Authors Articles byRobert Soares

Robert Soares

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If you’re looking for live music, a dinner buffet, a Scottsdale night club experience or a Mardi Gras themed casino party, you don’t have to leave Maricopa to find it on New Year’s Eve, and you certainly don’t have to drive to your destination yourself.

O’Shays Pub & Grill

O’Shays Pub & Grill kitchen manager Pete Arvizu said he is “hoping for all of Maricopa” to show up at the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve party.

The party will take place 10 p.m. Monday to 2 a.m. Tuesday. There will be $1 Jell-O shots and some surprise drink specials.

Arvizu said last year’s party was “extremely busy” and the same is expected this year.

The pub is at 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, No. 101.

Raceway Bar & Grill

The restaurant, 49237 W. Papago Road, will be open 11 a.m. Monday until 2 a.m. Tuesday.

A special dinner buffet starts at 7 p.m. and is $35 per plate with choices such as prime rib, stuffed pork loin, pasta, lemon caper chicken, and more. Buffet reservations are filling up fast. Reservations can be made by calling 520-568-0808.

There will be live rock and country music courtesy of The East Side Boyz and includes a $10 cover charge.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino

Harrah’s invites you to celebrate the New Year Mardi Gras style.

Starting at noon on Monday, every 15 minutes there will a parade of music and staff in Mardi Gras outfits until 5:45 p.m. There will be prizes of $100 to $500 in Free Slot Play during this time.

At 6 p.m. one winner will be guaranteed $2,013 in cash.

UltraStar Multi-tainment Center

For family fun and games, UltraStar’s movie theater will open 9:30 a.m. Monday with the last show time at 11:30 p.m. The bowling alley will be open at 9:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.

If you are looking for a night club feel, the recently opened UltraStar Multi-tainment Center will be holding a party in its 21 and up nightclub Luxe Lounge with a balloon drop at midnight. The club will be open until 2 a.m. Tuesday.

There will be surprise drink specials and live music from 9 p.m. Monday to 1 a.m. Tuesday. The band Marble Heart will perform; no cover charge.

UltraStar manager Casey St. Pierre is no stranger to the night club business as an experienced Scottsdale club manager. He said he hopes to bring Scottsdale nightlife to Maricopa, and has featured popular Scottsdale DJs at Luxe Lounge.

The casino and multi-tainment center are located off State Route 347 just south of Maricopa.

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During this holiday season, leaders of “The Streets Don’t Love You Back” movement, Robert and Lucinda Boyd, delivered toys and goodies to children across the Valley as part of their fourth annual toy drive .

The group gathered toys from drop boxes placed throughout Maricopa and received donations by mail.

“We give 365 days a year but in holiday season, we make sure our kids have a smile on their face and in their heart,” Robert Boyd said.

Dozens of children and families gathered at Seven Cups Coffee to celebrate Christmas and unwrap gifts.

The Boyds met some of the children through the Phoenix Boys Center, a boxing club founded 45 years ago by Lucinda Boyd’s uncle Al Fenn. The purpose of the club is to provide a place where boys could get off the street and have a space to exercise and box.

“When God blesses you, you bless others,” Robert Boyd said.

Click here to see all the festivities. 

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One Maricopa couple has good tidings to bring to you and your pets – in a big way.

A festive display of Christmas decor on the back of their Maricopa Groves’ home is not just meant to deliver holiday cheer to drivers traveling the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, but to send a reminder to spay and neuter your pets.

“There are just too many animals being euthanized right now,” said Rhonda Kuehn, the woman behind the decorations and co-founder of Maricopa-based Helping Orphaned Hounds Shelter. “Any way we can get that message out; we’re going to try it.”

The big blown-up decorations on Kuehn’s roof include a Santa Claus and two dogs wearing Santa hats while holding Christmas stockings that read: “Merry Christmas.”

Kuehn said it was her passion for rescuing dogs that inspired the message behind the decorations.

“We pull (dogs) primarily from Pinal shelter, and Casa Grande is a kill shelter, so we pull them when they get put on the euthanasia list,” Kuehn said. “And that’s how come you see dogs in the backyard and not reindeer.”

Kuehn said there are about 150 dogs in her shelter now, and that the shelter is foster based.

“The minute we pull them from the shelter, they go right into a foster home. And it goes throughout the Valley,” Kuehn said.

Kuehn said she has decorated her house every year for Christmas, and this is the first year she has brought dogs into the mix. She said it’s not very common to find large Christmas decorations relating to dogs.

“I’m shocked that we found these,” Kuehn said. “We’re hoping to find a different breed of dogs every year.”

For next year, Kuehn said she wants to use a projector to project images on the back of her house of dogs that need to be rescued in the shelter and have the message, “Spay and neuter your pets.”

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Volunteers of all ages joined together Saturday to support people in the community who need it most.

F.O.R. Maricopa food bank hosted its annual Christmas carnival and food box/toy distribution at Maricopa Wells Middle School, rallying volunteers to take part in carnival activities and the distribution of toys and food to 350 families, including 1,200 children.

“We would not have this event without the volunteers.” said F.O.R. board member, Lisa Rollins.

The event was split into two rooms. The multi-purpose room was used for the carnival, complete with a jump house, mini batting cage and a visit from Santa Claus. The gym was a distribution center, where parents were given a number that correlated with the number on a black plastic bag stuffed with toys for Christmas.

Rollins said the carnival provided opportunities for parents to drop off their children to wrap the gifts they had received in donations.

“It’s not from the community, it’s not the food bank,” Rollins said. “It gets to be from Santa.”

Maricopa Police Department volunteer Trecia Koozer distributed the numbered bags of toys to parents as their children played in the carnival.

“It might be one year a family needs help, it might be five years that a family needs help.” said Koozer.

Koozer’s son assisted during the event.

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Maricopa children demonstrated the “spirit of giving” Saturday morning as 16 kids gathered at the Police Department to be paired with police officers and take part in the city’s first Shop with a Cop, an event that provided an opportunity for children to buy holiday gifts for their families and themselves.

The program kicked off with a sponsored breakfast by McDonald’s within the Walmart on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. After their meal, each child received $190 to shop around the store, filling their shopping carts with clothes, toys, blankets and for some, groceries.

“Being in law enforcement, you always have opportunities to serve,” said Officer Craig Curry. “But to be able to take part in a child’s life and take them shopping like this is a once in a lifetime experience.”

Maricopa Police Department’s Public Information Officer Jenny Alsidez organized the Shop program and led its efforts in fundraising, gaining donations and collecting referrals. Alsidez said she notified some of the local community groups such as Against Abuse, the fire department, food bank and schools in the Maricopa Unified School District.

“It’s not all financial hardship,” Alsidez said. “We do have a couple of kids who have lost a parent, or (have) single parents. So for them to be able to contribute to their family’s Christmas brings a good sense of pride.”

The oldest of the children was 12-year-old Matthew, whose mother, Ronna Vandever, said she was surprised when she got the call her son was selected.

“It’s kind of weird for me because I’m usually the person helping, not getting helped,” Vandever said. “I still don’t know who referred us.”

Vandever said she almost said “no” to the program because she felt like there were other people that needed it, but she decided to do it for her son.

“With losing my husband, there’s been a lot of life changes,” Vandever said. “I’m excited for him to be able to and go do this.”

Matthew bought gifts for his family, including his cousins.

“I was looking forward to getting some stuff for my sister and mom,” Matthew said. “I got my mom a blanket because she gets cold in the middle of the night.”

After making their final purchases, cops and kids headed over to the Copa Center where more than 10 police department volunteers awaited them with wrapping paper, bows, decorative bags and ribbons.

Volunteer Judy Lanphein said the volunteer program in Maricopa is wonderful and gives many opportunities to provide community outreach.

“(Shop with a Cop) is a way for children to have the joy of buying something for mom and dad, just a way to show that they love them,” Lanphein said. “For the community to help facilitate that, it’s just a blessing.”

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Mr. and Mrs. Claus are on a mission to give back to the community, but are in need of help.

Rich and Linda Huggins, also known as the Clauses, continue to seek donations of unwrapped toys and nonperishable food through their seventh annual “15 Days of Christmas” event.

Now through Dec. 23, residents can meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the Huggins household 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The Clauses ask visitors to bring donations.

“We’re down on donations this year,” Rich Huggins said. “The demand is higher and we’re down.”

Linda Huggins said she hopes the extra weekend in this year’s event, which started Nov. 23, will benefit the cause.

“The good thing is we have five weeks this year versus four,” Mrs. Claus said. “So I’m hoping with five weeks we can get a larger support base, but unfortunately it’s been slow in coming.”

Friday night, Maricopa residents Sandy and Ron Horne visited the jolly couple with a monetary donation.

“We wanted to give a donation that would be used for kids throughout the community, kids who may not be getting very much,” Ron Horne said. “We’re very happy to help support the community.”
The giving spirit of “15 Days of Christmas” was birthed more than two decades ago, Linda Huggins said.

“Twenty-five years ago I was a single mother living on welfare,” she said. “I was concerned as to how I was going to be able to do something for my kids for Christmas.”

Huggins said she was living in California at the time and Catholic Charities provided her with a Christmas basket with toys and food.

“At that point – as corny as it sounds – I promised God that I would do whatever I could to give back,” she said.

Maezigh Champley said she was excited to take part in this year’s event as one of Santa’s volunteer elves.

“I want to help out people who don’t have food or the stuff that they need,” Maezigh said.

Next door neighbor, Bridgit Donohue is continuing her second year as contributor to the “15 Days of Christmas” events. She said she loves how the neighborhood comes together to help the cause.

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Jaywalkers beware. Maricopa police are watching.

“We are going to start citing for jaywalking” to reduce pedestrian fatalities, Chief Steve Stahl told Saturday’s gathering during Coffee with the Chief.

Among a group of more than 30 people including the chief’s wife and Sgt. Hal Koozer, traffic laws were at the center of discussion during this month’s open forum.

Stahl said the national pedestrian death rate is higher than ever and urged residents to use crosswalks, stressing their importance in keeping pedestrians safe.

“When I see mothers with strollers not using the crosswalk, somebody needs to tell them, ‘Do you have any respect for your child?’” Stahl said.

There are plenty of crosswalks in Maricopa, they are there for a reason and should be used, he said.

One resident expressed her concern.

“In the crosswalk, you’re almost in a kill zone.” said resident Robyn Olney.

In Arizona people aren’t looking for pedestrians because pedestrians are not as common as they are in other places, Olney said citing Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Stahl said there have been few accidents involving pedestrians in crosswalks, but if a resident is worried about being in a crosswalk, he or she should wait at the curb before stepping in.

The chief then took the discussion toward his concerns with tailgating.

“One of the key things that I’ve seen on John Wayne Parkway that is causing a lot of collisions, is following too close,” Stahl said.

Stahl said the travel distance at 35 mph to 45 mph would be at least two car lengths. He asked the group, “Who could honestly say that that’s the rule that they follow?”

Two residents raised their hands.

Failing to keep the appropriate distance can result in collisions, Stahl said. Studies show that from the point something happens to the point the average person reacts to what’s happening is .75 seconds, he said.

“It’s less than one second, but in .75 seconds at 35-45 mph, you have traveled five car lengths.” Stahl said.

Quiet releases of “Wow” and “Oh my” broke out around the room.

“It’s pretty scary, and you haven’t even touched the brakes yet.” Stahl said.

Stahl said being impaired with alcohol or drugs or being tired doubles the reaction time.

“The most common driving infraction of driving under the influence is prescription drugs,” he said.

Stahl said John Wayne Parkway has many businesses along the road and that calls for more crosswalks and traffic control devices. This welcomes the jaywalkers and bicyclists who don’t necessarily follow the rules he said, so it is imperative to pay attention.

“When you’re driving, it’s definitely a multitask event,” he said. “You’re looking at your speedometer, you’re looking ahead, way ahead – all these things you’re supposed to be doing and then something happens in front of you that you have to react to.”

Resident Marah Brown said she wanted to know if there are any laws about riding bicycles on the sidewalk.

Stahl said sidewalks are defined as a pedestrian walkway and are not designed for bicycles but understood the inconveniences being a bicycle rider in Arizona can bring.

“I understand greatly that Arizona isn’t quite designed the way it possibly should be for bicycle traffic,” he said. “However if you’re disruptive to the pedestrians, then we’re going to come up and talk to you about it.”