2017; A Year in Review

Anza Valley Outlook Staff


Editor’s note: From Anza Days to wildfires, residents of the Anza Valley saw a plethora of news making stories in 2017. Here are a few highlights of our favorite news stories as picked by Anza Valley Outlook staff. We hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane as much as we did as we take a look back at 2017; A Year in Review.


The Anza Civic Improvement League (ACIL) met Jan. 7, in the Little Red School House in Anza to install their new Board of Directors. Certificates of Appreciation were also given to outgoing Directors Bob Giffin (President 2011-2016) and Annika Knoppel (Secretary 2011-2016). A brick paver in each of their names will also be placed on the walkway to the Little Red Schoolhouse front door, courtesy of the new board.

Locals Steve Silkotch and Michael Thomas made their small-screen debut in “Tucker’s War,” created by Stephen Savage at Idyllwild’s Rustic Theatre Saturday, Jan. 7, at noon a as a part of Idyllwild’s seventh annual Film Festival.

A residential structure fire was reported at 7:25 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10. The incident occurred at the intersection of Apple Lane and Reservation Road in the community of Anza.

The Anza Community Building Board of Directors met Thursday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. to vote in a new director to fill the position vacated by Kathy Medaris, who moved out of the area. Kyran Roberts was voted in with none opposing.

A rescue helicopter was summoned to hoist an injured hiker from an Idyllwild-area trail Saturday, Jan. 28. The incident was reported at 1:47 p.m. at Humber Park located at 24300 Fern Valley Road.


Anza Xchange hosted a Home Brew Workshop Saturday, Feb. 4, at Minor Park in Anza. Joseph Wittenberg of Anza Xchange and certified brewmaster Rick Osburn demonstrated how to make beer at home affordably. Both a “stout” and an “ale” were demonstrated. Attendees learned how to brew from an extract kit.

Contestants came from near and far to compete with their various machines for the title of Mud King and Queen, with trophies and cash prizes being offered for the fastest times at Anza’s first MudFest. Dirt bikes, SUVs, Jeeps, Razors, four-wheel drive (and not) pickup trucks, buggies and even a sand rail and a real monster truck had the crowds howling encouragement and advice as they fought to race through the 120-foot mud-filled track.

Capt. Leonard Purvis replaced Capt. Joe Borja as commander of the Hemet Sheriff’s Station. The change took effect Feb. 16.

It didn’t take long for the “Ramona” casting team to choose actress Kayla Contreras for the role of “Ramona” and Joseph Valdez as “Alessandro.” It will be Contreras’s second year playing the lovelorn Ramona and Valdez portraying Alessandro for his third year in the outdoor pageant.


The first session of the School Smarts Academy March 1 brought 16 inquisitive parents to the Hamilton K-8 School in Anza to learn how to help their children better succeed in school.

The banging of a portable pile driver, the metallic sound of aluminum and power lift gasoline engines signaled the startup of placing the stanchions or rigging in the ground to support 8,000 new solar panels going up at the Anza Electric Cooperative.

Representatives from several local nonprofit organizations met in Anza Tuesday, March 14, for an educational roundtable discussion. The 371 Nonprofit Network, hosted by The High Country Conservancy and Marketplace Cooperative, Inc., organized the event.

Twenty-five years ago a historical marker was installed in front of the Little Red Schoolhouse. Members of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus descended upon the Little Red Schoolhouse in a festive, good-humored, patriotic and energetic manner to visit the marker Saturday, March 18. The group had installed the marker in 1991.

The Anza Community Hall parking lot was transformed into a huge outdoor party Saturday, March 26, as Anza’s own F. U. N. Group (Friends Uniting Neighbors) hosted a free community barbecue for anyone who wished to attend.


The first ever Bark for Books event was held at the Anza Library Tuesday, April 4, where from 5:30-6:30 p.m., a group of excited children read their chosen books to Cheyenne, a German Shepherd service dog owned and trained by Michelle Hunt of Anza.

The Cahuilla Casino on Highway 371 in Anza was sporting a new look with a completely remodeled building front replete with marquis showing the latest entertainment coming to the casino, a new welcoming entrance way, landscaping and night lighting.

The room was filled to capacity at the Anza Community Hall April 20, as concerned citizens arrived from every corner of Anza, Aguanga, Sage and Garner Valley for a public safety meeting with local law enforcement.

The California Highway Patrol and other organizations presented the “Every 15 Minutes” program at Hamilton High School in Anza April 20 and 21.


A 3.5 magnitude earthquake struck southern Riverside County May 3 at 8:44 a.m., the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The temblor had a depth of 1.2 miles and was centered 9 miles west-southwest of Anza. About three minutes later, a second quake struck at about the same place with a magnitude of 2.6, according to the USGS.

Despite the threat of rain and snow, 22 equestrians turned out May 6, to show off their riding skills in the Lions arena kicking off the start of the 2017 Anza Lions Gymkhana season.

‘Fowl’ weather did not deter bird fans attending the Anza Poultry Jubilee on Saturday, May 6. The event was held at the Organic Feed Store in Anza.

A fire engulfed a singlewide mobile home in Anza May 16, but nobody was hurt. There was no immediate word on what sparked the blaze, which was reported at 8:44 a.m. in the 60000 block of Burnt Valley Road.

The Anza Racing Mowers started the season with a bang at the track located behind the Diner 371 in Anza Saturday, May 20. A breezy, yet sunny day brought racers and fans out in droves for the opening event.

The Anza Electric Cooperative received a record number of director candidate petitions by the May 24 deadline for the upcoming board of directors’ election in July.


After months of speculation and spectacular new artwork dotted the landscape of Anza, The Anza Phantom Artist was finally revealed June 10. Dr. Susan Eyer-Anderson, a local veterinarian and avid painter, had spent months beautifying Anza with her unique artwork marking local sites.

Two Anza residents died when a vehicle they were in lost control, hit a large boulder and flipped, end over end, before landing on its roof Tuesday, June 13. Coroner officials later identified the victims as 28-Year-old, Jonathan Barksdale and 26-year-old, Jacob Szymanski.

A brush fire that broke out June 14, alongside state Route 79 in Aguanga, scorched about 3 acres before crews got it under control.

Aguanga native Ben Robinson, along with other Preacher Stone bandmembers, performed at the Julian Blues Festival June 17.

Firefighters quickly doused a brushfire that broke out at a residence on Hopi Court in the community of Lake Riverside Estates in Aguanga Saturday, June 24.


Anza Days was held July 1. Complete with parade, film festival and good family fun, the event was enjoyed by hundreds of residents and visitors.

Mark Huston, the country-style vocalist with the wonderfully deep and expressive voice, dead-on guitar skills and a knack for impressing a crowd, shared his secrets to success with Anza Valley Outlook readers.

Steven Leash of Aguanga, California, was named to Fort Lewis College’s dean’s list for the spring 2017 semester. Leash is majoring in adventure education.

A new thrift store, staffed completely by volunteers, opened at the corner of Kirby and Hwy. 371. Offering a colorful array of fine, gently used items for sale at deeply discounted prices, the store donates all proceeds to the High Country Boys and Girls Club, which in turn supports local children and their families in the community.


Longtime Anza resident and Hamilton High School graduate Joshua Guillory completed his training at the Police Academy by the Los Angeles Police Department and received his diploma Friday, Aug. 4.

An 92-acre blaze that broke out in Aguanga Aug. 7, drew more than 300 firefighters from three counties. Evacuation orders were issued for five homes on Reed Valley Road and an evacuation warning was issued for Lee Trail and Leathers Lane.

The Anza Communinty Hall Board announced it was awarded a grant which would bring another $70,000 into the Community Hall to make Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades. The board also approved a slight increase in the usage fees on the weekends, but also agreed to lower the meeting rates from $75 to $50 for groups that want to meet in the hall during the week.

Anza celebrated the life of Bud Wellman, Saturday, Aug. 19, an influential figure in town history. Wellman, 1921-2017, was a husband, brother, father, uncle, grandfather, friend, World War II veteran, rancher, witness to history and an adventurer.

Anza Electric Cooperative’s SunAnza solar array was officially dedicated in a short but festive ceremony Saturday, Aug. 19.


A hiker was fatally injured Wednesday, Sept. 7, and his friend was seriously hurt while negotiating mountainous terrain east of Idyllwild. The hikers were reported down about 2 p.m. in the area of Tahquitz Rock, within the San Bernardino National Forest.

The Hemet Unified School District selected teacher Rebecca Packard of Cottonwood School as the September recipient of the Governing Board Recognition and Award.

Anza resident Brian Linderholm organized a humanitarian mission to help with rescues, food and medicine distribution and security in the devastated areas of Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

The Anza Valley Municipal Action Council September meeting featured guest Riverside County Planning Director Charissa Leach and retired Riverside County Planning Department member Jerry Jolliffe who discussed Anza’s role in marijuana cultivation among other things.

The seventh annual Ride on the Rez fundraiser took place on the Cahuilla Indian Reservation Saturday, Sept. 23. It included a trail ride, raffle prizes, barbecue lunch, dessert auction and live music by country western performer Michael Thomas.


Bereaved Parents of the USA announced the opening of a new chapter. The Aguanga-Anza chapter of the BPUSA will hold its meetings on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. at 49109 Lakeshore Blvd., in Aguanga.

The Anza Pirate Renaissance Faire held Saturday, Oct. 14, was an “Aye Matey” good time and exciting day for all attending. The stiff afternoon easterly breeze did not dampen spirits at the faire. Captain Jack Danger and his troop of “Pirates of the Caribbean” intrigued everyone with their fun antics and musical talents.

Local resident Susan Anderson is most recently well-known for her secret passion for art as the Anza Phantom Artist, having secretly painted and placed large colorful road signs all over the area. Besides being a vet and avid horsewoman, she recently organized and hosted a local equestrian event, The Iron Horse Challenge, which was held Sept. 23 and 24.

Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the age of 87, Anza icon Donna Schumacher passed from this world into heaven. She leaves those who knew and loved her with a grateful heart for the time we had to share, laugh, love and fellowship together.

A pair of UC Riverside scientists announced that a relatively inactive segment of the San Andreas Fault system known as the “Anza Gap” in south central Riverside County could set loose a moderate to severe earthquake due to deep tectonic plate shifts that aren’t fully understood.

The Anza Community Hall Board announced that Discount variety retailer Dollar General is finalizing plans to open a store in Anza in 2018.


Riverside County agencies are carrying heavier burdens stemming from state public safety realignment enacted six years ago, partly because funds provided by the state to cover increased costs borne by the county are shrinking annually, Chief Probation Officer Mark Hake said to the board of supervisors, Nov. 1.

The Anza Civic Improvement League dedicated a brand-new memorial bench in honor of Anza pioneer the late Bud Wellman Saturday, Nov. 4, at Minor Park.

A man was displaced from his Pine Cove home Saturday, Nov. 11, after misplaced fireplace ashes sparked a blaze that consumed the home and some surrounding brush, fire officials said. The fire was reported shortly before 12:50 p.m. in the 52900 block of Fern Land Drive.

Ten people were injured Sunday, Nov. 12, following a traffic crash between a passenger vehicle and an off-road recreational vehicle in a community east of Anza, fire officials said. The crash was reported about 12:03 p.m. in the 7000 block of Highway 74 in the Pinyon Pines area.

A jury was seated for the trial of a Randy John Morasch, 55, a felon accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting two runaway boys he took into his Anza home, using threats and intimidation to keep them under control.

Tabitha Stillman assists first-grade students Adam Slatterfield and Yaretzi Delgado-Rivera with their speech at the Hamilton K-8 Christmas Around the World open house event, Thursday, Dec. 14. Diane Sieker photo


Anza Electric Cooperative, Inc. experienced a system wide power outage. Southern California Edison turned AEC’s system off as a safety precaution due to the high winds being experienced in the region on Thursday, Dec. 7, at about 11:30 a. m.

Four adults were displaced from their home and one person was injured Saturday, Dec. 9, after a blaze consumed the home and spread to 2 acres of vegetation, fire officials say. The incident was reported shortly after 9 a.m. in the 38100 block of Cary Road.

A 3.5 magnitude earthquake shook the area near Cahuilla Dec. 9. The temblor occurred at 12:45 p.m. at a depth of 3.1 miles. Its epicenter was about 6 miles southwest of Anza and 19 miles south of Hemet.

A Murrieta jury convicted 55-year-old Randy John Morasch of two dozen felony charges, including forcible sodomy, kidnapping to commit rape, assault with a firearm, supplying pornography to a minor and solicitation to commit murder. He is expected to be sentenced in January.

Crafts, cookies and fun were center stage at the sixth annual From The Heart Christian Women’s Ministries Christmas Party, Friday, Dec. 15, at the Anza Community Hall.

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