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9,000 feet of track for domestic & export rail loading in Imperial Valley.

• Container units for export and domestic shipping. • Bulk shipping in hopper, box cars, gondolas,

and flat cars for local and long haul distribution.

• Trucking Services to the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and beyond.

• Farm friendly shipping containers available for pick-up. • Feed, hay, grain, produce, industrial equipment & more!

We are centrally located 50 miles from Yuma, Blythe & the Mexicali/Baja gateway– – at the Mesquite Regional Landfill next to the gold mine.


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This facility DOES NOT ship hazardous waste.

ADDRESS 6330 E. Hwy. 78 PHONE (562)916-6099 WEB

Publishers' Message In the Imperial Valley, we rejoice when the harbingers of fall make a breezy appearance. To us, fall is akin to what spring is just about anywhere else. Once those brisk west winds start to blow, our senses awaken. We rouse from a summer stupor to witness the desert come back to life. Migrating birds begin to flock in. Tender green shoots emerge in farm fields and on neighborhood lawns almost overnight. And community activity shifts gear from tortoise pace to stallion's gallop. Fall is our season of new beginnings, a time when nature's bounty and human ingenuity provide a feast for the senses. At Imperial Valley Alive, we have an affinity for the season. Fall marks the start of our publication year and is a powerful reminder that dreams do come true. Hard as it is for us to believe, this fall marks the start of the fourth year

Bill Gay


the magazine has been in existence. This is the lucky 13th edition, for those who enjoy magic and miracles. That isn't us. Really. OK, we may knock on wood, occasionally, or tear at our hair during turbulent phases of the development of an edition or several. The success and growth of Alive are due to our incredible advertisers and our growing legion of readers. We are humbled and grateful for your support. It takes the work of a talented team of professionals to create each edition worth your reading. Yet ours is a labor of love because we get to photograph, write about and create a magazine about people who are endlessly fascinating in a unique hidden gem of a region. This fall edition is no exception. In these pages, you will read about Sparta Boxing Gym's George MuĂąoz, who teaches honor and hard work

Susan Giller

along with jabs to kids and pros alike. You will read about Bret Kofford, a full-time San Diego State University Imperial Valley English instructor who is also getting his screenplays produced. You can learn about the Cattle Call Rodeo's long history and growth as this year's event draws near. You can read about Bob Candland, an El Centro boy who grew up to keep his love of the Wild West alive by making and restoring vintage saddles. We actually started Alive as an experiment in community -- or community image -- building. We believed a magazine that would bring to life the vibrant, cultural richness and uniqueness of the region and its people, was the perfect antidote to those constant grumbles about what the Valley lacks. Four years ago, detractors gleefully placed bets on when we would run out of ideas for stories, fold up our tents and quit publishing. With this, the 13th edition, the Valley and Alive readers win another opportunity to read and experience what this vital region has to offer. And, with fall in the air, it is time to enjoy! ďƒŞ

Peggy Dale

Sue Gay

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Annual magazine


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Fill out the information and mail it and your check to: Reliance Public Relations, Inc., P.O. Box 1944, El Centro, CA 92244

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Volume 4, Number 1 EDITORS & PUBLISHERS Bill Gay Sue Gay Susan Giller Peggy Dale

CONTRIBUTORS Jayson Barniske Stefanie Campos Darren Simon

COVER PHOTO Sergio Bastidas

GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Alejandra Noriega Alejandra Pereida

Bob Candland talks about the history of saddle making at his shop in El Centro. - Photo by Joselito N. Villero

WEB DESIGNERS Jesus Uriarte Sergio Uriarte

SALES Bill Amidon Jayson Barniske Sue Gay John Lovecchio

SOCIAL MEDIA Marissa Bowers

CELEBRATE | PERSEVERE | From humble beginnings to training champs, Page 6 Patience pays off for writer, professor, Page 12

Cattle Call applauds Valley's Western past, present, Page 8

RESTORE | Tools, creativity spawn lauded career, Page 10

ADVERTISING 760-693-5330

SUBSCRIPTIONS Send name, address and email address along with $20.00 (plus tax) for annual subscription to:

Reliance Public Relations, Inc. P.O. Box 1944 • El Centro, CA 92244 IMPERIAL VALLEY ALIVE! is published quarterly by Reliance Public Relations, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical for any purpose without the written permission of Reliance Public Relations, Inc.


Fall 2019

ON THE COVER: George Muñoz goes over boxing moves with Jorge Zavala, 9, during a practice at Sparta Boxing Gym in El Centro. - Photo by Sergio Bastidas

HONOR | Hawaii trip is tribute to heroes, Page 14

INSIDE | Publishers' Message, Page 3 Visits to out-of-the-way places, Page 16 CASA needs volunteers,

Page 18 Brawley Scales, a Chamber business, Page 19 The Bistro celebrates first anniversary, Page 20 Calendar, Page 27

Bret Kofford, film script writer, plays with his dog, Shea, 2 years old, next to the poster “12 Dog Days Till Christmas¨ at his home in Imperial. He wrote the script for this movie. - Photo by Joselito N. Villero

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George Muñoz laces up the boxing glove for his nephew Joshua Muñoz at the start of class. - Photos by Sergio Bastidas


Muñoz By Jayson Barniske


The story of an underdog boxer would be a perfect fit for a box office hit, but in George Muñoz’s case, it wouldn’t even begin to describe his epic career through boxing. Muñoz’s inner battle between right and wrong began at an early age while growing up on the streets of East side El Centro in the early ‘90s. “One day a few friends and I walked into the boxing gym at the old Boys and Girls Club at Hamilton and Eighth streets. All the coaches turned us down because, back then, it was not common to train kids.” Muñoz explained how one coach took a chance and allowed him and his friends to put on gloves and get in the ring. The experience lit a fire in the young boxer’s heart and led him to win his professional debut at age 19. Unlike Hollywood, life rarely grants a clean and easy happy ending. At that point Fall 2019

A champ at training young boxers

in his life, Muñoz would fluctuate between life on the streets and the structured regimen of a professional boxer. Only months after his professional debut, during an incident in Imperial, Muñoz sustained head wounds in a shooting incident that killed Sammy Velez, his close friend. “After that, I wasn’t able to box. I was sick for a long time. My head was so swollen it looked like I had two heads, and I was afraid it was going to stay like that.” Years passed for Muñoz without being able to indulge in his beloved art of boxing until a few 12-year-old kids from his neighborhood approached him in pursuit of boxing lessons. Those requests led Muñoz to work with the Police Athletic League (PAL) in El Centro for a time. However, he soon learned resources to train young boxers in the Imperial Valley were insufficient at not only the PAL but at George Muñoz stands by one of the punching bags used to train young boxers every local gym. “I started training about six kids out of my at Sparta Boxing Gym in El Centro.

house, taking them to tournaments in the area. I still have contact with all of them to this day. Now they are super old.” Muñoz chuckled as he humbly described the beginning of his career as a boxing coach. “One kid, about to turn pro, asked me to train him, and I started training him out of my house. This kid was really good; at the time, he was better than Andy Ruiz,” referring to the recent world heavyweight champion and Valley native. “The next day I had 30 kids lined up outside my door wanting to train.” Kids would spar on the grass at Muñoz’s home on Sixth Street and Commercial Avenue in El Centro. He hung a tarp to cover eight punching bags at the makeshift gym. “I used to be afraid that my neighbors would complain, but what actually happened, they sent their kids to my house to train. I trained all of them.” Muñoz would never charge because he did not want the kids to have to make a commitment. Out of the 30 young adults he trained out of his home, 20 ended up competing professionally. Eventually, Muñoz teamed up with El Centro police officer and Police Athletic League boxing coach Fernando Lara. “With PAL, we were able to start traveling and competing. We had the

George Muñoz calls out instruction during a drill on the heavy bags. biggest boxing team in the state of California competing in the Junior Olympic Competition. There were over 25 kids with sanctioned books to fight.” Ten years ago, Muñoz opened Sparta Boxing at 398 Broadway in El Centro. Just a small side note about Muñoz and Sparta, Andy Ruiz learned to box here and he occasionally returns to train, too! “We have had several fighters make the

U.S. Junior Olympic Team. Five years ago, we had the biggest female team in the entire U.S. competing in that competition with 10 fighters ranked in the top three in the nation at their weight class.” When Muñoz began training kids at his home, many of them were his nephews. When he had his own children, they obviously wanted to train with their father, CONTINUED | PAGE 36

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A cowboy competes against the clock to stay on the back of a bucking horse in one of the featured events at the annual Cattle Call Rodeo in Brawley. - Photos by Jon Archer

Cattle Call

Annual event celebrates Valley's pioneering spirit, history

By Darren Simon


With a crisp westerly wind on an early October morning ushering in the first signs of fall, excitement starts to build as the annual event approaches that celebrates the pioneering spirit and Western heritage upon which the Imperial Valley was founded. That event is the Cattle Call Rodeo, which is now in its 63rd year and is very much woven into the Valley’s historic tapestry, bringing together people from across the Valley and beyond to enjoy the sport of rodeo. But more than that, say members of the Cattle Call Rodeo Committee, the rodeo connects young and old from those enjoying their 63rd rodeo to those experiencing their first rodeo, and it is one more reminder of the Valley’s uniqueness. “On the two days of the rodeo, you Fall 2019

Cowgirls and cowboys ride into the rodeo arena to begin the Cattle Call pageantry. go out to the Cattle Call arena and you see generations of families together enjoying the rodeo,” said rodeo committee Chairman Carson Kalin,

whose mother, Louise Wiley, was a founding member of the committee back in 1957. This year’s rodeo will be held Nov. 9

and 10 with performances at 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, 1 p.m. on Sunday. Some of the best riders and ropers from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRCA) will be competing during the three rodeo performances, highlighting the thrills and excitement of each rodeo event: saddle bronc and bareback riding to bull riding, steer wrestling to tie down roping, team penning and women’s barrel racing. And this year, Cattle Call Rodeo will host the finals of the Southern California Rough Stock Series where cowboys who have competed in rough stock events — saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding and steer wrestling — at rodeos throughout the southern part of the state will have a chance to win additional bonus money based on their cumulative points and success in Brawley. “Cattle Call is the real deal when it comes to professional rodeo, and the Rough Stock Series is a great addition,” Kalin said. “When it comes to the sport of rodeo, the cowboys and cowgirls want to come here and win. No one holds back. They are out there giving their all.”

A young rider doggedly clings to a racing sheep to compete in the crowd-favorite muttonbusting event. Anyone who attends the rodeo for the first time will very quickly learn just what a fun time it is. When Kalin enters the arena and fires off his rifle, the explosive sound signals the start of the wild time. It starts with the first event where teams compete to be the first to saddle and climb atop a bucking horse.

Then, there are events designed for children, including the dollar dig where children under age 10 compete in a treasure hunt inside the arena, and mutton busting where children between the ages of 5 and 8 try to stay on the back of a racing sheep. CONTINUED | PAGE 34

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Bob Candland preserves the beauty of history by working with vintage saddles. - Photos by Joselito N. Villero

Bob Candland

El Centro native creates destiny in leather

By Stefanie Campos


Like the cowboys of yesteryear, Bob Candland’s journey to his homestead is full of twists and turns. He may not have fought the elements on horseback, but his own manifest destiny has brought him from his Imperial Valley roots outward bound and back again, settling in El Centro and realizing a business that joins his love of history and leatherwork. He is the only saddle maker with a niche in restoration and repair between East County San Diego and Yuma. Sporting a white cowboy hat, dark turquoise shirt, and requisite blue jeans, Candland is at ease in his Tombstone Leather Co. workshop. All around is evidence of his handiwork: purses, a row of belts, saddles regally Bob Candland uses a round-head knife to cut a piece of cowhide. Fall 2019

History lives in art

Harnesses, belts, saddles and other essentials for cowboys line Bob Candland's workshop. sitting near each other just waiting to be admired. Along the back wall is a plethora of tools of the trade. The air is misted with the aroma of fresh leather. It’s a place where a genuine cowboy could feel at home. Born in Calexico, raised in El Centro and graduated from Central Union High School, Candland joined the U.S. Navy and served for 10 ½ years. After his stint in the Navy, he tried his hand as a photographer and writer for the “La Jolla Light.” Candland changed careers and worked in law enforcement until his tinkering with leather drove him West. Candland was destined to

open a store for his handicrafts, and he searched for the perfect location. “I looked all over the West for a place to put it, and Tombstone was a pretty good choice,” said the 73-year-old. There, he sold everything from belts to Long John Pajamas in a building that was built in 1910. His clients included Kevin Jarr, the screenwriter of “Tombstone” and “Glory,” and actors Richard Farnsworth and Johnny Depp. He owned his own newspaper in Tombstone as well. He has film CONTINUED | PAGE 38

Former history teacher and leather artisan Bob Candland of El Centro combines the two in providing saddles and western regalia that is both of high quality and historical accurate. From the small stand of Arbuckles cowboy coffee that dates back to 1865, to a remarkable find of a Texas Hope Saddle Tree that dates to 1860, he is at ease talking about either one. “Before the digital age, especially in 1915 back to the 1880s, you could look at a cowboy and you could tell where he was from by his saddle, his spurs, his leggings or chaps, his mode of dress, the hat that he wore,” explains Candland. He points to the first saddle that he ever made. He explains that “this is the type of the saddle (the cowboy) would tie hard and fast on,” a process used when roping out in the rugged West. He lists the specifications in Western jargon that could easily be lost on a layman. He is excited about the slight wear that denotes its history. “For me,” he explains, “it’s quite a find.” Candland works in restoration and historical accuracy, but also creates new pieces, from saddles to hand stamping journals (the U.S. Border Patrol has put his work in its national museum). If you’re interested in an original piece or in repair and restoration, contact Candland at bcandland@

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Bret Kofford (above) in his home office where he pounds out screenplays. - Photos by Joselito N. Villero



Writes scripts to light up the screen

By Susan Giller


Few would deny that Bret Kofford is a character, least of all the cast of characters that crowd the stories he’s eager to share whenever there’s a chance. And there are many. His stories flow as he engages with the students who enter his classroom at San Diego State University Imperial Valley, where he is a full-time English instructor. They liberally pepper the weekly column he writes in the Imperial Valley Press, often making readers chuckle or cringe. Recently, his penchant for sharing his stories has drawn even wider notice. A full-length movie, “Christmas in July” for which Kofford wrote the original screenplay, was featured in September at the 16th annual Knoxville Film Festival in Tennessee. The film’s presentation was sponsored by Carson-Newman University. And a short film he co-wrote, titled “OK! Silexatana,” recently won awards for Best Debut Filmmaker and Outstanding Achievement as Best Short Film and is a finalist for Best Women’s Film at the Calcutta Cult Film Festival. The sevenminute film follows the funny misadventures of a naive tech nerd talking with her electronics assistants about a company meeting location. The film explores the question of whether Fall 2019

The publicity poster for "Ok! Silexatana," a short film for which Kofford co-wrote the screenplay. modern technology and e-assistants are taking over our lives. Witty, engaging and always eager to talk, Kofford concedes, “I think I’ve always been a storyteller. I grew up surrounded by stories. My dad was a storyteller, too.” He is convinced his penchant for storytelling helps reach his students. “My students like me to tell stories. I think that the key to being a good teacher is if you can engage students with practical life stories to make it (the subject) relevant.” He may have a point. He has won the most outstanding full-

time faculty member award by a vote of the student body every year for at least a decade. Yet it is when he’s quiet that his muse turns to writing screenplays. The alchemy takes place in those hours he spends holed up in his home office with little but his ideas, a well-used computer and a couple of snoozing dogs. “Since I was a little kid, I loved going to the theater,” he said. “I remember being so wrapped up in the experience that nothing else mattered. I want to create that experience for others.” Typical Kofford, he has a story about that. As a child, he and his older brothers went to see “Old Yeller.” “I loved it. I got so caught up in the movie, I bawled,” he said. “My brothers were so embarrassed they actually stuffed me under the seats.” He cut his screenplay writing chops in the mid-1980s when he and his brother wrote an episode of “Sledge Hammer!” It is a satirical police sitcom series that ran for two seasons and has become something of a cult classic. Kofford has been writing screenplays regularly for about 15 years and has had a couple of other movies, including “12 Dogs of Christmas” and some TV

Bret Kofford with Shea, an Australian shepherd, and Bobby, a maltipoo, who often shadow him while he works on screenplays. episodes produced. During that time, he’s also developed a lot of valuable industry connections who have helped his career. He’s honed his laser-sharp memory for the details needed to breathe life into his

characters. And he has used his other superpower talent, his insatiable curiosity. “I’m a snoop,” he said. “I’m always listening to how people talk around me. I don’t CONTINUED | PAGE 40

Fall 2019



Navy representatives Dave Werner and Jim Neuman from the public affairs office of Commander Pacific Fleet show Bill Gay (far left) the outline of the May 21, 1944, explosions at Pearl Harbor's West Loch that destroyed six Landing Ship Tanks including LST 480. The 480's wreckage can be seen across the channel. Far right is host Jeffery Johns of the Naval Magazine Pearl Harbor. - Photo by Sue Gay

LST 480

Ship played significant role in author's book 'Unseen Body Blows'

By Bill Gay


Pearl Harbor has many famous wrecks and relics of World War 2. The most famous, of course, is the USS Arizona. And now it has a neighbor, the battleship USS Missouri, where Japan signed surrender documents in Tokyo Bay in 1945. Visitors in one photo can today take a single picture of the symbols representing the beginning and end of World War 2. But several miles away, in a remote part of Pearl Harbor is another, lesser-known, wreck: the former USS LST 480. It was one of six LSTs destroyed May 21, 1944, in explosions that killed more than 160 members of the armed forces. Thanks to the public affairs office of the Pacific Fleet, my wife and I were treated to a special visit there in August. Our vantage point was from the Naval (Ammunition) Magazine Pearl Harbor in a part of the harbor known as West Loch, which contains a memorial to the 1944 disaster. We were interested in seeing the wreckage because the earlier career of LST 480 played a significant role in my recently finished book about LST 479, Fall 2019

A diagram on signage at the West Loch Naval magazine memorializing "The Second Pearl Harbor" shows the locations of the LSTs when the explosions occurred. - Photo by Bill Gay “Unseen Body Blows.” The 480 had been commissioned just after the 479 at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, Calif. and they had participated together in the Kiska, Gilberts and Marshalls campaigns. The 480 and the 479 rescued crews of two sinking smaller ships at the height of a

major Alaskan storm. The explosions that destroyed the 480 and the other five ships are today known as “The Second Pearl Harbor.” But until the 1960s, the incident was not discussed at all. And in 1945, it was virtually covered up because the destroyed ships were

The remains of LST 480 sit along the shoreline of West Loch as a silent memorial to "The Second Pearl Harbor." - Photo by Sue Gay among dozens in West Loch that day that were fully loaded for the invasion of Saipan. The six lost LSTs were quickly replaced, and the invasion happened on schedule. West Loch is one of three “fingers” that make up Pearl Harbor. East Loch is the most famous: it is the home of the Arizona, Missouri and today’s Naval vessels that are stationed or make port calls there. The most remote of the three is West Loch. It is home to the Naval (Ammunition) Magazine Pearl Harbor. During World War 2, the magazine was there, and the waters were also packed with many of the new landing ships that had been developed after the war started. LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks) were designed to do something no other naval vessel would do on purpose: run aground. These ships could deposit lots of troops and lots of heavy equipment, such and tanks, directly onto a beach. They also acted as hospital ships, ammunition carriers, fuel depots, and supply ships. That meant they also carried volatile cargo. West Loch also was home during the war to the remains of the USS Oklahoma. The battleship had capsized during the Dec. 7 attack. After being righted, it had been towed to West Loch, where it became a mooring area for the LSTs operating there. On May 21, 1944, LST 480 was moored in a “nest” of other fully combat-loaded LSTs. Members of the 532nd Field Artillery Battalion had boarded the ship. The cargo aboard the 480 (and the other vessels) included 1,620 rounds of 155mm ammunition. These rounds were tucked under false wooden decking on both sides of the lower “tank” deck. Twelve 2.5 ton DUKW Amphibian trucks were also on the tank deck, including one that was loaded with a smaller 1⁄4-ton truck. The cargo also included four tractors and a bulldozer. Above on the weather deck, the load included small arms ammunition, 55-gallon drums of gasoline and diesel fuel, oil, and water, and twelve other trucks of varying sizes as well as a oneton trailer and ship’s crane. There also was housing from troops. The cause of the explosions is not known. Speculation is that someone may have been smoking near drums of gasoline aboard LST 39 that was nested nearby as the outboard ship at Tier 8. Secondary explosions ignited loads on four other combat-loaded LSTs at Tier 8. The 480 was moored at Tier 9 and also got caught in the ensuing destruction. Today the remains of LST 480 rest where the ship was grounded in the disaster. For the past 75 years, it has sat as a hidden monument to the second-worst and mostly forgotten disaster in Pearl Harbor history.  Fall 2019


Sue Gay looks out over Honolulu toward Diamond Head as Lyft driver and impromptu tour guide Kristi Lowry points out landmarks. Photo by Bill Gay

Visits to out-of-the-way places


By Bill Gay Kristi Lowry had a successful career in Hawaii’s tourism industry before she decided to embark on ventures on her own. When Sue and I decided to play “tourist” for a week this summer on Oahu, we did


Fall 2019

not have the foggiest idea of how we would get around or what we would see on this vacation to celebrate our 50th Anniversary. At the start, we had only two things on the sightseeing list: LST 480 in Pearl Harbor and a luau. To fill in the rest of the time, we bought a

Frommer’s “Honolulu & Oahu Day by Day” tour book. That’s because we hadn’t met Kristi yet. The concierge desk at the Hale Koa Hotel first connected us with this very knowledgeable and friendly Lyft driver. Her first mission was to take us to a restaurant near Pearl Harbor, where we were to link up with some Navy public affairs folks who would take us the rest of the way to West Loch and LST 480. More about that in a minute. But on the outbound leg, we asked Kristi if she would like to play tour guide over the next few days. It turned out to be the best investment we made on the trip. We also

quickly learned she is an avid Broncos fan and was very excited about the potential stardom this year of Imperial High School graduate Royce Freeman. Being from Royce’s home area put us on an even keel immediately. First on tap was the obligatory circular trip of the island. Both Sue and I had made the trip before, but in a rented car with a Hawaii novice at the wheel. This trip was different. No novice this time. Our first stop was an out-of-the-way place on the rural North Shore that was part of Hawaii’s once-flourishing sugar trade that disappeared years ago. It is now a market place and the home of Old Sugar Mill Brand Waialua Coffee and Waialua Estate Hawaii Chocolate. After taking an initial look at the Factory Store there that is filled with coffee, macadamia nuts, chocolate, coffee cups, and other potential souvenirs, Wailani Pascua, a worker there, took us out the back door for a tour of coffee making. Inside, we had a taste test of the final product. This stop was a unique highlight of the circular tour that ended up just below Diamond Head and some photos of windsurfing. Our next excursion with Kristi was two days later. On this one, we visited a rain forest above Honolulu that offers spectacular views – and photo opportunities — of Diamond Head and the Oahu coastline to Pearl Harbor. Pu'u Ualaka'a is a deeply forested area that is a far cry from the crowded metropolitan region of Honolulu it overlooks. It is actually a volcanic cinder cone with lush plant life. There is a trail through the forest that its website says is “more of a short walk than a hike.” Pu’u Ualaka’a is part of the Ko’olau Mountains, a dramatic volcanic backdrop to Honolulu that eons ago created some of the most famous landmarks on the island. The last eruptions occurred between 300,000 and 150,000 years ago, producing Diamond Head, Koko Head, and the Punchbowl — now home to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Standing at an outlook in those mountains gives visitors a broad look that offers spectacular views – and photo opportunities — of Diamond Head and the Oahu coastline from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor. We learned from signage there that Pu’u ’Ualaka’a translates into a more pronounceable definition: “Hill of the rolling sweet potato.” The fertile soil in these cinder cones was ideal for growing sweet potatoes in the 1700s. In the 1800s, sandalwood trees from there were harvested for export to China, and others were cut down for use as fuel for whaling ships. After the obligatory photo opp there, Kristi drove us down to the Punchbowl. This National Cemetery is the burial site for thousands of American soldiers and sailors. Gravesites there include famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle who was killed in World War 2 in the Okinawa campaign. His grave is located between two other modest graves of unknowns. 

Lyft driver Kristi Lowry shows some plant life in the rain forest area in the mountains above Honolulu. - Photo by Sue Gay Fall 2019



Volunteers needed to make a difference

A CASA of Imperial County volunteer can give a child a voice and hope when his or her world has been turned upside down due to abuse or neglect. A CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate, is a child’s advocate in court and is often the one constant adult in the child’s life who cares only for him or her. CASA of Imperial County needs volunteers willing to make a difference in a child’s life. For Ricardo Martinez, a CASA case supervisor, volunteers are essential because their work changes lives and builds futures, sometimes even their own. “It’s rewarding to know you’ve helped a family during a tough time,” said Jeannette Johnson, a CASA volunteer for three years. “Friendships are made.” The four children she had worked with for two years were recently permanently reunified with their family. “That final day in court, there was a lot of crying, a lot of hugging. It was a beautiful day,” she said. The judge’s decision was based in part on Johnson’s recommendation for the children. “As a CASA, I feel I am the judge’s eyes and ears,” she said. “I give recommendations based on what I see about what is best for the children.” Yet Martinez said there are still hundreds of children who have been removed from their homes in cases of abuse and neglect who need CASA volunteers. Currently CASA of Imperial County has a caseload of 540 children and an additional 62 cases on tribal land. There are only about 70 current CASA volunteers, so CASA of Imperial County is eager to recruit more. Volunteers need not have special skills, other than a willingness to help children. Martinez said college students, retirees or any adults interested in being there and advocating for an abused or neglected child are encouraged to apply. Volunteers need a car, a driver’s license and car insurance. Volunteers must pass a criminal background check. Volunteers receive 30 hours of training, half in person and half online before they are assigned a case. Johnson, who worked as a therapeutic behavior coach before becoming a CASA volunteer, said, “I saw the need on the other side. The kids really look forward to seeing their CASA.” Martinez was a college student studying criminal justice when he became a CASA volunteer in 2010. He has seen time and again the powerful impact the program has on children and volunteers. “Becoming a CASA opened my eyes to things I didn’t know were possible, the impact I could have,” he said. “It changed my career path.” He joined the CASA staff in 2014 and is now studying law. 

To become a CASA volunteer, sign up at


Fall 2019

Brawley Scale

History and service

Brawley Scale, LLC, at 4722 Highway 111 on the city’s eastern edge, has a history of serving its community. The property had been owned by Elayne Doran and her late husband, Mike, since the mid-1970s, although there wasn’t always a scale there. “One of the tenants put the scale in and when they left, we took it over” with the goal of finding another tenant to run the scale, Elayne Doran said. “We stayed there for 25 years and never looked for another tenant until we began to ‘age out,’” she said. As the couple eyed retirement, they moved to San Diego while looking for someone to take over the business. They didn’t have to look far. The couple turned to Ira Reisin, a former tenant with whom they had become close friends. Reisin had operated his company, Desert Metal, on the Dorans’ property before moving it to another site. He wasn’t at the new site long before Mike Doran raised the idea of selling Brawley Scale to Reisin. “Mike called me and said he dreamed he had sold the business and property to me,” Reisin said, but Reisin initially felt the time wasn’t right. A few days later Reisin dreamed he had purchased the property from Mike Doran. Once he told the Dorans of his own dream, things moved quickly. “Mike was determined I would be the one to take over the business,” Reisin said. “I felt honored he wanted me to take over the reins.” “Public scales are so important to the community,” Elayne Doran said, and serve a different purpose than the state-owned scales seen along state roadways. Brawley Scale’s main focus is the agricultural community. It shares a street with Brawley-area coolers and weighs a lot of produce and other ag products, such as hay, Reisin said. Reisin, son of area physician Dr. Sol Reisin, said he comes from a family of business owners. He has been a member of the Brawley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for the past two years, crediting chamber director Katie Luna and her work ethic for his decision to accept the board position. “Under Katie’s leadership, she reaches out,” Reisin said. “She wants the Chamber to grow and wants Brawley to grow as a business community.” 

Ira Reisin sits in his office at Brawley Scale. - Photo by Peggy Dale Fall 2019



Artisan Bistro

The Bistro, which is celebrating its first anniversary at 123 W. Barioni Blvd. in Imperial, is a full-service restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays. And while pizza – with fresh dough made daily, handstretched to perfection and coated with homemade pomodoro sauce and other fresh ingredients– is one of its specialties, Mozzarelli’s menu is full of tantalizing selections.


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Think Mozzarelli Artisan Bistro in Imperial is just about pizza? Think again.

Breakfast offerings include the everpopular avocado toast (two eggs, choice of olive artisan or sourdough breads with bacon and house potatoes on the side), classic pancakes and the signature peaches and candied bacon pancakes. For Alex King, general manager of StrikeZone, the bowling center in El Centro, and Mozzarelli Artisan Bistro, his favorite breakfast is one that hasn’t caught on yet but should: homemade cornbread

sliced in half and toasted, then covered with fried or poached eggs and “drowned” in fresh tomatillo sauce. “It’s delicious,” King said. Diners can kick off their lunch or dinner with a free appetizer of pita chips with pomodoro sauce, what King called the “simplest of tomato sauces, made with fresh Roma tomatoes and some light seasoning.” The pomodoro sauce goes on the pizzas as well. Pizzas are most popular at Mozzarelli Artisan Bistro, which recently introduced a thin crust pizza option. Also on the lunch and dinner menus are soups of the day, made from scratch -- tomato, cream of mushroom and roasted bell pepper. A 100 percent vegan portabello burger “is a great alternative to a hamburger when you don’t want to eat meat,” said King. “On the flip side is our pork belly tacos. They’re really good. Then we have our pork belly hoagie and just added fresh chimichurri to our steak hoagie.” Mozzarelli got its start in 2014 when ARC Imperial Valley opened Mozzarelli Pizza and Gelato in El Centro. It opened as Mozzarelli Artisan Bistro in July 2018 in Worthington Square in the heart of Imperial. Restaurant hours are 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. 

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Imperial County Behavioral Health Services

Telepsychiatry Program expands Behavioral Health accessibility


elepsychiatry Services are helping Imperial County Behavioral Health Services better serve clients throughout the county. Telepsychiatry, a type of mental health service conducted through real-time interactive audio and video, has been used in metropolitan areas for some time. For Imperial County Behavioral Health Services, the program debuted department-wide in August 2018. It has grown since then to 20 telepsychiatry sites throughout Imperial County. “The telepsychiatry program allows us to have flexibility while having more providers,” said Children’s Services Behavioral Health Manager Jose Lepe. Onsite psychiatrists continue to see patients face to face, but because the need for medication support services continue to grow, the department does not have sufficient on-site psychiatrists to meet the growing demand. “Telepsychiatry services allow us to provide the necessary services by highly qualified professionals, even in remote parts of the county, eliminating the need for doctors to travel to those areas,” Lepe said. With the limited time of on-site doctors, a faceto-face appointment will take time to arrange, while telepsychiatry allows Behavioral Health Services to arrange for convenient, more readily available appointments. “The main reason behind

the use of telepsychiatry is that it increases our availability of services,” said Behavioral Health Manager Brenda Sanchez. Imperial County is an underserved area where it may take an hour or more for patients to travel to an appointment to see a doctor face-to-face. “With telemedicine, accessibility has expanded, and the delivery of mental health services has become more efficient,” said Lepe. Patients or parents whose children receive services don’t have to drive from one area of the county to the nearest clinic with an on-site doctor, he said. Instead, clients who need to be seen sooner can access a doctor via telemedicine in the community where they reside. “The client may save up to two hours of travel time,” Lepe said. The same applies for on-site doctors who normally would travel to outlying areas, such as Winterhaven or the northern reaches of the county, Lepe and Sanchez said. With telemedicine, “The doctor is logged in from his office, the nurse is logged in from the

“This has been helpful because the doctor is able to see my son sooner and if an appointment is needed, Dr. Rizvi is accommodating.”


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client’s location, and the client can be seen immediately,” Sanchez said. The patient admission process remains the same, said Sanchez. “Clients come in for an assessment and, once medication support services are recommended, they are provided the option of seeing an on-site doctor or a telepsychiatrist,” she said. “Clients and parents are given educational material and we answer any questions they may have,” Sanchez said. “If they choose to be seen by a telepsychiatrist, a consent form is completed and signed, and then an appointment is made,” she said. “Some patients have been more accepting of telepsychiatry services than others”, said Nursing Supervisor Belinda Davila. Davila is one of the nurses who remain with patients throughout the appointment to answer questions and help the patient feel at ease as well as to assist the doctor as needed. “In the beginning, some patients are nervous or anxious, but once they get to meet the doctor, see how the service runs, then they’re OK,,” Davila said. Perhaps because they’re more familiar with technology, it is the children who seem to adjust more easily to being seen

“At first, I was hesitant because it was brand new to me, but the staff explained and guided me through the entire process. Now, I and my son don’t even notice that we are talking to the doctor on the screen.”

by a doctor who appears on a TV screen or computer monitor, Davila and Lepe said. Rapport is built quickly. “Once the patient gets the experience, they sometimes forget the doctor is on the screen,” Lepe said. Davila said as a nurse who is present throughout the appointment, she hasn’t seen much resistance from patients. Davila and the other nurses interact with the doctors and patients throughout the appointment, which helps put patients and family members present at ease. Davila said telepsychiatry services are proving to be beneficial to Behavioral Health Services and its clients. “Each telepsychiatrist has their own caseload,” Davila said. “The telepsychiatrists know their patients, and they’re only a text, email or phone call away at any time.” Despite not having a physical presence, “Our telepsychiatrists are still a big part of Imperial County Behavioral Health Nursing Supervisor Belinda Davila takes blood pressure at the Brawley Children’s Outpatient Clinic. On the screen in the background is telepsychiatrist Dr. Rizvi, who sees Imperial County patients from his office in Philadelphia.

“This program has allowed me to have more accessibility to doctors because I know that at times in this county resources are limited.” our treatment team,” Davila said. “They maintain close communication with the rest of our team members, case managers, and nurses.” With telepsychiatry, each site provides a screen so patients can easily see the doctor throughout the appointment. An adjustable camera allows the doctor to view the patient as soon as they enter the room in order to give a more thorough evaluation. Professional quality lighting and sound add to the ambiance. As new centers are brought on-line throughout the county, features designed

to make the patient as comfortable as possible – like a spacious room with comfortable furniture and large-screen monitors – are being included. The sessions are conducted through Zoom, a secure videoconferencing program. Documents such as lab reports are scanned into the patient’s files or are transmitted to the doctor remotely through a HIPAA-compliant, secure communications software platform used by health professionals to protect patients’ privacy. HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 developed to protect the privacy and security of sensitive health information. “Behavioral Health is always looking for innovative practices,” said Sanchez, “ways to improve the care we provide to the community. Telemedicine has helped us achieve that goal.” 

202 N. Eighth St. • El Centro, CA 92243 For an appointment or assessment please call: 800.817.5292 • 442.265.1525

Fall 2019



Joint replacement care now Center of Excellence

The Center for Joint Replacement at Pioneers is a certified Center of Excellence that specializes in total knee, hip and shoulder replacement. Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District has long provided quality surgical procedures and services for joint replacement, but only has it recently pursued designation as a Center of Excellence by the DNV. The DNV is the most prestigious management system used today and the most widely accepted international management system used throughout the world. The Center for Joint Replacement at Pioneers is the only designated Center of Excellence medical facility in the Imperial Valley, said Dr. Christopher C. Lai, part of its medical team and a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. In addition to Lai, the center’s team of medical professionals is comprised of board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Veerinder S. Anand and George Zamora, program manager and boardcertified nurse practitioner. Lai credits Zamora for the center’s designation of excellence. “George has been teaching a pre-op class that has been very beneficial to patients. They come in with less anxiety and are more prepared for what is to come – pain management, physical therapy, hospital release and an (at-home) exercise program,” Lai said. “About three years ago George realized we could become a Center of Excellence. We already had good results and a lot of the requirements were in place.”


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Christopher Lai, MD

George Zamora, MSN, NP-C, ONC

Veerinder S. Anand, MD

To become a Center of Excellence, standardized protocol and procedures are required for surgeons and staff to follow, such as pain management, anesthesia and post-operative procedures, Lai said. “It’s easier for patients and nurses and better for the patient’s outcome,” Lai said. The designation isn’t an easy one to earn, Lai said, and the center must maintain quality programs and procedures to requalify annually. Knee joint replacements makes up the majority of surgeries – about 70 percent -- performed at the center, Lai said. He said the importance of physical therapy in a patient’s recovery cannot be stressed enough. “Physical therapy, for me, is the crucial part of rehabilitation for the patient,” said Lai. “I tell them, that’s what they signed up for; they have to do their exercises or end up with less than satisfactory results.” Education is key, and patients can be reassured they are not taking this journey alone. Zamora and the center’s staff guide patients through the entire process of total joint replacement, from preparing for surgery through their completion of rehabilitation. 

Fall 2019



Fall 2019

Oktoberfest at Desert Trails RV Park and Golf Course.

Calendar of Events OCTOBER October 23 20th Annual Fall Mixer 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Sun Community Federal Credit Union, 1080 S. Brawley Ave., Brawley.

The information included in the print version of Imperial Valley Alive! is what was available by publication deadline. Visit our calendar online at and submit your event information.

Join the Imperial Valley Joint Chambers of Commerce for the 20th annual Fall into the Season Mixer. Festivities include: hors d'oeuvres, no-host bar, networking and prizes. So all Imperial Valley Chamber members: grab some business cards and don't miss out on the excitement!

October 24 Farmers' Market & Street Fair 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Holtville. Live music will be provided by Big Bad Wolf.

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Calexico Art Walk.

October 24 60th Annual Fall Festival Palate & Palette - Craft Beer & Wine Tasting 7:00 p.m to 10:00 p.m., Sts. Peter & Paul Episcopal Church, 528 S. 5th St., El Centro. Sts. Peter & Paul Episcopal Church invites you to their 60th Annual Fall Festival dedicated to all who help make the Imperial Valley a good place to live! There will be Craft Beers, Wine Tasting, Cheese and Pates, Art Show and NonAlcoholic Punch. Thursday, October 24, 2019 from 7-10 p.m. at Sts. Peter & Paul Episcopal Church in El Centro. Tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased by contacting Elise


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Heald (760) 352-0110, Frances Rice (760) 3572442 or Mary Anne Hilderbrant (760) 473-1985.

October 26 Heber Fall Fiesta 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Tito Huerta Park, 1165 Palm Ave., Heber. Join Heber Public Utility District for its Annual Heber Fall Fiesta! The Fall Fiesta will be held Saturday, October 26th at Tito Huerta Park, 1165 Palm Ave in Heber. Parade starts at 3:00 PM on the corner of Heber Avenue and Hawk Avenue ending at Tito Huerta Park Fiesta. The parade route circles Tito Huerta Park, and has

changed from last year. Vendor opportunities are available for this community based event.

October 27 Marine Band National Concert Tour 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Imperial Valley College, 380 E. Aten Road, Imperial. This concert is part of the 2019 U.S. Marine Band National Tour of the West Coast and is sponsored by IVC. The concert is free, but tickets are required. Tickets are limited to 4 per request and are available one month prior to the performance at marineband.ticketleap. com. Seating is opened to the standby line thereafter. Concert will take place at the DePaoli Sports Complex.

NOVEMBER November 1 & 2 10th annual Environmental Health Leadership Summit 6 p.m. Nov. 1, 3 p.m. Nov. 2, Imperial Valley College, 380 E. Aten Road, Imperial. Comite Civico’s Annual “Environmental Health Leadership Summit” is one of the most progressive events in the region that brings community together to discuss environmental and public health issues affecting disadvantaged communities throughout California.

November 2 Walk to End Alzheimer's-Imperial County 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., Bucklin Park, 1350 S. 8th St, El Centro. Join us at the Walk to End Alzheimer's, the world's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's care, support and research. The Imperial County community will come together to advance the fight against the disease. It is free to register at

November 2 Chili Cook-off 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Main Street and Plaza Park, Brawley. The best chili in the West can be found at the Cattle Call Chili Cook-off. Join us for chili, music, performances, and more.

November 4 Cattle Call Kickoff Mixer 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Smith-Kandal Real Estate, 510 W. Main St., Brawley.

November 6 Mariachi Night 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Main Street and Plaza, Brawley. Bring the entire family to enjoy an evening of fun with great food, beer and a variety of local singers showing off their talents singing Mexican traditional ballads. Fall 2019


November 9

November 10

Cattle Call Parade 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Main Street, Brawley. The parade will be led by a grand marshal; includes equestrian units, decorated floats, great local bands and a multitude of individual entries to entertain your entire family! Don't miss out on seeing all the excitement with food vendors, toys, kettle corn and more!

Salton Sea 400 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Brawley Inn, 575 W. Main St., Brawley. Motor-Scooter International presents the Salton Sea 400 mile X-treme Endurance Race. More info at events/256416414/

November 9 & 10 Brawley Cattle Call Rodeo 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 9 and 1 p.m. Nov. 10, Cattle Call Arena, Cattle Call Drive, Brawley. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Associationsanctioned Cattle Call Rodeo features bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, calf roping, saddle bronc riding, and more.

November 9

McCabe School Halloween Carnival.


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15th Annual Lost Lizard Off-Road Fun Run 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Superstition Mountain OHV Open Area, 6.5 mile marker on Wheeler Road, El Centro. Presented by San Diego Off-Road Coalition. Five checkpoints with fun games, great prizes for best, second best, and worst hand. Giant raffle and great food! Tickets at

November 11 6th Annual Imperial County Veterans Day Parade 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., City of Holtville, Holtville.

November 15 Air Show Gala Fashion Show & Ladies Night 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Preview and purchase the hottest trends in fashion, shoes and accessories. Get tips and demonstrations from professionals on hair and makeup; perfect for the Chamber's Annual Air Show Gala. Pre-sale tickets are $25 and will be available soon at the Chamber. For more information email Julissa Ayala at julissa@

November 16 The Lights Music Festival 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., Superstition Mountain, 3400 Wheeler Road, Imperial. Get ready for the second annual The Lights Music Festival, an all-day festival with live acoustic music, local food vendors, and fun activities for the kids.

DECEMBER December 7 31st Annual Christmas in a Small Town 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 612 S. J St., Suite 7, downtown Imperial. There will be a visit by Santa Claus along with pony rides, crafts and food vendors. Sponsored by the Imperial Chamber of Commerce. Admission is free.

December 7 74th Annual El Centro Christmas Parade 9:45 a.m. to noon, downtown El Centro. Join the El Centro Chamber, Los Vigilantes and the City of El Centro as we celebrate the Christmas Spirit with the 74th Annual El Centro Christmas Parade! This parade boasts more than 130 entries that include marching bands, school cheer, dance & drill teams, equestrian units and various Christmas themed floats from local residents and businesses. With attendance growing every year, this parade is one not to be missed! So grab the entire family and join us as we usher in the Christmas Spirit! 2019 Theme: "The March of the Toy Soldiers."

Second annual ECRMC Women's Health & Paint Night.

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December 7 The Peanut Patch Christmas Bash/ Holiday Market 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., The Peanut Patch, 4322 E County 13th St., Yuma. Food, activities, Christmas shopping, and pictures with Santa. Come out and celebrate and get your custom made goods and last-minute shopping. Admission is $3 for ages 12 and over and paid at the door.

December 12 Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Jimmie Cannon Performing Arts Theater (at Southwest High School) The Imperial Valley Community Foundation is pleased to welcome back internationally recognized Mariachi Sol de México® de José Hernández for their special "Merry-Achi Christmas Concert" which includes traditional mariachi music, Mexican posada songs, and favorite Christmas classics. Individual tickets run from $25 - $55. All seats are reserved/assigned, and can be purchased at

December 14 A December to Remember 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., downtown Imperial. Imperial Market Days is brought to you by the City of Imperial.

December 14

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Second annual ECRMC Women's Health & Paint Night.

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17th Annual Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Historic Downtown Yuma, 265 S. Main St., Yuma. Parade entry forms are now being accepted by Visit Yuma. The deadline to enter is November 29. Download the parade entry form at ElectricLightParade2019. 


Burgers & Beer

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Broken Yolk Cafe Breakfast & Brunch

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A rodeo performer drives his jalopy and his cast of four-legged performers into the Brawley Rodeo Arena to entertain the crowd at the annual Rodeo. - Photos by Jon Archer Sunday’s rodeo expands on the family theme with Family Day at the Rodeo, featuring free pony rides, face painting, roping exhibitions, and a petting zoo. Sunday will also feature the local youth 771 Park Ave. El Centro, CA 92243

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campaign, which will be featured for the first time at Cattle Call. In the campaign, Wrangler Jeans Co., a sponsor of this year’s Cattle Call rodeo, will provide funds to support local breast cancer awareness and treatment. Entertainment is another critical component of the rodeo, and this year will feature two rodeo clowns, Charlie “Too Tall” West, and Justin Rumford, both nationally known in the sport and both of whom have performed in Brawley in years past. “These are two of the best in rodeo, and to have them both participate in our rodeo will add to the fun,” Kalin said. Additionally, Tomas Garcilazo, a renowned “charro” known for his roping and trick riding skills, will perform Saturday and Sunday. Then, there’s Cattle Call Rodeo announcer Randy Corley, who will once again lead the rodeo festivities just as he has for nearly 20 years. “After 20 years, you are the voice of Cattle Call,” Kalin said of Corley. Another key ingredient of Cattle Call Rodeo is the Rosser family, led by Cotton Rosser, himself part of not only the Cattle Call tradition, but the entire sport of rodeo. From the earliest days

of Cattle Call, Rosser’s Flying U Rodeo Company has helped produce the Brawley rodeo and provided the livestock, with the Rosser family traveling some 700 miles from their home in Marysville to do so. “We are so lucky to have the Rosser family be a part of our rodeo,” Kalin said. “Really, there would be no rodeo without the livestock they provide. And, the Rossers are known for providing some of the wildest animals that provide for the excitement of our rodeo.” Kalin said all the elements of the rodeo come together in an event that creates memories. None of it, he added, would be possible without the support of the community. Every year, when the rodeo ends, the Cattle Call Rodeo Committee, including Kalin, Curtis Rutherford, Robin Williams, Donald Alford, Larry Allen, Danny Williams and Mark Huber, immediately begins work on the next year’s rodeo. While planning can be challenging, Kalin said the committee knows the event will be a success because every year the community comes together to both give of their time and their monetary donations to ensure the rodeo remains a Valleywide tradition. Kalin added those who attend the rodeo year after year also help make the event a success and serve to remind the committee that all the hard work is worth it. “We are truly blessed to have the support we have in the Imperial Valley,” Kalin said, adding, “It means so much every year when people are willing to continue to support the rodeo. And when, they fill the rodeo stands and cheer for the cowboys and cowgirls, it shows just what the rodeo means to the Valley.” 

A barrel-racing contestant puts her horse through the fast-paced event during the Brawley Cattle Call Rodeo.

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Angel, "Baby Bash" Muñoz, 17, George Muñoz's youngest son, goes through his daily training paces as he prepares for his third professional bout in Mexicali in December. - Photos by Sergio Bastidas all six of them. “Most of my kids started at 6 years old. My girls wanted to box, but I wouldn’t let them, because back then, there was no girls’ boxing. My daughter would cry that she wanted to be a boxer, and eventually I let her start training. Then she made the Junior Olympic team and women’s boxing grew as a sport.”


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When asked what he is most proud of, Muñoz gleamed. “I am happy that my kids became pro boxers but more than that, what it has all become. All those kids, over all those years, I am talking about all of them, thousands of kids, not one of them is doing bad.” Muñoz went on to talk about how many kids who trained with him have now graduated from different universities. His nephew, Henry Liera, earned a full scholarship and is now attending Stanford University, working on his degree in corporate law. “It broke my heart to see Henry leave boxing at age 18 because he was ranked No. 1 in the nation, but what can I say? I am very proud of what he has accomplished.” Muñoz still has a few arrows in his quiver in terms of up and coming professional boxers. His youngest son, Angel “Baby Bash” Muñoz , age 17, is showing incredible promise and has an amateur record of 104 wins and 4 losses and a professional record of 2-0. Angel Muñoz spoke about what he has learned about life from boxing. “Not everything in life comes easy. You have to take little steps to get there, and you have to have good sportsmanship. In life, you have to take little steps to get somewhere to accomplish your goals.” The junior at Central Union High School spoke at length about the connection between school and boxing. “I work hard at school, as hard as I work at the gym. I am willing to go as far as I can in school and boxing. You can’t set a limit to your goals.” Baby Bash’s next fight will be in Mexicali in December. George Garcia is Baby Bash’s current trainer. They meet together for a two-hour practice in the morning and evening seven days a week. Garcia explained, “Boxing teaches kids responsibility and

discipline. Many of the kids who show up here come from broken homes, and this helps them find a foundation in life. They don’t have to be boxers when they grow up, but boxing helps them get started off in the right direction. The kids who train at Sparta put forth a tremendous amount of effort, which results in developing a work ethic that expands far beyond the ring. The senior Muñoz explained, “Most people don’t understand that the kids who box here go to school, do their homework, go home, take a shower and still have to come to boxing. It is a lot to ask of these kids, but when they grow up, no matter what life throws at them, they succeed.” Muñoz teaches kids that boxing is not about talent; it is about whoever works harder. For parents apprehensive about signing their child up to participate in a combat sport, Munoz says, “I’ve been doing this for years, and none of my kids has ever gotten hurt, not a single one. In boxing, everything is very technical, and you have to structure training in that way.” It is easy to underestimate the financial burden of running such a large competition team. Traveling is expensive for a dozen fighters. It averages $7,000 per weekend trip, and Munoz is constantly

George Muñoz works on technique with Nicholas Villalobos, 10, at the punching bag while another boxer waits her turn. fundraising to support his fighters. “Many of our kids could have transitioned from the Junior Olympic Team to the Adult Olympic team, but we didn’t have the funding to take them to the tournaments to qualify. Muñoz is raising money to take 15 competitors to a three-day event called the Gene Lewis Invitational Boxing

Tournament in Phoenix on Oct. 25-27. Anyone interested in supporting the team can contact George Muñoz at (442) 2319692 or stop by for evening practice at Sparta Boxing. Meanwhile, George Muñoz’s real-life box office hit continues, as it benefits many local youngsters. 

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Fall 2019



Bob Candland stands at his meticulously organized workbench in his Tombstone Leather Co. store in El Centro. - Photos by Joselito N. Villero


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cameras from his newspapering days; he is just as at ease talking about burning up a roll of film as easily as the origins of saddles. Candland wasn’t settled, however, and home was calling him back. He shuffled his focus to work in San Diego as an assignment editor at KFMB San Diego until he landed back in the Imperial Valley teaching at the CUHS Law Enforcement Academy. Candland taught at his alma mater for two years, then migrated to Holtville and taught history until 2012 when he retired. Far from resting on his laurels, Candland worked in forensic consulting for a few years before he opened another shop. He married in 2013 and with his wife’s grandchildren nearby, they planted their roots in their El Centro homestead, with its white crossbuck fence and board and batten architectural façade, both are reminiscent of old west circa 1880. Candland comes alive when sharing his knowledge of all things leather and saddle. He’s happy to patiently teach the origins of procuring the leather, differentiating between “fullgrain” and “top-grain.” Or, explaining

the process of casing the leather, or wetting the leather, and applying different techniques. He masterfully carves and stamps out an intricate floral design on a small piece of leather he gleans from his worktable. It’s a seemingly effortless movement that obviously comes from an experienced hand. Like any devoted artisan, however, it’s hard to get his fill. When asked how much time he spends on his craft, he says, “I don’t spend enough time doing it.” With a little prodding, he reveals he may spend six or seven hours on an ornate piece. If he’s not in his workshop, he’s talking to customers. His niche of historical accuracy lends his business more toward restoration and repair. In the 1800s a cowboy would spend three months’ salary on his saddle, Candland explained, and now it could cost even more. Candland offers a service to preserve such a prized possession. Candland may have had a long career path, but he doesn’t have any plans to slow down any time soon. “I gotta keep working,” Candland said. “It’s a hoot.” 

Bob Candland, top photo, holds a handful of the stamping tools from which he selects the one needed to create a specific pattern or design on leatherwork.

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The poster for "Christmas in July," based on Bret Kofford's screenplay, which premiered at the Knoxville Film Festival in September. care what they’re talking about, I’m just curious,” he said. And he continued to write, often many projects simultaneously. “Writing is a craft that you have to practice,” he said. And writing screenplays takes a special touch. “In screenwriting, you tell the story through what people say and what they don’t say,” he added. “That is how you


Fall 2019

make characters real.” For Kofford, “Christmas in July” is special and personal. Despite its Hallmark-ish title, the movie is not a formula-style love story. It is a script that delves into painful themes, and matters of faith, that families endure for love. The movie follows the story of Daniel, a former musical sensation who has lost his inspiration and is drifting

through life. With his irascible, but cherished, grandmother in a nursing home declining from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and a heart problem, Daniel decides to create one last happy Christmas for her. Working through challenges and comedic situations to reach his goal, Daniel comes to more profound realizations and finds his way in life again. Kofford said many things inspired him to write the script. He recalled watching as his beloved grandmother died of what was then called senility and later being the caretaker for his mother in her final stages of life. He was touched by a song called “Christmas in July” by Sufjan Stevens. As the ideas for the story percolated, he retreated to his office to start writing. There, he said, “I am totally enveloped in that world. When my wife comes in, and I don’t respond, she knows I am not of this world anymore.” He said he usually writes during semester breaks from about 10 in the morning till about 3 p.m. “Creative writing is very draining, it pulls a lot out of you.” Once the idea forms, he said the story often tumbles out. “I write quickly, but I

edit slowly. Speed seems to help when writing dialogue.” Yet there was nothing fast about the script’s progress from the time it was completed about seven years ago to production. Kofford’s tale of woe included one producer who took an option on the screenplay and dropped, another who wanted it and backed out just as the deal was about to be signed. The screenplay was then picked up by Myles Matsuno, who produced and directed the project. For Kofford seeing his script come to life before a live audience makes all the hard work and production uncertainties fade away. He said attending the premiere of “Christmas in July” at the Knoxville Film Festival was “one of the best experiences in my life. The audience got it. When I wanted them to laugh, they laughed.” One Facebook reviewer wrote after seeing the movie’s premiere of the film festival, “Emotionally engaging, wellscripted with an excellent cast and beautiful cinematography. I loved it!” Another wrote, “Great storyline to which many of us can relate. Each character played their part so well. I hope the movie does well so my friends and family can see it soon." Just when the movie will be in theaters or on streaming services is not clear. The producers are shopping for a distribution deal that is right for “Christmas in July.” In the meantime, much to his dogs’ content, Kofford is back at work writing scripts for three or four projects. He takes in stride the fact that getting a screenplay produced Bret Kofford, in front of posters featuring some of his scripts, with is a very long and collaborative process. credentials for some of the film festivals he has attended. - Photo by “It teaches me to be patient,” he said. “I’m not the most Joselito N. Villero patient person in the world, but I’ve gotten better.” 




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440 E. State St., El Centro, CA 92244

Fall 2019


The ECRMC Outpatient Imaging Center radiology team is shown. - Photo courtesy of ECRMC



Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, but something as simple as scheduling a regular screening mammogram can be a lifesaver. Screening mammograms have helped reduce the breast cancer death rate in the United States by 40 percent since 1990, said Dr. Philame S. Oronan, who specializes in imaging at El Centro Regional Medical Center. ECRMC is on the cutting edge of services and technology, especially when it comes to helping the women of the Imperial Valley. The hospital recently debuted the ECRMC Outpatient Imaging Center at 1271 Ross Ave. in El Centro, a new building with state-of-the-art technology and its own waiting room and other amenities. “The new imaging center offers a certain level of privacy patients can enjoy when they’re here for their mammograms,” said Dr. John Dalle, chief radiologist at ECRMC. One of the most exciting new things at the hospital within the past year has been Fall 2019

Cutting-edge service, technology available for women

the addition of genetic testing by Myriad Genetics Testing. Genetic testing helps determine a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer within her lifetime and could result in early detection. Genetic testing can be a lifesaver, prompting a woman to have her screening mammogram and an MRI at an earlier age than the recommended age of 40, said Dr. Dalle. The use of 3D mammography can help detect cancer early, before a woman experiences symptoms and when the cancer is most treatable. Called “screening mammography,” the 3D mammogram is a specific type of breast imaging using low-dose X-rays. The images will be interpreted by an onsite radiologist, such as Dr. Oronan, whose specialty is reading breast-screening images. “If we have a problem we cannot solve with a mammogram or ultrasound, depending upon what we see, we can do an MRI of the breast,” said Dr. Dalle. Describing the hospital’s technologists, nurses, doctors, and other staff as

“caring and professional,” Andrew Ruiz, Radiology Manager, said for ECRMC, patients and their treatment come first. “We put a huge emphasis on the patient and how we are going to adequately treat the women in the community as best as we can,” said Ruiz. “We want to give our patients the amount of resources they need so they don’t have to go elsewhere for it. They can get everything done in a central location here.” As part of its ongoing outreach program, ECRMC recently held its second annual Women’s Health & Paint Night in the ECRMC Community Education Center at Imperial Valley Mall. The free breast cancer awareness event provided the opportunity to meet the radiology/ women’s imaging team, do some canvas painting, and enjoy food, beverages and live music. Dr. Oronan discussed breast health and a Myriad Genetics Testing representative also spoke. “I feel like we’ve built a very strong team here as far as women’s imaging,” said Ruiz, “and that complements the brandnew building very well.” 




n o i t n e v e r P t s e B The . n o i t c e t e D y l r a is E Women should begin having mammograms yearly at age 40, or earlier if they're at high risk.

Get screened today! ECRMC Outpatient Radiology Center

1271 Ross Avenue, El Centro, CA 92243 (760) 482-5000 I The Center of Healthcare Excellence Fall 2019



Fall 2019

Profile for Alejandra Noriega

13/ Imperial Valley Alive! / Fall 2019  

Imperial Valley Alive! is a quarterly magazine for newcomers, visitors and those who want to rediscover all the region has to offer. From co...

13/ Imperial Valley Alive! / Fall 2019  

Imperial Valley Alive! is a quarterly magazine for newcomers, visitors and those who want to rediscover all the region has to offer. From co...