Stanislaus County Fair

Thrilling Festivities & Enchanting Butterflies

Nothing says summer like the county fair. This year the Stanislaus County Fair will run from July 10th through July 19th with fun for the whole family, including MindWorks, an interactive science exhibit. This year the fair will feature a butterfly exhibit, which according to the Marketing and Communications Director, Adrenna Alkhas, will “have live butterflies and people will be able to go in and interact with them.” She says, “It’s going to be great for families; kids are going to love it.”

The various stages will feature a wide assortment of music, from acts as diverse as the local radio stations that are their hosts. Concerts will include Colt Ford, 3BallMTY, Eddie Money, Martina McBride, Bret Michaels, Jerrod Niemann, Grand Funk Railroad and Banda Machos. It wouldn’t be the fair without the rides. Make a stop at the midway to get the adrenaline pumping with all your favorites from years past.

ferris wheel lights

Photo by John Spade |
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Food is always a focal point and it is something that the Stanislaus County Fair in particular prides itself on. Alkhas explains, “We were featured in the Food Network for Carnival Eats.” The various vendors offer a total of over 550 different items ranging from classics, like monstrous hot dogs, to the unusual, like the donut ice cream sandwich. Not all of the choices are deep fried. This year there will be a variety of healthy options as well. “Cipponeri Farms are coming with fresh fruit, so there are a lot of healthy choices for people to take away,” says Alkhas.

Every year the fair gets an estimate of 230,000 visitors over the ten days, averaging 25,000 people a day. “What’s unique about this fair is that it’s been here for over 104 years in the same place, on the same ground,” Alkhas says. “It’s very historic, there’s a lot of history here. Families have memories that they can share here and it evolves, but there’s so much continuity.”

July 10–19, Stanislaus County Fair Grounds, 900 N Broadway, Turlock, CA 95380
For more information go to

Published in Contentment magazine | Issue 17 – July/August 2015

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A Fusion of Color

Come for the food and stay for the art at Surla’s Restaurant in Modesto. Local artist Louise Bogetti is responsible for the lush, vibrant pieces that adore the walls of Surla’s. Bogetti has studied and worked with a variety of mediums including watercolor, oil, encaustic and acrylic. She also has a background in graphic design and photography. Her signature style of bold strokes, applied with a brush or pallet knife, immediately becomes evident in the pieces on display. It has been noted that Bogetti’s style is not tied to a set subject matter, but is identifiable by the way she moves the paint on the canvas.

The pieces at Surla’s are very eclectic, which is indicative of her style and creative process. The pieces in the bar area, were done after a vacation in the tropics which inspired her to work in blues and gold. In contrast, the paintings featured in the banquet room have a more earthy or mineral feel. Bogetti explains that she choose to work in acrylic paint for the pieces for Surla’s because “you have the freedom to add all kinds of different elements to get different textures.”

blue paint with brush

Photo by Jessica Lucia |
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License

Her process for creating commissioned pieces is to first visit the client’s home or business. In order to have the freedom to explore the subject, a prerequisite of her commissioned work is to not be tied to a very specific subject. Rather, clients can give her directions by setting the perimeters of size and color palette. Visiting the space is an internal part of the process and she will often take with her blank canvases of different shapes and sizes. Bogetti acknowledges that “art is very personal” and thus typically has an agreement with the client that if they are not happy with the pieces then they are not obligated to purchase that commissioned piece. Additionally, she often creates two to three pieces for each commissioned work and will let the client choose.

She has been told that people have been surprised to learn that the pieces on display at Surla’s were created by the same artist. Bogetti is constantly trying new techniques in order to avoid becoming stagnate; working with a variety of tools as diverse as encaustic oil and blow torches. As an artist she focus on what she desires to express, rather than trying to predict what is going to be popular. She says she has now reached a place where her attitude is that “I paint for myself.” By painting for herself she has transformed blank canvases into works that are visually engaging with their implied movement and fusion of color.

For more information on Bogetti’s work go to Surla’s Restaurant is located at 431 12th Street, Modesto. For hours, go to

Published in Contentment magazine | Issue 13 — November/December 2014

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Stanislaus County Farmers Markets

The Bounty of the Valley Brought to You

The Central Valley has long been called “the fruit basket of the world.” Every spring it is easy to take advantage of the cornucopia of agricultural products grown right here in one’s backyard by visiting one of the area’s farmers markets. The certified markets ensure that the farm vendors bring their product straight from the farm and they only sell what they grow.

Much of the produce, some of which is organic, is harvested only hours before being brought to the market. What each of the local farmers markets have in common is the diversity of the products for sale. European and Asian produce can be found next to speciality foods, unique crafts, baked goods and much more.

fresh blackberriesfresh raspberries

Ceres Farmers Market
Wednesdays, 10:00AM-2:00PM
Whitmore Park, Third Street and North Street, Ceres
May through October

The flavor of produce is at its peak when fresh. By coming out to the Ceres Farmers Market one not only gets to enjoy food at its best, but one supports the local economy as well. As an added benefit, buying local helps to reduce one’s carbon footprint as the transportation of the goods one purchases is greatly reduced.

Modesto Certified Farmers Market
Thursdays and Saturdays, 7am — 1 pm
16th Street between H Street and I Street, Modesto
April through December

For over 30 years the Modesto Certified Farmers Market has been the gateway between local farms and one’s kitchen. The convenient downtown location, situated alongside the Modesto branch of the Stanislaus County Library, gives even busy professionals the opportunity to pick up a selection of some of the valley’s finest produce. Twice a week, one can browse the wide variety of items offered by the various vendors, including seasonal vegetables, ripe fruit, baked goods and specialty foods.

fresh currantsfresh blue berries

Oakdale Certified Farmers Market
Wednesdays, 5:00PM-8:30PM
100 North Third Avenue, Oakdale
June, July and August

Lining the street on Third Avenue on Wednesday evenings vendors display their wares including vegetables straight from the farm, fruits and nuts from local orchards, or hand crafted gifts. Live entertainment and several food options promotes the social environment of the weekly market. Additionally, the market serves as a venue for community involvement as the organizers encourage local service organizations to come out and share about their current projects.

fresh asparagusTurlock Certified Farmers Market
Fridays, 8:00AM-1:00PM
Main Street and Broadway, Turlock
May through October

May 2014 marks the fifth season for Certified Farmers Market in downtown Turlock. In addition to locally grown produce the market has a wide variety of vendors offering item such as toffee, honey, soap, lavender, cupcakes, kettlecorn and hummus. The market was founded with the vision to bring the abundance of crops grown locally direct to the customer, thus ensuring the utmost quality and freshness. The board of community members who organize the market are committed to guaranteeing that all of the items sold are grown locally and are brought directly from the farm.

Published in Contentment magazine

Photos by Gemma Billings
Creative Commons Attribution License

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Building Trust Behind Locked Doors

At first it may seem intimidating to enter a room and have the doors lock behind you. That was the experience of Marian Martino, one of the volunteer mentors at Juvenile Hall. For Martino the rewards soon overshadowed the initial anxiety. Martino was introduced to the Mentoring Youth Project by Pam Hays. The program is organized by the Parent Resource Center, of which Hays has been involved for over twenty years. Hay’s introduction to Juvenile Hall was in 2005 when she toured the facility along with fellow members of Leadership Modesto.

Hays was inspired by the work of Duane Noriyuki. A writer for the Los Angeles Times, Noriyuki taught creative writing to inmates at Central Juvenile Hall in East Los Angeles. The program was chronicled in True Notebooks by the author Mark Salzman, who himself became a writing teacher at the facility. Despite not having a background in teaching Hays was not dissuaded form embarking on the venture of starting a creative writing program in a juvenile detention center. Hays explains that on the surface level writing can “give them something else to think about for that hour.” Digging deeper writing creates “an appropriate outlet for their emotions.” Often inmates lash out with physical violent because they have not been modeled other outlets through which to express themselves. Writing offers both a release and an escape. The creative writing classes evolved into a mentorship program.

Once a week for an hour the girls meet with their mentors. Looking ahead to the future is a key role of the mentor who helps the detainee make a plan for what they will do when they are released. According to Hays many are homeless, often with a parent who has been incarcerated. Martino adds that the goal is to “help show that they have options” and that “she has a future if she wants to pursue it.”

In Hay’s experience, for the most part the inmates are not convinced for violent crimes, more commonly they are being detained for drug use or have been registered as runaways. In the case of the runaways, it is not uncommon that the reality is that they were forced to leave home by their parents. Both women emphasized that the individuals that they interact with at Juvenile Hall are not drastically different than other teenagers, they have the same dreams and aspirations; that they are a product of their environments is the defining difference.

jail bars

Photo by TheGiantVermin |
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On Martino’s initial visit to the detention facility was on a game night, during which she taught the girls to play the card game “Steal the Pack” which she notes, was “rich in irony.” Reflecting back she explains that she hadn’t know what to expect; her preconceived notions were shattered by the realization that are all just trying to survive. While they may act strong, in reality they are broken and fragile. She immediately felt a strong connection and continued to visit weekly, stating that her visits have “affected my life in a really dramatic, really powerful way.”

Volunteers are asked to commit to one year with a girl, meeting while they are incarcerated and maintaining weekly contact after they have been released. The volunteers speak very highly of the staff, but the mentoring program helps to fill a crucial void as staff are limited by the perimeters of their role. Hays explains that the Probation department considers it a conflict of interest for staff members to follow up with individuals after their incarceration. Volunteers are uniquely suited to to provide support. It is paramount to establish trust during the weekly meetings as, according to Martino, despite the best efforts of the mentor, it can be difficult to maintain contact once they have been released.

Potential volunteers may be intimidated to work with juvenile delinquents, but rest assured that staff members are present at all times. Hays emphasizes that the girls are respectful of the time spent with the mentor. Participation in the mentoring program is voluntary and mentors will be reassigned if either party feels uncomfortable. All volunteers go through comprehensive training run by the Parent Resource Center, who are also used as a point of contact to maintain the privacy of the volunteers. Some may be wary of the length of the commitment, but Hays assure that one year “flies by in the flash of a moment.” The number of boys detained in Juvenile Hall vastly outnumbers the girls. Currently there is only a program in place for female mentoring, but they are eager to expand if there was sufficient interest by male volunteers. Upon asking Hays what she would say to people to encourage them to engage with these individuals, she simply replied, “meet the kids.”

For more information visit or call (209) 549.8193.

Published in Contentment magazine | Issue 12 — September/October 2014

magzine screen shot building trust

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Modesto Design District

Revitalizing the Community Through Design

state theater neon signTucked between 10th Street and 16th Street and I Street to K Street in Modesto are more than 70 design related business and restaurants. Bob Barzan, Executive Director of the Modesto Art Museum, is responsible for spearheading the project that has declared this section of the downtown the Design District. In Barzan’s words, “The city is our collection and the neighborhood is our gallery.”

The Design District initiative is possible due to a generous grant from ArtPlace America. Based in Chicago, their mission is to work to revitalize a neighborhood through the arts. The nationwide competition drew over 1,200 applications and all top 100 cities were visited in the rigorous screening process. The edge that Modesto had over other applicants is the city’s strong history of design. According to Barzan, as early as 1902 Modestans were designing automobiles, even predating the designs that came out of Detroit, and hundreds of patents came out of that era. Modesto was once called a “design hotbed,” the goal is to reclaim that heritage.

To mark the creation of the Design District, the Modesto Design Exhibit will be held at the McHenry Museum. A retrospective on design in Modesto from the 1870s through the present, it will highlight five creative voices from a variety of disciplines. Any list of pioneers in tattooing would be incomplete without Modesto resident Charlie Cartwright. Owner of End of the Trail Tattoo on McHenry Avenue in Modesto, a new film Tattoo Nation, highlights Cartwright’s enduring contributions to the craft. A reception and screening of the film will be held at the State Theater on Saturday, May 10.

From the avant garde realm of tattoo art to refinement of interior design, the exhibit also features Michael Taylor. Born in in Modesto in the 1920s, Taylor is considered one of the most important interior designers of the twentieth century. Following in Taylor illustrious footsteps are Craig Leavitt and Stephen Weaver, the creative minds behind LeavittWeaver. Based in the Central Valley LeavittWeaver are internationally known furniture and interior designers. Representing graphic design is type designer Jim Parkinson. Among the many typefaces he developed, Parkinson created the namesake Modesto family of fonts. Rounding out the exhibit is Gene Winfield, renowned custom car designer, a leading force in the graffiti culture. A resident of the area for several decades, Winfield began designing his widely recognized custom cars in 1946.

For more information go to

Modesto Design Exhibit
April 29 to May 30, 2014
Daily, noon to 4 PM, except Mondays
McHenry Museum
1402 I Street, Modesto
Admission is free

Modesto Design Week
May 10–17, 2014
10th to 16th and I to K Streets

Design Week Kick Off
Saturday, May 10, 10:30 AM
Gift bag distribution at various shops

Guided Architecture Walking Tour
Saturday, May 10, 11:00 AM
Meet at 10th Street and J Street

Tattoo Nation Reception and Screening
Saturday, May 10, 6:00 PM
State Theater
1307 J St, Modesto
Tickets $8

For more information go to

Photo by Matt Carman |
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives License

Published in Contentment magazine |Issue 10 – May/June 2014

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San Joaquin Farmers Markets

A Feast for the Senses

A visit to one of the many local farmers markets is a feast for the senses. Live music, cut flowers and displays of juicy fruit mixed with earthy produce. Samples entice you to try freshly baked bread, seasoned nuts, honey or specialty food items representing an array of cultures. For a selection of produce that is both fresh and local, the best place to start is a local farmers market, as the majority of the fruits, vegetables and herbs were harvested only hours before.

Each of the markets has its own unique atmosphere, but what they all have in common is the diversity of products for sale. European and hard to find Asian produce, some of which is grown organically, can be found next to specialty foods, unique crafts, baked goods and much more. The San Joaquin Valley is renowned for being a center of agriculture and is hailed not only for the quality, but also the diversity of goods produced. For sale is everything from free-range eggs fresh from the farm to locally made cheeses. When you visit a farmers market you never know what treasures you might find.

fresh radishes

Lodi Farmers Market
Thursdays, 5:00PM-8:30PM, through September 4
School Street and Oak Street, Lodi

Put on by the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce the popularity of the Lodi Farmers Market is attested to by this year’s extended season. Visitors to the market agree that it is family-friendly and has a laid-back feel. The market features almost 30 farmers offering a wide variety of local produce. The Food Court has umbrella shaded tables where you can enjoy your purchases in the festival atmosphere. Given its location in an area renowned for its wine production, it should come as no surprise that several local wineries are represented at the market. The market has both a Wine Garden and Beer Garden, each with live music. In addition to food and beverages, the market has a number of hand-craft vendors who offer their wares, from jewelry to scented soaps. There will be special events throughout the season.

Weberstown Mall Market
Thursdays, 8:00AM-1:00PM, through April 26
Sundays, 8:00AM-1:00PM, open year round
Claremont Avenue and Yokuts Avenue, Stockton

Frequent visitors to this market highly recommend finding the booth for Hummus Heaven, where one can sample there unique varieties of hummus, including beet and artichoke. The fine Mediterranean food from this San Leandro based company is one of the many vendors who offer a wide variety of goods, from ice cream to olive oil, at reasonable prices. The price of the produce is competitive with what you would find in a grocery store. Samples abound and you can go from produce stand to produce stand until you find the sweetest peach or nectarine. Unique features of the market have included “grab bags” of mixed fruits at a reduced price and a tamale stand that takes custom orders.

fresh long beansDowntown Stockton
Fridays, 8:00AM-2:00PM, through October 31
Near Bob Hope Theater, 242 E. Main Street, Stockton

Conveniently located in the downtown gives working professionals the option of picking up some local produce during their lunch break. Such lunch time visitors can enjoy the live music at the food court area. Market regulars recommend trying the cannoli, organic goods, BBQ and vinegar. Past attractions have include pizza that was made on-site in a portable oven.

Park West Place
Sundays, 9:00AM-2:00PM, through December 28
Park West Shopping Center, 10342 Trinity Parkway, Stockton

Directly off the freeway, the bounty of the valley can be found at the Park West Place Shopping Center. Fresh eggs, flowers, local honey, organic produce and herbs await those who come out on a Sunday. For your convenience they are now accepting debit and credit cards. Come during lunch time to be serenaded by the live music. Enjoy your sweet or savory purchases at the shaded outdoor seating next to the fountain.

University Park
Tuesdays, 9:00AM-1:00PM, opened June 3
Harding Way and California Street, Stockton

Shop for the ingredients for your next culinary creation in the setting of the beautiful University Park, near St. Joseph’s Hospital. Fruits in season include nectarines, cherries and plums. Some of the herbs the can be found this time of year are dill, tarragon and thyme. Representing the vegetables are kale, okra, peppers, radishes and much more.

Open-Air Asian and Farmers Market
Saturday, 5:30AM-11:00AM (or sold out), open year round
Under the crosstown freeway, between El Dorado Street and San Joaquin Street, Stockton

Of all the markets in the area the one not to miss is found on Saturday morning under the crosstown freeway in Stockton. Established in 1979 as a place for Southeast Asian refugees to both buy and sell produce. Today the market boasts over 80 vendors and attracts up to 9,000 customers. Here you can find the ingredients that are responsible for the unique flavors in the cuisine of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and India. Today the market has expanded to include an even wider variety of herbs and produce used by an array of distinctive cultures, from Italy to Pakistan, to be used by the culinary adventurous. Another feature of the market is the collection of seafood on display.

fresh dillfresh chard

Downtown Tracy — West Valley Mall
Sunday, 9:00AM-2:00PM
West Valley Mall, 3200 Naglee Rd, Tracy

Visitors to the downtown Tracy market praise the locally made cheeses, olive oil, jams and preserves. If you are in the mood for Mediterranean cuisine try a kebab. Or, alternatively, pick up some lumpia for lunch. To satisfy a sweet tooth pursue the wide range of baked goods, including fresh baked pies, specialty cupcakes and kettle corn.

San Joaquin Certified Farmers Market — Tracy Market
Saturdays, 8:00AM-1:00, through November 22
Wednesday, 4:00PM-8:00PM, through September 24
10th Street, between B Street and Central Avenue

The motto of the San Joaquin Certified Farmers Market is “from our family farms to you.” In that spirt all of the products for sale are sold directly to the consumer rather than a distributor or retailer. Support the local economy while enjoying produce at its peak of freshness. Stroll along 10th Street browsing the offerings of the family farms, the hand-crafted items, or stop in at one of the shops. The new Wednesday night market is a great option for those who are busy during the day. Make an evening of it by exploring the dining and shopping options at the Plaza at 6th Street and Central Avenue.

Downtown Manteca
Tuesday, 4:30PM-7:30PM, through August 26
Library Park, Center Street and Manteca Avenue, Manteca

Located in the new and improved Library Park the market in Manteca is known for its arts and crafts booths. Vendors have also included Pink Zebra Candles, Avon and Oragno Gold Coffee and Tea. Get a taste not only for sweet and savory goods, but for the local talent as well. The park’s gazebo serves as the stage for live entertainment.

Published in San Joaquin Magazine

Photos by Gemma Billings
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Calling All Kayak Enthusiasts

Each week, from all over the area kayakers meet up to explore the area’s rivers, lakes and bays. The hub for the Lodi Paddle Club is the The Headwaters Kayaking Shop. When visiting the shop you are sure to receive quality customer service and benefit from the knowledge base of their staff, which spans over 30 years. They offer demonstrations for first time kayakers, teaching you proper stroke technique. The on-the-water demonstration also includes the option of trying different types of boats as there are several types of kayaks to choose from. The “sit on top” kayaks are ideal for beginners and are suitable for calm water. For those venturing into more active surf there are “sit inside” models and those that have a spray skirt.

Dan Arbuckle, owner of Headwaters Kayaking Shop, encourages those new to the sport to come to one of the meet-ups as the community is very welcoming and experience kayakers are always willing to give pointers. If you don’t own a kayak, rentals are available. There are reduced rates for rentals for those participating in the Paddle Club. During this season there are two events happening each week.

Wednesday Evening Sunset Paddle
5:00 PM

Saturday Morning Wildlife Tours
8:30 AM

kayak river refleciton

Photo by Jamie McCaffrey |
Creative Commons Attribution License

The Boathouse
Lodi Lake, 847 N. Cluff Avenue, Suite A-6, Lodi

For more information on the Lodi Paddle Club visit For kayaking equipment or rentals visit Headwaters Kayak Shop, 847 N Cluff Ave, Lodi, (209) 224‑8367,

kayak colors

Photo by ohad* |
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives License

Published in San Joaquin Magazine

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Have a Pint | Where to Find IPAs

india pale ale handletteringOne of the most popular varieties of beer can be attributed to the British Empire. The East India Company commissioned the brewing of a beer that could survive the trip from England to India, what resulted was a style of beer that became known as India Pale Ale. Today beer aficionados can choose from a wide variety of IPAs right here in San Joaquin county.

Lodi Beer Co
105 S School St, Lodi

Western Pacific IPA
7% ABV
Not for the faint of heart, this beer is hand crafted right at the restaurant using the Bohemian brew system. Strong hops, malt and alcohol give it all the marks of an IPA.

Stooges of Lodi
105 W Pine St, Lodi

Goose Island IPA
5.9% ABV
This classic ale has a full hops flavor, fruit aroma and dry malt middle. Goose Island IPA is notable for its long hop finish.

6252 Pacific Ave, Stockton

Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA
6.5% ABV
For those that think the more hops the better, this is the beer for you. A feast for the senses with its powerful flavor, distinct aroma and golden straw color.

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery
5733 Pacific Ave, Stockton

BJ’s HopStorm® IPA
6.5% ABV
BJ’s own American style IPA has enough malt to stand up to the six varieties of hops. Pleasant to drink, this is a good IPA for those venturing into this style of beer.

Woodbridge Uncorked
18911 N Lower Sacramento Rd, Woodbridge

Dedicated to offering the best craft beers, Woodbridge Uncorked always has at least three draft IPAs. With a heavy rotation, changing their taps weekly, one of their fixtures is Chico’s own Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., from whom they get a monthly limited release beer on tap.

Valley Brewing Co
157 W Adams St, Stockton

Valley Brewing Co. typically carries six to eight IPAs from various local vendors on their ever-changing, extensive beer list.

Garlic Brothers Restaurant & Bar
6629 Embarcadero Dr, Stockton

Racer 5 IPA
7.5% ABV
This strong IPA from Bear Republic Brewing Co. gets its full bodied flavor from four varieties of hops.

Crush Kitchen + Bar
115 South School St. Suite 13, Lodi

6.9% ABV
This IPA hails from San Diego. A unique two week “dry-hopping” process leaves the beer with a distinctive hop aroma and flavor.

Acme California IPA
6.9% ABV
From the North Coast Brewing Co. in Mendocino comes an IPA brewed with over a pound of hops per barrel. The beer is refreshingly dry and delicious, despite its apparent strength.

Rubicon IPA
6.5% ABV
Since 1987 Rubicon Brewing Company in Sacramento has been crafting its uniquely American beers and this golden IPA is no exception. It features generous portions of Columbus, Chinook and Cascade hops.

Published in San Joaquin Magazine

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Women are People

In an interview with author George R.R. Martin he was asked, “There’s one thing that’s interesting about your books. I noticed that you write women really well and really different. Where does that come from?”

Martin’s response, “You know…I’ve always considered women to be people.”

bird embodiery

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