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Gilroy, CA
Saturday, December 15, 2018

Scott Forstner

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School boss to get $150K buyout

Jon Gundry, the embattled Superintendent of Schools for the Santa Clara County Office of Education, relinquished his post after agreeing last week to a...

Volunteers get dirty to clean up San Martin

San Martin is a cleaner and greener city today than it was last week, thanks to the efforts of about 80 South County residents...

Santa Rosa man claims great pumpkin

Days after devastating fires in the North Bay threatened to incinerate Russ Pingrey's 2,000-pound pumpkin—along with his Santa Rosa home—the gargantuan gourd earned the hobbyist grower the title of 2017 Grand Champion at the 27th annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off at Uesugi Farms in San Martin.Pingrey’s giant pumpkin earned him a $14,000 paycheck (at $7 per pound).“I thought I had a chance,” said Pingrey of his first-place gourd. He had originally planned to enter in the Half Moon Bay competition one week earlier, but he was delayed due to the the wildfires that surrounded his home and continue to burn. “I woke up Monday morning and there was fire all around me.”The Tubbs Fire was only a half mile from his house Oct. 9, so his family packed up a tent trailer and were ready for evacuation orders, which came later that day. His house and his prize pumpkins were in jeopardy.“We evacuated but (the firefighters) were able to hold the line on Badger Road (about half a mile north). It was kind of a stressful time,” said Pingrey, a letter carrier by trade who also grows pumpkins on his one-acre property. “(The winning pumpkin) used to be called ‘Gourdo,’ but after surviving the fire I changed its name to ‘Fireball.’”Pingrey was able to return to his home on Monday, Oct. 9, after the evacuation orders were lifted. With uncertainty the fires could threaten again, however, he was going to skip the San Martin competition as well.“I wasn’t going to come, but my wife said, ‘Just go. We’ve (evacuated) twice before. We know what to do,’” Pingrey said.Pingrey headed down to San Martin with “Fireball,” and ended up with the $14,000 top prize.“There’s not a lot of people who have grown 2,000-pound or more pumpkins. I was very excited,” Pingrey said. “Honestly, I was happy to get away (from the fires) somewhere.”Pingrey is back home now, where firefighters have made progress on the fires, he said, but his first-place pumpkin remains in San Martin.The grand champion pumpkin and other select pumpkins will be on display and available for photo opportunities through October.As of Oct. 17, the Tubbs Fire, one of seven currently active in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties, was 82 percent contained and has burned 36,432 acres, according to The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa. The Sonoma County fires had burned 102,785 acres and killed at least 22 people in the county, according to Cal Fire.During the Oct. 14 competition in San Martin, the massive pumpkins were lifted with a forklift onto a giant electronic scale with a custom-built harness, under the watchful eye of officials from the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth International Competition organization.In 2016, Napa resident Leonardo Urena’s 2016 first-place pumpkin weighed in at 1,937 pounds.A slew of proud contenders from throughout the west coast competed for over $25,000 in prize money.Uesugi, the state’s third biggest pumpkin grower,  has also bought Spena Farms patch at Bailey and Santa Teresa, which added another 300 acres of growing land, boosting its farmland from 800 to 1,100 acres locally. The company grows 250 acres of pumpkins, 5,000 acres of peppers and 1,000 acres of sweet corn across the state, according to manager Pete Aiello.The family-run Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park (14485 Monterey Road in San Martin), now in its 32nd year of operation, encompasses 43 acres and more than 15 attractions. It is open from 9am to 7pm Monday through Thursday and until 9pm on the weekend.

Gilroyans attend ICE protests in Morgan Hill

A couple hundred protesters from throughout the Bay Area braved the heavy Presidents’ Day rains Feb. 20 and converged on the new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Morgan Hill.

Anderson expected to close to boating Aug. 27

Santa Clara Valley Water District officials are anticipating an Aug. 27 shutdown for recreational boating at Anderson Lake as water from the reservoir continues to be drained and used for the county’s main source of drinking water.

Backup firefighter helps win the cook-off

Cal Fire captain Herb Alpers was in quite a bind leading into Friday’s inaugural Champions for Charity first responders cook-off at the 2016 Gilroy Garlic Festival.Only days away from the competition, which pitted four first responder tandems from different agencies against one another in a three-course elimination format, Alpers needed to find a new partner. His fellow fire captain Anthony Anastasi was forced to bow out due the all-hands-on-deck scenario brought on by the 35,000-plus acre Soberanos fire burning in Monterey County.So, at the last minute, Alpers leaned on a retired firefighter Tom Evans to join him on the festival’s Cook-off Stage to battle for the $3,000 top prize to be donated to the charity of their choosing.The makeshift Cal Fire duo found instant chemistry in the kitchen and pulled off a victory for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the recipient of the charitable donation made by the Gilroy Garlic Festival Foundation on their behalf.“It was a little more pressure than I’m used to cooking in the firehouse. We had to think quick on our feet,” said Alpers, a 20-year veteran of Cal Fire who remained calm cooking on stage in front of a live audience. “We were so busy cooking and keeping track of time that we didn’t realize our surroundings. All I could focus on was the task at hand.”Two hours earlier, Gene Sakahara and Sam Bozzo, the famed “SakaBozzo” duo of local retired administrators and past Garlic Festival presidents, donned the same Cook-off stage for their final cooking demonstration along with their grandsons.The first responder teams were tested with a surprise basket of ingredients for each of the two rounds, cooking an entree in the opener and a dessert in the finale. It was originally supposed to be a three round competition, including an appetizer, but the Gilroy Fire Department cookoff team was forced to withdraw due to the fire as well.The two other competing teams were paramedics Peggy Brapp and TC Warford from Santa Clara County EMS (playing for nonprofit “19 For Life”) and fire engineer Vince Grewohl and fire fighter Bill Olguin from the Hollister Fire Department (playing for Chamberlain’s Children Center).“When I’m on duty, I cook 90 percent of the time. I love Italian food, but I cook a little bit of everything (at the fire station),” shared Olguin prior to the first round basket being revealed. “Usually it’s what’s on sale; we all chip in for dinner; and there’s a lot of experimenting.”In the opening round, which teams had a half hour to make into tasty dish, the ingredients revealed in the basket (just like on the Food Network’s “Chopped” program) were chicken thighs, pickled garlic, artichokes and hot sauce. While Cal Fire and Hollister Fire made their own concoctions of sautéed chicken with pasta, County EMS produced a Greek lemon chicken with artichokes.“I feel like Gordon Ramsey but not as mean,” said celebrity judge Alexis Higgins, a contestant on Season 3 of Fox’s Master Chef Jr. show, as she tasted the three entrees. “Everyone had real creative dishes and you could really taste the garlic.”The three-judge panel, which also included executive chefs Danae McLaughlin from Harker Schools in San Jose and Benjamin Brown from The Lodge at Pebble Beach, used a points system to determine which teams advanced and the eventual champion.“It was really close and we just hate doing this,” said McLaughlin before Hollister Fire’s duo was eliminated in the entree round.In the 20-minute championship dessert round, the secret basket ingredients chosen were ladyfingers, blood orange cranberry punch, bacon and, of course, more garlic.The victorious Cal Fire squad served up a lady finger, custard, fresh fruit, candy bacon parfait, while Cal EMS made a concoction they called “Bloody fingers” with a Greek yogurt, tart dipping sauce.“I was really pleased with the balance of bacon and garlic in both dishes,” McLaughlin said. “Both pulled off incredible desserts.”In the end, Cal Fire’s dessert was the winning dish in the inaugural Champions For Charity event.

U.S. Women’s Open Day 2: Korean trio tops second-round leaderboard

While the world’s top ranked female golfer Lydia Ko made her move back into contention at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, a trio of Korean competitors landed in the top three spots of Friday’s second-round leaderboard at Cordevalle Golf Club in San Martin.

Local author publishes first novel

When Morgan Hill resident Daniel Reyes would tell his friends and family that he was a writer, some would respond with skepticism and ask for a sample of one of his published works.

Cougars survive scrappy Woodside in wild playoff game

Woodside’s sharp shooters were not quite the match for Christopher High’s X-factor and some clutch buckets all around as the hometown Cougars advanced to the next round of the Central Coast Section Boys Basketball Division II playoffs with Thursday night’s resilient 69-66 victory.

Accused YMCA molester pleads guilty

MORGAN HILL—Accused Morgan Hill child molester Nicolas Lhermine agreed to a 60-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting four young female victims at a YMCA daycare center at Paradise Valley Elementary School.