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Fall Wine Festival returns

WILLCOX — Cooler weather is expected to greet wine festivalgoers along with new activities for community members as well as visitors.

The Range News contacted Mike Pigford regarding the upcoming Fall Wine Festival on Oct. 19-20 and found that this year’s festival includes activities for a variety of festival attendees. However, what makes this festival different from the rest is the fact that the Big Boy steam engine will be pulling through Willcox on Saturday at the start of the festival.

“We’re going to kick off the festival Saturday morning when that Big Boy steam engine comes in. And when it arrives, the festival starts,” Pigford said. “We’ll actually be ready to open 15 to 30 minutes early, knowing a lot of people are getting there early for this. We can’t sell alcohol until 11 a.m., but that means somebody can get a glass of wine and cheer the train as it departs at 11:15 a.m.”

New festival activities

Before the official beginning of the festivities Saturday, on Friday night there will be a Railroad Park fund-raiser dinner, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Cost is $35 per plate complete with wine tastings to complement the smoked brisket and roast pork.

Another new element of the festival includes a program Saturday night. Located on Maley Street, between Big Tex Bar-B-Que and Isabel’s South of the Border restaurants, will be the Hallo-Wine Costume Party and Swing Dance. This event will be free to attend, begins at 6 p.m. and features an extended period of wine tastings.

During both days of the festival, Vintage Village will be set up on Maley Street. Specializing in vintage artifacts, the village is orchestrated by Bear Cameran, owner of Bear’s Vintage Thrift Shop.

Four Peaks Brewery: a new partner

Pigford spoke of the Four Peaks Brewing Company, and the Range News visited with Rod Keeling, of Keeling Schaefer Vineyards LLC and Willcox Wine Country Partnership.

“From a perspective of wine, if it was purely a wine festival why would we want beer there? We wouldn’t. But it’s not; it’s a community festival. We have about 3,000 people there and probably (most) them are adults, and probably about half of those want to drink something besides wine,” Keeling said. “We got one of the most important craft breweries in Arizona, with the longest history: Four Peaks. I know they’re the biggest, but we’re really excited to be with them because they have the ability to help us promote this event, particularly in the metropolitan areas that we couldn’t just scratch. I’m excited about that. I’m excited about having a partner.”

Keeling also told the Range News that the festival is expecting a large crowd and hopes the brewery will accommodate everyone who attends.

“We want to make sure everybody has a good time and that it continues to grow and help us position Willcox and the Willcox region as the center of wine in Arizona and the Southwest,” he said.

Voters to decide Willcox school bond

WILLCOX — The ballots for a new school bond will be arriving in mailboxes soon.

The Arizona Range News spoke to Willcox School Superintendent Kevin Davis on Friday regarding the upcoming bond election. Although Davis could not give a personal opinion on the bond election, he did illustrate the upcoming process.

“The bond ballots were mailed out on Oct. 9. It is an all-mail-in election, so there is no polling place. There will be a ballot drop-off location at the board room at the District Office that the County Elections (Department) will be manning. I believe the times will be 6 to 7 at night, on Nov. 5.”

Davis said that if registered voters do not receive a ballot in the mail, they should visit the County Elections Office to obtain one. Ballots must be mailed back before Oct. 25. If an individual receives a ballot that is torn or damaged, or the voter marked a wrong box, voters can get a provisional ballot at the district office on Election Day from the county. However, voters must bring their spoiled ballot with them to receive a replacement.

“The bond is important for the school district, and you can tell from the uses that we have listed that there are some important things that need to be addressed in the school district as far as maintenance, safety and security, and technology,” Davis said. “Also, the bond will be over a 20-year period. The money isn’t going to be spent all at once, and they would have a committee of community members that will help us decide what to spend the money on and how to spend the money to meet the community needs. It wouldn’t be just the school saying we need this; it would be a joint effort with community members.”

The needs of the district were evaluated by an engineering and architectural consultant, which gave the district an estimate of $40 million to effect the necessary improvements and repairs. However, the district is requesting bonding for roughly $17 million for maintenance and repairs.

Some potential projects recommended by the architectural firm include:

• Replace outdated fire alarm systems

• Replace aged boiler storage tanks and valves

• Repair or replace failing sewer systems

• Install security camera systems

• Replace doors and windows at elementary and middle schools

• Finish fencing campus and other security measures

• Repair or replace existing well and irrigation systems

• Various roofing projects

• Replace carpet and tile in many locations

• Improve many restroom facilities and bring to standards

• Replace aged or nonworking cafeteria equipment

• Repair or replace parking lots

• Replace playground equipment

• Replace high school track and football field

• Build an activity room at the elementary school

• Other extracurricular facility improvements

A full list of projects is available for review at the Willcox district office.

If approved, the bond will increase property taxes. The estimated cost of the bond to an owner of a home with a limited property value of $100,000 would be approximately $135 per year, or $11.25 per month, reflecting an estimated average tax rate of $1.35 to pay debt service over the life of the proposed bonds. When the outstanding bonds are included, the estimated average tax rate over the next 10 years is $2.30.