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PostHeaderIcon Around Town

PostHeaderIcon Learn How to Earthquake Proof Your Home

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If you are not ready for the 'big one,' you'll have a chance to prepare this Saturday.

This year marks the 7th annual San Ramon Valley Emergency Preparedness Fair.  The San Ramon Valley Citizen Corp Council along with various county, state and federal agencies will be showcasing their response resources and programs on Saturday, September 15 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the LDS Church located at 655 Old Orchard Road in Danville.

This event is all about families and personal preparedness. Gather ideas to update or create your home earthquake kit. Bring your child’s car seat between 10 a.m. and noon and stop by the car seat check point. Help your kids learn to never hide during a fire by participating in the Hug-a-Firefighter presentations. Get your child fingerprinted and take part in a Stranger Danger class. Learn all about fire safety in the home with a tour of the Kids Fire Safety House.

The event will also include a Jaws of Life demonstration from the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, a tour of a Red Cross Shelter, a display from the Camp Parks 352nd Military Medical Brigade, a presentation by the Danville and San Ramon Police canine teams and an exhibit from the National Guard Civil Support Team.

Don’t leave your four-legged family members at home. Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center and Urgent Care will be on hand to provide information on shots and microchip implanting.

Enjoy a free BBQ lunch, learn about CPR, interact with vendors and agencies specializing in preparedness, tour a fire truck and police car and even learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher.

The first 500 families who complete our preparedness bingo game will receive a free emergency supply gift, so gather up the whole family and head down to the San Ramon Valley Emergency Preparedness Fair.

The Fair is proudly sponsored by The San Ramon Valley Citizen Corp Council, The LDS Church, Pacific Eagle Holding, AT&T, San Ramon Regional Medical Center and Joyce Feldman Farmers Insurance Agency.--KF

Last Updated (Friday, 14 September 2012 02:02)


PostHeaderIcon Lego Wonderland in San Leandro Through Sept. 2

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Located in San Leandro,  through Sept 2, a child- friendly, innovative, creative beyond imagination, display of Lego styles, sizes and shapes of scenes have been set up to bring out the raves and delight of wide-eyed children and adults alike.  Housed  in the Bay Area Family Church's upper level on Washington Avenue, the show has been developed and built by 40- year-old Johannes van Galen.  When asked how long it took him, he humbly replied "3 weeks", meaning to set it up!  Containing more than a million pieces, the question was rephrased to be more specific.  "When did you start to build all this?”  This reply made more sense..."I started as a young child,"

The complexity of ingenuity ranges from a free-standing barnyard scene, to a Calvary of medieval soldiers surrounding a castle backdrop, to motorized helicopters, bulldozers and a model train network.  Designed to be interactive for children, yet protected from handling behind a plexiglass barrier, the walk-around space allows for activation of the various mechanical sets through use of compression buttons suitable for wee fingers to operate.

Open every day except Monday and Tuesday, a cash only fee of $4 is charged for entrance to the show open from 1 to 8 p.m.  Children age 2 and under may enter free, but no strollers are allowed.  A supply of lemonade and paper cups is provided for a self-dispensed free drink during the leisurely self-guided tour of this Lego wonderland.  Strategically stationed docents are available to offer interpretation and assistance in locating items named on the scavenger hunt list, provided to spark an interest in the search for unusual items on display.  An ample supply of free parking is available on the grounds of the host Church at 2305 Washington Ave. in San Leandro.

According to the BayLUG, Lego Users Group, a membership of the serious aficionados who contribute to the Bay Area Lego shows, Lego is a trade name and is therefore not pluralized.  What most of us refer to as Legos or blocks are in fact considered to be Lego bricks or Lego art or other forms of the Lego product.  These unique, fit-together, fun shapes are the products of a million bricks per day factory manufacturing in Denmark, and have captured the interest of children for decades.  It is safe to say, Lego blocks have been a staple of most children’s’ introduction to the concept of individuality in creating by their own hands with unending imagination.  The early child development of connecting piece by piece, using fine motor skills and self-direction, affords children a sense of fulfilment and self-expression.

Within the spacious display of brightly-colored Lego art forms, visitors will find versatility in structure from underwater scenes to tall skyscrapers, Prehistoric to Sci-Fi figures, from castle to space age, robotics and Pop-culture icons.  Two designs of battleship destroyers, one more than 8 feet in length is offered by builder, Marcello DeCicco.

A children’s play area is set up within the large room with a mound of assorted Lego blocks and a surrounding seating area for parents to observe the little ones enthused by the myriad inspiring creations.  A variety of boxed Lego kits are available for sale, and have a look around for the very tallest man you can find.  Chances are this is none other than the Lego artist himself, Johannes van Galen.  Enjoy! For further information and advance ticket purchase, go to:  playbuildingbricks.eventbrite.com.

Karen Balch is a freelance writer, retired nurse avid traveler and grandmother. Her granddaughter, Hope, 6, is pictured at top in front of one of the Lego displays.

Last Updated (Monday, 27 August 2012 20:13)


PostHeaderIcon Day in the Park is Sunday

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Plans are underway for The Taylor Family Foundation’s 22nd Annual Day in the Park auction fundraiser, scheduled for Sunday, August 26 at Camp Arroyo in Livermore. Proceeds from the auction support The Taylor Family Foundation’s (TTFF) mission to enhance the quality of life and preserve the wellness of Northern Californian children and their families.

TTFF facilitates more than 20 summer and weekend camp sessions at Camp Arroyo, a safe haven and exciting experience for children living with HIV/AIDS, skin and heart disease, colitis, diabetes, brain tumors, autism and other chronic and critical illnesses. To date, TTFF has been able to provide more than 40,000 children with what is sadly often a once-in-a-lifetime camp experience at no cost to their families. At Camp Arroyo, kids meet other children with similar conditions, learn to live with their disease and make lasting friendships. Each year, 3,000 children have the opportunity to just be kids without worrying about medicine, doctors, surgeries and other difficult life circumstances.

In addition to funding Camp Arroyo, TTFF continues their commitment to providing financial and emotional support for children and families in the community who are in desperate need. Too often, when a child falls seriously ill, the entire family becomes ill and infrastructures begin to crumble. TTFF gives grants to provide children with clothing, pay for funeral expenses and help with rent payments if needed.

 The Taylor Family Foundation, founded by Elaine and Barry Taylor in 1990, is a non-profit organization. Camp Arroyo is a beautiful residential camp serving children year-round as a place to explore, learn and grow in an ideal outdoor setting. Nestled in the hills surrounding the 138-acre Del Valle Regional Wilderness in Livermore, California, the camp was formally opened in 2000 and serves thousands each year. Owned by the East Bay Regional Park District, Camp Arroyo is operated in collaboration with The Taylor Family Foundation and the YMCA of the East Bay

This year’s auction fundraiser includes gourmet food and wine from some of the Bay Area’s top restaurants and the finest Northern Californian wineries. Mingle with local celebrities, bid on more than 150 silent and live auction packages and buy raffle tickets for a chance to win a 2012 Toyota Prius. Priceless and rare live auction items include celebrity dinners and sports packages, private air accommodations to red carpet events, luxurious vacations and other glamorous packages. Individual tickets are $175 and tables of 10 are $2,000. Sponsorships range from $3,000 to $100,000. For tickets/tables and event sponsorship opportunities for Day in the Park, please visit  www.ttff.org or call (925) 455-5118. --JF


Last Updated (Thursday, 23 August 2012 02:32)


PostHeaderIcon Alameda County Fair Turns 100

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Debuting on Wednesday, June 20, and running through Sunday, July 8, the Alameda County Fair is in full swing at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds.  Sense the spirit, feel the fun and enjoy the entertainment.  There’s something for those of all ages, and a milestone event it is---this year marks the fair’s 100th anniversary, with a Centennial Celebration to top them all.

The first Alameda County Fair commenced on October 23, 1912, running just 5 days.  As years passed, local leaders sought to establish a more modern fair, and following the San Francisco Exhibition, in 1939 the Alameda County Fair Association was born. Once considered an event where horse-racing was the highlight, the Alameda County Fair is now the proud host of livestock and agriculture, thrilling carnival rides, homemaking exhibits of quilts and artwork, baked goods and culinary contests. Fast-paced horse-racing still prevails, as well as the ubiquitous corn dog and cotton candy concessions.

This year’s Centennial Celebration wouldn’t be complete without the return of the downtown Pleasanton Parade.  A brand new concert format and a variety of distinctive memorabilia chronicling its 100-year history are on display.  The hometown spirit and synchronized sounds of a marching band, playing in the mood music, will be traversing the parade route on Main Street at 9:30 am on June 23 and again on July 7. 

In commemoration of the 100 Year anniversary, admission on Tuesdays is $2.00,  seniors are admitted free on Thursdays and there is no fee for kids on Fridays. The fair is closed on Mondays. Fireworks are featured every Friday at 9:30 pm. 

Friday, June 22 is Stuff The Bus Day where donating a new clothing item gets you in for just $5.00. On Wednesday, June 27,it's  Feed The Need Day, the fair’s food drive, benefitting the Alameda County Community Food Bank.  Bring four non-perishable food items and treat yourself to a feel-good day with free fair admission, and rides for $1.00 each.

The schedule of entertainment changes daily, presenting such names as Tower of Power, Rick Springfield, America and The Temptations.  One free concert nightly at 7:00 pm allows for overflow seating on the amphitheater lawn.

Special days and events at the horse races include:

A $10,000 Putting Contest, daily
Racing Seminars, daily at 11:45 am
T-shirt Giveaway, June 21

Opening Weekend Hat Contest, June 24

Binocular Giveaway, June 29
Acrylic Cup Giveaway, July 6
$1.00 Beers each Thursday before second race

Might you be interested in VIP seating overlooking the racetrack, close and in style?  Then the Trackside Terrace is for you!  Featuring a full, themed buffet daily, reserved seating, private wagering booths and No Host Bar, reservations in advance, including the fair admission, are $35.00/person.  The on-site price is $30.00 plus the fair admission fee.  Call (925) 872-6810.

Check out Festival Square, a destination within a destination, where each weekend’s theme highlights a beautiful culture from a region nearby or a distant land.  All aspects of that which fills us with pride will be featured:  community groups, professional and amateur artists, authentic local dishes, food contests, live musical acts and traditional cultural games.

In keeping with the historical significance of the 100 year anniversary, an opportunity is being offered to "Purchase a Piece of the Fair."  A custom inscribed personalized brick, which will be permanently displayed at the Alameda County Historical Monument at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds, is available to individuals and families at a cost of $180.00.  The charge for organizations or corporations is $330.00 for each brick.  Call (925) 426-7600.

Taking part in any of the variety of Blue Ribbon Contests is open for entries from Beef-eaters to Bakers, to Candlestick makers, with a grand finale BBQ Ribs and Chicken Cook-off on July 7.  Amble on by and peruse the choices of cheesecake, floral arrangements and jewelry designs.
On Face book, 100 Days of Giveaways is still in progress until June 19th, comprising prizes of a season pass of A’s Tickets, free tickets to the fair, a night’s stay at the Hilton and more.  Sign up daily and enter often to be eligible for a once daily giveaway of fun and exciting prizes.  

Admission tickets may be purchased at the gate or at a discount online.                                                                         
For further information on fair highlights or to watch a video for a look into the past, go to www.alamedacountyfair.com or call (925) 426-7600.

Karen Balch is a freelance writer, retired nurse, world traveler and has attended the fair many times over the last four decades. Reach her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



Last Updated (Thursday, 21 June 2012 20:41)


PostHeaderIcon Name that Tune and Help Girls Rock

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What all-female band did Joan Jett join as a teenager? Was the Queen of Soul the first woman inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? What sample opens M.I.A.'s Paper Planes? Which twin sisters have written songs about cannonballs and hammers?

Want to test your musical knowledge from The Beatles to Beyonce?

Head to the Huminist Hall at 390 27th Street in Oakland on April 20 and support Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, a nonprofit organization that empowers girls through music, promoting an environment that fosters self-confidence, creativity and teamwork.

The organization challenges gender stereotypes, encourages collaboration and tolerance among peers, and provides a comfortable space for people of all backgrounds to express themselves. Through music lessons, workshops, group activities and performance, girls acquire skills that help guide them throughout their lives.

The event, titled “Name That Tune," will be hosted by local music maven Kofy Brown of Bay Area-based band, Sistas in the Pit. 

Trivia will include “Name that Album Cover," “Name That Tune" and other musically-related questions. There will be teams competing against one another but also chances for audience participation.

The TV game show "Name that Tune" was broadcast at various times and with various hosts from 1953 to 1985 and is based on participants naming a song in one, two, three, four or.... notes.

Teams who raise the most money for the organization will compete alongside special guests Mirah, Tara Jepsen, Renee Richardson of KFOG, Tabitha Soren of MTV News, and others.

Teams will compete for titles, such as Worst Score, Most Amazing Costumes, Team Spirit, and prizes, including a private hot tub party on a yacht.  

Tickets are $10-$50 and are available at Paper Brown Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/233040. Refreshments will be available at a small cost.  

Questions? Visit http://www.bayareagirlsrockcamp.org/NTT, or contact either This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 510-267–1808.--MM

Last Updated (Saturday, 28 April 2012 02:33)

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