, or visit www.calaverasarts.org.
Donn Marinovich, left, Mike Peccia and Dirk Stam with a replica Model 1840 Howitzer that was one of the weapons on display when the Marine Corps League Detachment 1080 celebrated the Marine’s 233rd Birthday Saturday in Valley Springs.
mark 233rd anniversary
Weapons dating back to the Revolutionary War were on display as
approximately 100 people attended Saturday’s local observance of the
Marine Corps’ 233rd birthday.
Marines, friends of the Marine Corps and members of all branches
of the services were on hand for the pre-Veterans Day event held at the
Jenny Lind Veterans Memorial Hall in Valley Springs and sponsored by the
Marine Corps League Detachment 1080.
The Marines were originally organized as the Continental Marines on Nov. 10, 1775, as a naval infantry. Saturday’s event included a musket dating back to 1777 and used by those original marines to fire from the fighting tops on the Continental Navy’s ships of war.
Other muskets and rifles dated back to 1780, 1816, 1819, 1863 and
The centerpiece of the display was the replica of a Model 1840
Howitzer used by the Marine Corps for 50 years stretching from 1840 to
Donn Marinovich and Dirk Stam of Tuolumne County re-created the
field piece from one that was issued to the state militia in Columbia in
The barrel of the original Howitzer is an artifact at Columbia
State Historic Park.
Marinovich and Stam belong to a militia re-creator group, the
Columbia Foot Dragoons.
“They wouldn’t let us play with the real one,” Marinovich
said, so they made one on their own.
They fire it a couple times a year. The Howitzer uses a six-pound
ball and a third of pound of black powder. It has a range of 900 yards
at maximum elevation.
The Model 1840 Howitzers were used on boats as secondary weapons
and proved especially valuable on land, as they could be easily taken
apart and loaded on several mules to be carried through rough terrain.