East Valley Tribune: GO Notebook

GO Notebook

Thursday 08/09/2012
‘NerdvanaCon’ adds proof: geeks are taking over

They may be geeks. They may be non-conformists. They’re definitely champions for practically anything alternative.

But mainstream? Really?


Sure, we all know the top Hollywood flicks of the year are from comic-book lore, but there’s more to it than that. Take the 125,000 frenzied fanboys at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con — the mecca of the “cult” generation — for one. Or how about another 32,000-plus at the Phoenix Comicon, for another.

For an oft-costumed, self-proclaimed group of counter-culture outcasts, there’s a funny irony in how accepted the geek community has become — especially right here in Arizona.

Jayson Peters, co-founder and manager the East Valley Tribune’s ever-popular “Nerdvana” blog and online community, has seen it coming for a while now.

“Phoenix Comicon was once this tiny thing,” Peters says, noting that it wasn’t that long ago that the modest event was held locally in the East Valley — in Mesa. “Phoenix Comicon one day I think might rival San Diego Comic-Con — it’s already rivaling it in terms of talent for guests.”

While it’s been three years since Phoenix Comicon left Mesa, the East Valley’s largest city has a chance Friday to showcase its affinity for all-things geek. “NerdvanaCon” — named in celebration of the Nerdvana blog’s fifth birthday this month — was called on as the theme for Downtown Mesa’s monthly 2nd Friday art-walk and block party.

Businesses will be buzzing, the music blasting, and booths and vendors will line Main Street as far as the eye can see to celebrate all that has become of Arizona’s geek culture.

That hardly means the event is only for those with a softer side for Star Trek or Star Wars, however — especially considering the large following the monthly 2nd Friday events already claim.

As Peters has long explained, there’s hardly much of a difference between fantasy football or Dungeons and Dragons. Everyone geeks out about something, and, to Peters, everyone can find something of interest at NerdvanaCon.

It was late last year that Peters left his position as a Tribune editor for an opportunity in Pueblo, Colo. But even with his move north, Nerdvana never left his side.

“You can’t really pry me away from it,” he said. “That won’t happen.”

That’s why when plans for NerdvanaCon kicked into gear, Peters made sure he’d be there tonight to see his old Nerdvana pals, and hopefully meet a few of the thousands upon thousands of new members of the community he’s helped cultivate.

Come for a little bit or stay for the whole 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. timeslot to try and get it all in. Either way, those in attendance are in for a fun night.

Some features include a “How to Draw Sheriff Joe” (no joke) comic-art workshop by Amazing Arizona Comics’ Russ Kazmierszak Jr., mind-blowing science and technology demonstrations by Mesa’s HeatSync Labs, costume contests, a strategy gaming event, pop-culture artist corner, live music, more than 70 booths and attractions, and plenty of giveaways, food, and other entertainment options.

The Tribune, thanks to its friends at the Mesa Arts Center, will also be giving away two tickets to see William Shatner — Captain James Tiberius Kirk himself! — live at MAC in January, along with loads of other prizes.

“I’m sure you’ll get plenty of people in costume … getting into it,” Peters said. “I haven’t decided if I’ll be in costume yet – but it’s going to a fun party no matter what.”

If You Go

What: NerdvanaCon (Downtown Mesa’s ‘2nd Friday’)

When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday

Where: Main Street in downtown Mesa

Cost: Free for all ages

Information: evtnow.com/nerdvanacon

Nerdvana blog: EastValleyTribune.com/nerdvana

Posted in Events, Notebook, Get out, Mesa, East valley voices, Columns, Local treasures, Treasures on Thursday, August 9, 2012 5:25 pm. Updated: 10:54 am. | Tags: Phoenix Comicon , Comic Book Collecting , Jayson Peters , The Tribune , San Diego Comic-con International , Geek , James T. Kirk , William Shatner , Nerdvana , Nerdvanacon

Arizona Art Alliance Gallery a pleasant surpise

Most people stumble upon the Arizona Art Alliance Gallery while walking through the Pavilions shopping center off of the Loop 101 and Indian Bend Road in Scottsdale. It is a surprise to find a gallery in that location, between Hobby Lobby and Sports Authority. But visitors are pleasantly surprised by the variety of art on display and the gift items for sale.

The Gallery has been open for two years. It is a non-profit, all-volunteer gallery representing more than 35 art organizations and more than 4,000 artists throughout Arizona. The gallery rotates art every four to six weeks, with different shows throughout the year. On display you will find paintings, sculpture, glass, wood, and jewelry.

Stop by during the week (Wednesday through Sunday) through Sept. 2 for the “Beat the Heat with Very Cool Art” summer show.


What: Arizona Art Alliance Gallery, 6,600-square-foot gallery and gift shop featuring art from more than 100 juried artists. Artwork is also exhibited in empty retail stores near the main gallery.

When: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays

Where: The Pavilions at Talking Stick, 9011 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale

Cost: Free admission; art and gifts are available for sale

Information: (602) 870-7610 or www.azartalliance.com


Arizona Art Alliance Gallery also offers artistic workshops, including:

• Watercolor with Kathryn Tartaglia - This class for all levels focuses on eliminating the intimidation from painting with watercolors. 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 11, 18 and 25. $35 per session.

• Painting with Love with Kelby Love - Learn color mixing, how to hold brushes and make brush strokes, and good composition in this workshop where you’ll complete a painting in one day, even if you think you cannot paint. 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 30. $80.

• The Art of Painting Elegant Sunsets with John Horejs - Discover how to use only seven basic colors and white to create dramatic paintings that capture the intensity of Arizona skies. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 8. $95.

• Follow Lily at www.locallily.com, a blog published by Beth Hickey and Brandi Walsh, where you’ll find the best local restaurants, shopping, events and things to do.

Posted in Notebook, Events, Get out, Local treasures, Treasures on Thursday, August 9, 2012 4:30 pm. Updated: 9:36 am. | Tags: Modern Painters , Entertainment_culture , Hospitality_recreation , Arizona Art Alliance Gallery , Pavilions Shopping Center , A Gallery

Friday 08/03/2012
Head south to Sonoita-Elgin wine region for a taste of Arizona

It’s no secret that Arizona wineries are making waves in the wine world, but you don’t need to be a sommelier or have a rock star’s budget to enjoy the state’s wine experience.

All you need is some curiosity, a map and a carload of friends — particularly in August when harvest festivals and grape stomps are plentiful in southern Arizona.

Characterized by rolling grasslands and vast cattle ranches, the Sonoita-Elgin wine region is an easy 2.5-hour drive south. It’s a day trip worth taking, as much for its panoramic scenery and cool weather as its youthful, fruity wine and neighborly vintners.

The 10 or 12 wineries of the region are sprinkled along a 20-mile stretch of Highway 83 (Exit 281 off I-10) and its ancillary roads. Most wineries are open on the weekend, but only two — Sonoita Vineyards and Kief-Joshua Vineyards — are open daily, year-round.

Sonoita Vineyards is Arizona’s oldest existing winery and was founded in 1973 by Dr. Gordon Dutt, a soil scientist at University of Arizona. Tasked with the assignment to improve Arizona agriculture, Dr. Dutt believed certain areas in both northern and southern Arizona could successfully produce wine grapes, said Fran Lightly, Sonoita Vineyard’s winemaker.

“Doing what soil scientists do, Dutt decided to get soil analysis of other wine areas,” Lightly said. He discovered that the Elgin soil was comparable to the Burgundy wine-growing region of France.

Sonoita’s plentiful rainfall also makes it hospitable to wine grapes, Lightly said, as does its higher elevation and cooler climate.

“High heat cooks out the acidity in the grape, which is critical for making wine,” Lightly said. “Table grapes are more forgiving and you’re not looking for complexity of flavor. With wine grapes, you are looking for complexity.”

That flavorful complexity impressed Chandler residents Lisa Bednar and her husband Burt, who recently visited Sonoita Vineyards’ tasting room on their family’s summer vacation.

Open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., year-round, the Sonoita Vineyards tasting room offers guests a sweet or dry flight of six wines in a souvenir glass for $8. The glass can be used again at the other wineries for a discount on subsequent tastings.

“I thought the pricing for the tastings was pretty good and I liked the glass idea, as far a good neighbor discount,” said Bednar. “I thought Sonoita Vineyards was the best one by far, but Kief-Joshua Vineyards was beautiful. They were both really knowledgeable and had a nice selection.”

Kief-Joshua Vineyards, started by Kief Manning and his family in 2003, is a much younger vineyard, but as Bednar pointed out, the picturesque Tuscan villa housing the winery, tasting room, and the family’s living space is impressive.

Manning, a graduate of Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, studied wine marketing and viticulture in Australia, earning a bachelors and masters degree before coming back to Arizona to start his winery. His professors Down Under emphasized the importance of creating an enjoyable, pleasing atmosphere, he said.

The tasting room, open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., is often manned by Kief’s mom, Charlene, and offers six wines for tasting. The tastings are $3-$5 a piece, depending on if you come with or without a glass.

Kief-Joshua wines can also be found at Whole Foods Markets and online at www.kj-vineyards.com.

Sonoita Vineyards wine can be found at the Sphinx Date Ranch Gourmet Gift Market, located at 3039 N Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale.

Upcoming events

Harvest Fest 2012: Enjoy wine and food pairings, winery tours, a grape stomp and vineyard tours by horse drawn carriage throughout the day. DETAILS >> 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4 and Sunday, Aug. 5. Sonoita Vineyards, 290 Elgin-Canelo Road, Elgin. $15 admission includes tastings and tour. (520) 455-5893 or www.sonoitavinyards.com.

Magdelena Bash: Help Kief Manning honor his grandmother, Magdelena, who turns 93 this month, with a day of wine tastings and new releases, live music, sandwiches and wings from Locally Arizona. DETAILS >> 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25. Kief-Joshua Vineyards, 370 Elgin Road, Elgin. $5 for tasting and souvenir wine glass; lunch is $8. (520) 455-5582 or www.kj-vineyards.com.

Meteors and Wine: Relax beside a campfire with s’mores and a glass of wine while meteors race across the sky. The Perseids meteor show produces up to 60 meteors per hour, starting around midnight. Families are welcome. DETAILS >> 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11. Hopes and Vines, 3450 Highway 82, Sonoita. $50 for adults, includes wine tasting and s’mores; kids are free. (888) 569-1642 or http://azhopsandvines.com.

Posted in Get out, Travel, Notebook, Life, Events on Friday, August 3, 2012 4:44 pm. | Tags: Gustation , Arizona Wine , Wine Tasting , Hospitality_recreation , Vineyard , Arizona , Joshua Vineyards , Tasting Room , Wine , Sonoita , Elgin

Sunshine Boutique a bright spot to shop in Mesa

When my neighbor suggested we go one afternoon to the store at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home, I imagined a makeshift space filled with crocheted afghans and God’s eyes made of yarn and popsicle sticks.

I was wrong. And I’ve since been back three times.

The Sunshine Boutique, an old brick cottage that operations director Cindy Humphrey whipped into a homey little retail space, is as bright as its name implies. Clean and friendly, it’s filled with vignettes staged to show off everything from crystal candleholders and blue Ball jars to wooden desks and wrought iron wall hangings.

“I put new stuff in almost every day, but Wednesdays are when the inventory really changes up every week,” says Humphrey, who redesigns the store each week around a new crop of furniture, art, dishes and decor items — all donations to the Mesa home for boys and girls in need.

She and retired house mother Phyllis Decious select only the nicest items in good condition to sell in the boutique, which is manned by a dedicated, mostly volunteer staff. Sometimes, the goods arrive in fine shape and are sold as-is; other times Humphrey works a little magic on them first.

“I paint and re-upholster. I re-create and rework things as they come in, repurposing them for other uses. We’ve got an organ from the late 1800s now that I’m turning into a bar. Instead of throwing old stuff away, we like to re-use it, give it another life.”

Humphrey was 5 years old when she moved with her parents to Sunshine Acres; the home was started in 1954 by her grandparents, and her family moved there to help run it.

“Growing up here, we repurposed a lot of things because we didn’t have money to buy them. We were always fixing things and re-painting them. I learned from the ground up how to re-use things and give them another life.”

Spillover donations are sold in the Donation Center Store, a warehouse across from the boutique. It’s arranged more like a traditional thrift store and filled with home sofas, dining sets, bookcases, household electrics and appliances, clothes, toys, books, bicycles, tools and knick-knacks. A large Christmas section will open Aug. 15.

“I always told my grandmother I would love a boutique, and it’s just a joy to do. It’s not a job. It’s a joy and a love to do this because it continues the legacy my grandparents started as a way to care for these children,” says Humphrey.

All proceeds from the boutique and store help offset housing, food, clothing, education and care expenses for the children who live on the property. Children stay a minimum of 12 months, but a child may stay into their early adult/college years if necessary.

Sunshine Acres Children’s Home is at 3405 N. Higley Road in Mesa. The boutique is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. The Donation Center Store inside the warehouse is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For weekly specials and sales, winter hours, or donation pick-up, call (480) 832-2540. Sunshine Acres is online at SunshineAcres.org.

Posted in Get out, Notebook, Home, Life, Mesa, Money, Local treasures, Treasures on Friday, August 3, 2012 1:00 pm. Updated: 9:36 am. | Tags: Retailing , Boutique , Cindy Humphrey , Sunshine Acres , Sunshine Boutique , Donation Center Store , Mesa Arizona , Charity Shop , Retail , Mesa

Mandy Zajac
  • Mandy Zajac
  • E-mail: azajac@evtrib.com
  • Phone: (480) 898-6818
  • Mandy Zajac writes and edits arts, entertainment and lifestyle content for the Get Out section of the East Valley Tribune.

Video: Get Out Weekend for March 27, 2013

EastValleyTribune.com Get Out's Mandy Zajac and Stephanie Perrault share ideas on weekend fun ...


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