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White Mountain Community Dance Hall makes decision to close
  • Updated

SHOW LOW — When President Ken Baker of the White Mountain Community Dance Hall and his wife Virginia, board treasurer, learned that four people who attended their dance hall on June 11 tested positive for COVID-19, they went into action and closed the club for a two week quarantine, fully expecting to re-open on July 2. When the known number of positives grew to 20, the board met and voted to shut down the 2021 season.

The White Mountain Community Dance Hall is home of the White Mountain Rim Rompers, a non profit organization, located at 1005 Old Highway 160 in Linden. Their summer schedule for western or country dancing is May through October on Friday nights and May through September for square dancing on Saturday nights.

The hall first opened on April 19 this year for the western/country dancing. Their numbers were running around 40 in attendance each Friday until June 11 when they had a record number of 70 people.

The week following the June 11 dance, the Bakers were contacted by four people who were at that dance who advised them they tested positive for COVID-19. Two of the four told them they had actually been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Bakers said a physician for two of the COVID-19 positive people advised they should close the hall for two weeks. That was June 18. They immediately sent out an email to all of the June 11 sign-ins advising of the outbreak and closure and posted that information on their doors. The information was also placed on their website and Facebook page and they contacted Juniper Ridge whose residents frequent the dance hall.

The Independent spoke with Navajo County Health Director Janelle Linn on June 21 and she said she had seen several posts on social media regarding the dance hall but no one had contacted the health district. She asked if there was contact information for the Bakers and was given their number to follow up.

On June 29, with a total of 20 people having reported to the Bakers that they had tested positive for COVID-19, and nine of those saying they had been vaccinated, and reading that numbers were escalating, they held an emergency board meeting and voted to close the hall.

“It was a hard decision. We are not putting anybody out of work, we are just trying to keep people from getting sick,” said Ken Baker.

The Bakers said the health district had contacted them and asked for the names and phone numbers of the people who attended the June 11 dance. They provided the names but did not have the phone numbers. Virginia Baker said she had first spoke with Infection Control Supervisor Cathy Solomon of Navajo County but was “moved to another health worker named Hazel.” She did not know Hazel’s last name but in a text Hazel wrote Virginia saying she was referring her “to a more experienced public health nurse, Tom T. Mars who is absolutely awesome and will be handling it.”

The Bakers had two more people contact them on July 1 and they also gave those names to the health district. The Bakers also asked each person who reported a case to them whether or not they had been vaccinated. Nine said they had been vaccinated.

The Bakers also had a post on the hall’s Facebook page regarding a GoFundMe request set up by Roger Wade for he and Jeanne Danowski, known in the music world as Midnight Moon. They were the performers at the dance hall on June 11. They stated on the page that they had contracted COVID-19 at that event and needed help with their expenses. Danowski wrote she was in rehab and that Wade was at home.

The GoFundMe.com was also posted on Midnight Moon’s Facebook page and had previously posted on June 20, “Update — we have covid...”

Linn said the health district has to be careful with how they handle reports due to HIPAA. They ask questions so they can weed out information and determine the level of risk. Then they can do contract tracing. In a small community any information put out about a person, even without their name, could violate HIPAA because people can easily guess who that person is.

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It is a federal law that created national standards to protect sensitive patient information about a patient’s health from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

Linn said social media is not the place to go with these reports. She said people need to call public health “so we can guide you.” She said that is their job and they will help you know how to proceed.

“We look at each person to see if a level of risk exists and what that level of risk is. We do not have the resources to go down every rabbit hole,” said Linn.

With some people saying they were vaccinated, and now have tested positive for COVID-19, the question is being asked if it is really COVID-19 or the new strain?

In a text to the Independent regarding the county’s testing for other strains, Linn stated, “Yes. Random sampling is being done and in concerning cases, if the patient is willing to be sampled, we can request sequencing to rule out a variant.”

In a June 29 article in the Independent by Pete Aleshire titled COVID-19 cases inch upward as vaccination efforts falter, he wrote, “Arizona’s not doing much to track the spread of the new strains.Labs run the genetic analysis of the virus in 7% of the cases in Navajo County...according to a tracking website maintained by Tgen (www.pathogen.tgen.org/covidseq-tracker/).

“The current vaccines still work well against the known variants, with the protection levels dropping from about 95% to more like 80%.”

On June 25, the CDC updated their site with an article, “A small percentage of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still develop COVID-19 illness.”

The article states, “COVID-19 vaccines are effective. However, a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus that causes it. These are called “vaccine breakthrough cases.” This means that while people who have been vaccinated are much less likely to get sick, it will still happen in some cases. It’s also possible that some fully vaccinated people might have infections, but not have symptoms (asymptomatic infections). Experts continue to study how common these cases are.

“Large-scale clinical studies found that COVID-19 vaccination prevented most people from getting COVID-19. Research also provides growing evidence that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna) offer similar protection in real-world conditions. While these vaccines are effective, no vaccine prevents illness 100% of the time.”

The Bakers have done everything to ensure the June 11 attendees know about the outbreak and that they have closed until 2022 for everyone’s safety. They fear there are others out there that may not know what happened. Their information is on their Facebook page and their website: https://happydancing.us.

The Navajo County Health Services District says people’s first point of contact regarding COVID-19 should be to contact Infection Control Supervisor Cathy Solomon at (928) 532-6050.


Latest_news
Update on local cannabis industry
  • Updated

SHOW LOW — The cannabis industry is booming, and with the Nov. 3, 2020 approval of Proposition 207, recreational marijuana is legal in Arizona and a buyer can possess up to one ounce of “flower” without criminal penalty. It used to be a felony in the state. The Independent has been following a number of developments with regard to the expanding cannabis industry on the Mountain and provides an update, below.

Copperstate Farms

By all appearances, this grow operation in Snowflake has been a success story since opening. The operation began in 2016 on a 150-acre parcel, 40 acres of which is currently occupied by greenhouses. Now Copperstate is celebrating its fifth year in the industry and there are 400 employed local people who can celebrate along with it. Additionally, Copperstate Farms Management, LLC, received approval from the Town of Snowflake around March 4 for a new development agreement to double the number of acres under greenhouses to expand its cannabis growing facility. The approval by Snowflake allows for the number of acres under greenhouses to expand to 80. The company is Snowflake’s largest employer and in a press release from the company, Snowflake Town Manager Brian Richards is quoted as saying “We are proud to support Copperstate and its growth. The company has become a valuable and intricate part of our community, generating hundreds of jobs and revitalizing our town.” It is the largest indoor cultivation plant in the U.S.

Around June 4, Copperstate announced the appointment of Kevin Burdette as interim Chief Operating Officer, effective immediately. Burdette will continue to serve on the Board of Directors at Copperstate Farms and has over 25 years of operational experience in ground transportation and logistics.

Green Hills Patient Center

This dispensary in Show Low holds a "dual license" to sell cannabis products to medical card holders and adult users. Green Hills has provided product to medical marijuana card holders for six years but delayed applying for the adult user license until they could be sure that the process of laboratory inspections would be fully functioning. The state legislature imposed a requirement that cannabis products must be tested to ensure that the claimed percentage of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is as the seller says it is. Other lab testing involves identifying organic compounds in the plant itself and also evaluating the effect of compounds that are used in processing the product and extracting the active ingredient.

Green Hills does not accept any product for sale that has not been lab tested, a policy the "makes everything safer," said Ann Torrez of Green Hills.

Part of the marijuana legalization proposition which voters approved, allows for the expungement of past criminal convictions for simple possession of marijuana. Green Hills in conjunction with AZNormal, a long-standing marijuana advocacy group, will hold an in-person seminar where persons can learn how get a record expunged. Attorneys will be on site to help. The meeting will be between at 10 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on July 25 at 3191 S. White Mountain Road in the conference room. Advanced registration is encouraged and can be done by visiting  Green Hills website at greenhillspatientcenter.com

Kompocare

In Taylor, Kompocare began its medical marijuana dispensary shortly after voters approved it, and since the flat out legalization of marijuana in the state, it moved to a dual use dispensary serving medical marijuana card holders and adult use consumers.

According to sources, former owners of Kompocare, Heather and Dusty DeClarlo sold the business and presumably the license from the Arizona Department of Health Services. The new owner is reported to be to an Illinois company called Consume Cannabis Company, an operation that runs eight dispensaries in Illinois and Michigan, according to its website. The original Kompo is reported to have a small local grow operation which was part of the sale.

It is unknown whether the new owner intends to keep operating in Taylor. Last year, there were reports that Kompo was eyeing a move to Show Low near the Commerce Drive/Thornton Road area of town near the intersection of Highway 77 and US Highway 60. That hasn’t happened yet, but sources say the move is still in the works. A media inquiry to Consume Cannabis went unanswered as of press time. A number of calls to Kompo and the ADHS about that were not returned. Employees at Kompo were reportedly told in early May of the sale.

Springerville

If the experiences of cannabis entrepreneurs on the Mountain could be categorized as the good, the bad and the ugly, Springerville’s endeavor has to be in the ugly, if not very ugly category.

The Town of Springerville leased land to White Mountains Flower, LLC (WMF) a foreign corporation, near the town’s airport for the development of a cannabis farm which would sell to wholesale suppliers. One town councilman, Ruben Llamas took a job with WMF as general manager, and Town Mayor Phil Hanson signed an employment agreement WMF, which would go into effect if a particular contingency happened with regard to state licensing. That contingency never happened, and the mayor did not go to work there.

In fact, the whole operation has shut down and whatever structures were erected on the property, according to residents, have been dismantled and removed. Noteworthy is the town’s recent infusion of $50,000 to its legal department possibly in anticipation of lawsuit(s.)

At first the operation’s death knell appeared to come from the Federal Aviation Administration getting wind of it. The FAA demanded that Springerville cease and desist the enterprise because if the town wanted to keep its airport funding from the FAA, the town was required to, and had already agreed to, not conduct any activity at the airport which would be in violation of federal law and/or administrative rules. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. In a January 2021 letter to the town, the FAA threatened criminal action against the town for hosting a grow operation at their airport

Before the parties had a chance to see if a settlement with the FAA could be had, the real owner of the parcel of land came forward and apparently established that the town didn’t even own the parcel of land it leased to WMF.

Throughout the town’s pursuit of this, changing zoning and use ordinances to accommodate the facility, a very vocal group of residents made their objections to the farm loudly known. The resident urged that they opposed the farm because of claimed sweetheart deals, conflicts of interest, improper procedures by the town as well as the lack of studies about water availability and the environment in general. The town has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Depending on whom one asks, the group’s effort was either a fine example of the uniquely American effort by citizens to hold their government to account, or selfish, sore losers opposed the legalization of marijuana in the state, and who have lots of time on their hands to agitate.

The controversy in Springerville isn’t over. The vocal group mentioned above presented on June 1 to the town clerk, signed petitions seeking the recall of Councilman Llamas and Mayor Hanson. The petitions now go Apache County for review. An email seeking comment from the town went unanswered.

But after all that, Springerville may still may end up with a cannabis dispensary. Residents have reported to the Independent that a type of dispensary license issued by lottery has been awarded to two enterprises in Apache County. According to the ADHS, as of April 20, a license has indeed been issued to Springerville Smokeshop, LLC. Calls and emails to that establishment seeking comment have gone unanswered.

That smokeshop’s license is listed as “Not Operating,” by the ADHS. That could be because the town reportedly has not enacted an ordinance allowing a marijuana dispensary for adult users there. The Town Council is set to hear public comment on that issue July 13.


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Holbrook's Old West Saloon, Buckets of Blood, making a comeback.

HOLBROOK — Bucket of Blood Street was the dirt road through Holbrook where Terrill’s Cottage Saloon resided in the days of the Wild West.

In 1886 a gunfight erupted in the drinking hole, popular with cowboys and ruffians, that according to legend left so much blood on the floor that it, along with a multitude of other gunfights that also ended up bloody messes, prompted the saloon to change it’s name to Buckets of Blood, just like the name of the street.

The Buckets of Blood Saloon once served as the Holbrook Town Hall, as a general community center, a court and a social gathering place.

By 1977, the Navajo Community College was using the building as a warehouse.

Now, it along with four other original adjacent buildings, the former Buckets of Blood sits empty occupied only by the ghosts of its past.

But there are plans in the works to revive as close to original as possible as a local watering hole, sans any buckets of blood.

The man behind the restoration of the Buckets of Blood is renowned western author David Grasse.

He has written the books, “The Untold Story of Commodore Perry Owens”, “The Bisbee Massacre” and “The True Story of Notorious Arizona Outlaw Augustine Chacon” with a new book due out sometime in August.

Grasse said it is hard to say when the restoration of the building that housed the Buckets of Blood Saloon will be complete because it is one of the sites on the National Registry of Historic Places and therefore the rules and requirements for doing any kind of restoration are at times time consuming.

For example, Grasse said the original back wall of the adobe saloon fell away back in the 1960s-1970s and was replaced with red brick instead of adobe.

He does not know if the brick wall can stay or if National Registry requirements will say it needs to be replaced with adobe.

Also there is an issue with the stone faced adobe wall that is the front of the saloon.

Over the years water has seeped between the rock and the adobe and melted away some of the adobe. That will have to be mitigated before it can be reopened.

Grasse said he and others are working to get 501(c)(3) (non-profit) status for preservearizona.com to get the first big project of the organization he helped form off the ground.

“The Old West is our shared mythology,” Grasse said. “It is like the knights in armor and the samurai are to other cultures. Holbrook was known as ’the town too rough for women and children.’ Holbrook has a real history. (The Old West) is what Holbrook still has to sell.”

He said the home of Commodore Perry Owens and the Blevins House where Owens as the Apache County Sheriff went to arrest Andy Blevins for rustling and ended up in a true Wild West gunfight that ended with a dead horse tied in front of the house, one man dead and two Blevins brothers shot, one in the arm and one in the hip, are the kind of historic place that need to be preserved for future generations.

Grasse said that it just came to him that “Somebody needs to save these things.”

He said that is why preservearizona.com was created, to save as many historical sites in the state as they can, starting with the Buckets of Blood Saloon.

How the saloon

got its name

According to one version of what happened in the saloon in 1886, as was more often than not the case in western saloons of the 1880’s where men and women drank heavily, an argument over a poker game broke out between sheepmen from New Mexico and Aztec Land and Cattle Company Hashknife Outfit wranglers that did not end until three men people lay dead in it’s wake.

The legend states that the aftermath was “like someone spilled a bucket of blood” on the floor.

Ten years later on Jan. 19, 1896 the manager of the saloon, Harry Donnelly, reportedly shot and killed two men playing cards, furthering the saloon’s reputation and reinforcing it’s name of Buckets of Blood Saloon.

There are a number of other accounts of other gunfights that took place within the walls of the saloon, but the passage of time and the lack of reliable records or newspaper accounts of the incidents (the only newspaper at the time was the Winslow Mail) make it virtually impossible now to know which are true and which are legend.

But it doesn’t really matter, because as old west author Stuart Lake said after writing “Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal” 1931, when the legend becomes more popular than the truth, go with the legend.


1st Place, Other — “Enchanted Daydreams” by Mary Lois Brown


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