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Coronavirus not stopping most Pinal County events
 mstaude  / 

CASA GRANDE — Coronavirus won’t stop Casa Grande’s first fiddle festival or a set of other activities set for this weekend in Pinal County.

Thousands of people are expected to visit Peart Park this weekend as the Casa Grande Concert in the Park, Grande Fiddle Championship and Art Explosion get underway.

“We have people coming from California, Nevada and Boston and no one has expressed any concerns,” said Tiffany Dietrich, organizer of the Grande Fiddle event, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday in Peart Park. “We’re expecting more than 100 people to compete.”

The Friday night concert in the park will also continue as planned, said Latonya S. Jordan-Smith, public information officer for the city of Casa Grande.

“The city has no plans to cancel the concert over the virus. Weather is currently our main concern,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “The performers have not expressed concerns.”

Throughout the weekend, hand-sanitizing and hand-washing stations will be available.

“We encourage concert-goers to wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their face and carry hand sanitizer,” Jordan-Smith said.

Those who are ill should remain home and rest rather than attend the concert.

“They can join us at the next concert on April 17,” she said. “For all others, we encourage them to come out and enjoy the weekend’s festivities.”

An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people attend the annual Art Explosion each year, which will also take place this weekend in Peart Park. The event opens with a preview event on Friday and artists from around the region displaying and selling their work on Saturday and Sunday.

Casa Grande Main Street Director Holly Rakoci said about 18 artists are scheduled to be at the event this year.

“We are still open to some last-minute artists who wish to have a booth,” she said. “We, along with the city, have no plans to cancel the concert or the festival over the virus.”

With the Pinal County Fair set to open Wednesday, Karen Searle, director of the Pinal Fairgrounds and Event Center, said visiting vendors and entertainers were still scheduled to arrive.

“As of this morning, we have had no cancellations,” she said Tuesday morning.

While the fairgrounds has always provided hand-sanitizing and -washing stations, Searle said that more will be added.

Amid calls for the cancellation of major events across the United States, Country Thunder Arizona is currently preparing to go on as usual. Gerry Krochak, director of marketing and media relations for Country Thunder, said the Florence event “is on” for its April 16-19 dates.

Last year, the festival near Florence reported more than 140,000 in attendance over four days, meaning about a 35,000-person average each day. It also offers camping, which thousands take advantage of each year in close confines.

This year’s lineup includes Eric Church, Kane Brown, Luke Combs and Dustin Lynch.

Jeff Siegel, producer for the Arizona Renaissance Festival being held near Gold Canyon off of U.S. Highway 60 plans to continue operating.

"While the Renaissance Festival is an often an escape from daily cares, when considering the current conditions of heightened concern for public health, we encourage festival attendees to use good judgement when determining whether to attend," he said in a statement.

"We pay attention and listen to the CDC and all the information that comes from the public health department. They will let us know about conditions for us in Arizona and how we can be appropriately responsive. We rely on the guidance of the experts," Siegel said.

Concerns for the coronavirus prompted Congressman Tom O’Halleran to cancel two scheduled town hall events in Flagstaff and Oro Valley Tuesday.

At Caliche Senior Living, the Adult Day Club is operating as usual but concerns of the viral illness prompted some community events, including an open house set for March 21, to be canceled. Some resident excursions, including casino trips, have also been canceled.

Caliche residents are being encouraged to stay in touch with family through FaceTime, phone calls and other forms of communication, said Vincent Jacobi, executive director of Caliche Senior Living.

“Active daily life continues here at Caliche Senior Living, but we are temporarily limiting community visitors to only those entering for essential health-related matters,” Jacobi said. “The health and safety of our residents and associates are our top priorities. We are committed to taking the highest precautions to protect the people in our care and to keeping their loved ones informed.”

The Pinal County Public Health Department has created a special web page to help area residents better understand the coronavirus and its impact on the area, including a real-time map of cases. The site is on the Pinal County website, www.pinalcountyaz.gov.


Staff writer Joey Chenoweth contributed to this article.

CG man knew gun wasn't loaded when he stopped Walmart robbery
 jheadley  / 

CASA GRANDE — Because of his years of experience with firearms, Brian Warren says he knew the gun being used in an attempted holdup wasn’t loaded.

On Friday night, Warren was standing in the checkout line at the Casa Grande Walmart about 11:40 p.m. when an armed robbery was tried.

He confronted the robbers, including the one with a handgun, and they fled the store.

“We were in line, and I heard someone start hollering,” Warren said. “Then I heard a gun cock. It rattled, and it didn’t sound right. I saw one guy with his hands up backing off from them.”

Warren said at this early point in the event, he already knew the robbers were working with an unloaded gun.

“I walked around behind the registers and started coming up behind them. I pulled my pocket knife out of my pocket. Just before I got there, he saw me coming and turned on me. He stuck the gun against his leg and cocked it. It was a semi-automatic pistol and it rattled again. He stuck it in my face,” Warren said.

At this point in the robbery, Warren was looking the robbers eye to eye.

“He goes, ‘Back off, back off.’ I looked at him and said, ‘You better get that empty gun out of my face and put it back in your pocket before I shove it up your a--.’ He goes, ‘You really screwed up (racial slur), I’m going to beat your a--.’ ‘You better put that empty gun back in your pocket now and get out of this store before you get your butt whipped.’ He racked the gun a second time — why would you rack it a second time?” Warren said.

Warren is a 53-year-old Casa Grande native. He grew up in Casa Grande and served four years in the Marine Corps.

“I grew up around guns. I am just tired of the thugs. I didn’t even really think about it. I just knew somebody was in danger, and I went around there to confront them and get his attention on somebody else. He got confused and decided to run just because there was too much to the situation,” Warren said.

Confronting the robbers was something he did to help everyone in the store.

“When I turned around, most everyone was gone,” he said. “I knew it was empty because you don’t rack a gun again if you already had a round in the chamber. It just rattled when he cocked it.”

The suspects’ vehicle was spotted later on Interstate 10 south of Casa Grande.

According to the Casa Grande Police Department, an officer with the Marana Police Department saw the vehicle going east on I-10 without any lights on. Police didn’t pursue the vehicle, but other units were on the lookout.

The vehicle reportedly exited I-10 on Tangerine Road and wrecked with no injuries. Officers found the two suspects in the rolled-over vehicle and took them into custody.

Brandon White


Orlando Arias Jr.

Orlando Arias Jr., 17, of Tucson and Brandon White, 22, of Tucson were arrested and charged with attempted armed robbery. Though 17, Arias is charged as an adult. He is two months shy of being 18.

Arias is being held in the Pinal County jail on a $1,500 secured bond and must wear electronic monitoring if he is released on bond.

White remains jailed in Pinal County on a $100,000 secured bond.