Graduation, high river flows, a new
sheriff … all were news items that hit the front pages of The Escalon Times
during the first half of the year. This week, we start our annual Year In
Review by taking a look back at the top stories from January through June. Next
week, July through December will be featured.



All the occupants got out of the vehicle
safely – but a Saturday night, Dec. 29 crash along the Burlington Northern Santa
Fe railroad tracks at Highway 120 and Plaza Avenue in Escalon did result in two
arrests. Police Chief Mike Borges said officers received a call of a vehicle on
the tracks on Saturday night, with the call coming in about 7:15 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 is a day that
Patrick Withrow will remember for a long time. Not only did the lifelong area
resident get sworn in as the new San Joaquin County Sheriff by his brother, he
also had the chance to return the favor and swear his brother in to a new term
as a Stanislaus County Supervisor.

“It was a great day for our family,”
Withrow, an Escalon resident and the new county sheriff said.

The ceremony was hosted at the Sheriff’s
Department offices in French Camp, with Terry Withrow administering the oath.

The first month of the year is slowly
unwinding and it has become a very busy one in terms of local organizations
hosting annual fundraising events. During January, there are three major
fundraisers, each put on by a different group and supporting a different cause.

Citing what they say would be a
disastrous decision for the region, the Oakdale and South San Joaquin
Irrigation Districts have joined with other members of the San Joaquin
Tributaries Authority (SJTA) in a lawsuit challenging the state’s right to
arbitrarily increase flows in the Stanislaus and two other rivers. The
injunction request was filed in Tuolumne County Superior Court on Thursday,
Jan. 10 against the State Water Resources Control Board over its proposed
Bay-Delta Phase 1 unimpaired flow proposal, adopted Dec. 12, 2018. The
plaintiffs are OID, SSJID, the Turlock Irrigation District, and the City and
County of San Francisco. The Modesto Irrigation District also filed a similar

Located on the sidewalk outside the
Escalon American Legion Post rooms on Second Street, the official receptacle
for ‘retired U.S. flags’ has to be emptied on a regular basis. That isn’t
necessarily a bad thing, Legion officials noted, as residents are using the
post office-style box to put their torn, tattered and faded flags in to make
sure they are retired properly. Post Adjutant Vince Giovaniello and Chaplain
Casey Den Ouden most recently emptied the collection box on Saturday, Jan. 12,
finding it full when they opened it up.

Freshman Representative Josh Harder (CA-10)
has been appointed to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture for the 116th
Congress, named to that committee this past week. The committee ensures federal
policies empower American farmers and helps them meet 21st century needs, such
as conservation, food safety, technological innovation, and keeping pace with
an increasingly globalized economy. The committee also oversees a wide range of
issues including agricultural research and development, renewable energy,
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, rural development,
crop insurance, international trade, futures market regulation, animal and
plant health, bioterrorism, forestry and other vital issues for a thriving
agricultural economy.

The Sac-Joaquin Section on Tuesday, Jan.
29 announced its latest group of Model Coaches and Escalon High School varsity
baseball coach Greg Largent is among this year’s honorees. The Section named,
in alphabetical order, Maureen Barnett (Rio Americano), Greg Largent (Escalon),
Terry Logue (Bear River), Jill McPherson (Ripon), Marcy Tarr (Marysville) and
Rick Wanlin (Rosemont) as the recipients of the 2018-19 Sac-Joaquin Section
Model Coach honors.



A longtime local business has lost its
liquor license, pulled following an investigation by the state’s Alcoholic
Beverage Control Board. Emil’s Liquors on California Street had the license
revoked, according to John Carr, an Information Officer for the ABC. The
following information was released regarding the investigation and subsequent
revocation: “On Tuesday, January 15, 2019, ABC Agents posted a Notice of
Revocation at Emil’s Liquor & Sport Shop located at 1405 California Street
in Escalon.

Approximately 300 students from 12 high
schools in San Joaquin County – including Escalon – took part in the 38th
Annual Academic Decathlon, held by the San Joaquin County Office of Education
(SJCOE). The competition began with students engaging in speech and interview
contests at the SJCOE on Jan. 26. On Feb. 2, the competition moved to Lathrop
High School, where competitors showcased their knowledge of art, economics,
literature, mathematics, music, science, and social science in a series of
tests, culminating in the high-energy Super Quiz. Each year, all the decathlon
events are tied together with a single theme. This year, the theme was The

Friday night, Feb. 9 was a memorable one
in Escalon – as the varsity basketball team topped rival Hilmar to win their
Homecoming contest, recognized their senior players, cheerleaders and parents
for Senior Night – and crowned Guillermo Alvarez as the 2019 Homecoming King. Alvarez
was one of four King hopefuls introduced to a large crowd in the EHS gym at
halftime of the varsity boys game. Others in the running were Jonathan
Valeriano, Lucciano Dutra and Alex Jimenez.

Working the intersection of Highway 4
and Escalon-Bellota Road over the course of three days – about five hours each
day – the end result was another $20,000 for the Firefighters Burn Institute. Volunteers
with the Farmington Fire Department manned the intersection on Friday, Saturday
and Sunday, Feb. 8 through 10, collecting donations from passing motorists in
their turnout boots.

The third grade classes at Dent
Elementary put on their Patriotic Program for friends, family and fellow
students over the course of a couple of days, this year on Thursday and Friday,
Feb. 14 and 15. The presentation came just prior to the school observing the
Presidents’ Day holiday on Monday, Feb. 18 and enjoying a week off from school.

But before classes were dismissed, the
third graders donned costumes, sang songs, saluted the military, and provided a
bit of a history lesson.

The Escalon Unified School District will
be hosting a District planning meeting in the Escalon High School cafeteria  The meeting is open to all students, parents,
and community stakeholders. Each year the district is required to review and
update their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). To assist in developing
the plan, EUSD is requesting community input and feedback about their schools, programs
and operations as these areas relate to the eight key priority areas defined by
the state. These priorities include parent involvement, student preparation and
performance, school climate and student engagement.



Dozens of local residents turned out for
a look at Escalon’s future, the large crowd gathering on Wednesday night, Feb.
27 in the city’s Community Center. Members of the Escalon City Council hosted
the event, designed to get input from residents on the direction they want to
see the city move in the future. Mayor Pro Tem Ed Alves suggested the
‘listening session’ and said he was very pleased with the turnout and feels it
is something the council should do at least once, if not twice, a year.

Never mind that kids in their uniforms
had to be on the field at 7:45 a.m.; never mind that the wind chill made it
feel like Escalon should have been hosting an outdoor hockey game instead of
baseball – the enthusiastic young athletes celebrated Opening Day of youth
softball and baseball in style. From T-ball to the Majors, teams filed onto
Hogan-Ennis Field with banners and in high spirits on Saturday, March 9. The
skies were cloudy and the wind made its presence known, but the ballplayers
were eager to cheer when their team was introduced and just as eager to hear
the familiar words to start the season, “Play Ball!”

Escalon High School FFA member Austin
Terra has been involved with FFA throughout high school and was recently
elected to a regional post. He will be serving as the Central Region reporter,
serving 23,000 FFA members in the region.

“We are so excited for Austin as both a
school and as a community,” said Escalon ag teacher Isabella Leventini. “The
FFA Central Region is the largest region in the state of California, serving
over 23,000 members. For Austin to be serving those members is a huge honor and

In a Monday night meeting, March 18,
there were only a couple of items of business needing attention from the
Escalon City Council. One item dealt with accepting a mitigated negative
declaration for a new domestic water supply well. By approving the negative
declaration, the council certified that there would be “no detrimental
environmental effects” based on the development of the new well.

It will be on Roosevelt Avenue, near the
site of a former well that was shut down.

Since the start of the Ag Day program
that introduces El Portal eighth grade students to the agricultural offerings
at Escalon High, membership in the school’s FFA chapter and ag classes has
risen dramatically.

Students had the chance to learn about a
number of ag classes and careers on Friday, March 22 as the high school FFA
students showcased what they have to offer. Several presenters were also
brought in to explain their roles in the agricultural industry. The Ag Day
presentations started in the gym, with livestock/poultry, floral, ag mechanics,
ag pest, milk quality/food science, light horse, vegetable, agronomy, MJC, and
Delta College presentations. Students spent a few minutes at one presenter’s
station, then rotated into another, spending the first hour at those
presentations. Then it was off to a series of options in the ag complex at the
high school, with students able to choose three presentations to attend. Those
ranged from Morris Nursey to veterinary work, Holt Farm Power and Machinery,
poultry and more.



Learning their lines, getting their
blocking down, taking direction – members of the Escalon High School Drama Club
are hard at work getting ready for their spring production.

“This cast is almost the same as the
fall play with the addition of Jake Dietzel,” noted director and EHS
teacher/Drama Club advisor Erin Headley. “I love the witty dialogue and the
farcical nature of the play.”

Staging a two-act play by Pat Cook
titled “You Can’t Get There From Here,” cast members include seniors Jake
Dietzel, Travis Moore and Emme Altamirano; juniors Katie Beall, Nestor Flores,
Shelby Strock and Angela Simoes; and sophomore April Strand.

A weekend report that came in as a
possible drowning – but turned out to be a man swimming in the Stanislaus River
near the McHenry Avenue bridge – has prompted a word of caution from local fire
officials. Escalon Fire Department crews responded to the call shortly after
5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6. Fire Chief Rick Mello said though the call was not
a drowning, the river continues to run high, fast and cold, and should not be
taken lightly.

With bright sunny skies and a bit of a
breeze, conditions were picture perfect for spending a Saturday in service. And
that is just what more than 100 Escalon residents did on April 13, donating
time and some muscle to the annual Love Escalon project. Coordinator Brittany
Doornenbal said there were a number of work sites this year, from the Van Allen
Elementary School garden to the Escalon Animal Shelter, some private home yard
work and efforts at the Escalon Library and Escalon Museum.

The air was a bit chilly with a breeze
but the skies were blue and there were just a few puffy clouds – basically
making perfect conditions for the Saturday morning egg hunt at El Portal Middle
School. The annual pre-Easter event staged on April 20 for community youngsters
drew in dozens of egg hunters, divided into four different age groups and each
group directed to a specific area of the expansive grounds behind the school
buildings on First Street.



Fundraising figures show more than
$77,000 was raised in the 2019 Relay For Life staged at Oakdale High School on
Saturday, April 27. The combined Oakdale-Escalon-Riverbank-Waterford event drew
participants from those communities for the American Cancer Society’s signature
fundraising event and the top earning team was Escalon’s Nuts For Life, with
over $15,000 brought in. Second spot went to ConAgra, over $12,500 raised and
the MASH 4144 team, sponsored by Oak Valley Hospital District, brought in
nearly $7,900.

Forty-two San Joaquin County transportation
leaders, elected officials, and regional advocates are in Washington, D.C. to
meet with key leaders in the administration and Congress about specific policy
issues and projects important to this region. The delegates are part of the
annual San Joaquin One Voice effort coordinated by the San Joaquin Council of
Governments (SJCOG).

A new art contest outreach by the South
San Joaquin Irrigation District, designed to encourage water awareness in young
students, has resulted in a big win for a Dent Elementary student.

Marissa Terry, a fifth grader, earned
first place in her grade division and also took the grand prize. Her artwork is
also being displayed on a number of SSJID vehicles.

Rain that arrived on Saturday afternoon,
May 18 and intermittent rain that fell on Sunday, May 19 cut the ‘Fill The
Boot’ drive in Escalon just a little short, but the donation totals were still
on par with past years.

Money collected by firefighters in the
effort is donated to the Firefighters Burn Institute in Sacramento, helping
provide educational programs and a variety of services for burn victims.

Under bright sunny skies on Monday, May
27 the Escalon American Legion Post and American Legion Riders hosted a series
of Memorial Day services throughout the region. Crowds were on hand for the
ceremonies, designed to recognize those who have served this country and honor
and remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.



Thirteen years of school – from
kindergarten to senior year – came to fruition for the graduating Class of 2019
at Escalon High School on Friday night, May 31. The seniors strolled in to
Engel Field to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance, were recognized for
scholastic achievements, cheered their fellow classmates, listened to speeches
and tossed their mortarboards into the night sky when the ceremony was done.

“It is an absolute honor to be standing
in front of you,” said Senior Class President Sylvia Guevara. “Most of us have
grown up with each since preschool. We have seen each other unfold from shy
little freshmen to outgoing seniors.”

After spending 36 years delivering the
mail, David Hanlon of Escalon can finally take a break. He officially retired
from the USPS, working his last shift on Friday, May 31. A 1978 Escalon High
graduate, he also served in the Army and continues to serve in the Army
Reserves, though looking at leaving the service soon as well.

One veteran officer and one new on the
job were involved in a June 5 shooting on Brennan Road in Escalon that resulted
in the death of a 39-year-old man. Escalon officers were asked to respond to
the scene in the 18000 block of Brennan about 7:45 p.m. last Wednesday, with
the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department receiving a report of threats being
made and their officers having an extended response time. Sheriff’s Department
spokesperson Deputy Andrea Lopez said that “less than five minutes” after
Escalon officers arrived on the scene, 39-year-old Matthew Freeseha also
arrived at the location, driving a pick-up truck. He had made threats, Lopez
added, to an ex-girlfriend and her children, threatening to ram his vehicle
into the house or set it on fire.

With the recent arrival of 100-plus
degree heat, the Escalon Community Pool has been a busy place.

Pool Director Amanda Smith said the
facility is open for business and welcoming in kids and adults throughout the
week. Swimming lessons just started on Monday, June 10 and run for two weeks
each session, Monday through Thursday. Morning lessons start at 10:30 a.m. and
afternoon lessons begin at 5 p.m.

The first positive mosquito samples for
2019 with confirmed West Nile Virus have been found in nearby Ripon and another
in Tracy. San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District’s
mosquito-borne disease surveillance program confirmed the WNV positive mosquito

With more than 50 campers involved, from
students to coaches, this year’s edition of the Great Valley Writing Camp was
the largest one since the inaugural camp a few years back. Coordinator Sally
Hale said 51 people took part this year and recently completed a two-week
session, with the camp hosted on the campus of Dent Elementary School in

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