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Brandii Guillen takes her toss during a turkey bowl event as coworkers watch Tuesday at Aspire Solutions near the Neon Sign Park in downtown Casa Grande. The fourth annual turkey bowl was held for employees of Aspire Solutions and Premier Auto Center.

Turkey flies in downtown

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Hideout Steakhouse among those feeding the community on Thanksgiving
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CASA GRANDE — Although the Hideout Steakhouse & BBQ in Casa Grande will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, a group of staffers and some family members will assemble inside to prepare about 200 turkey dinners for the homeless and less fortunate.

The meals will include smoked turkey, mashed potatoes and an assortment of side dishes that will be distributed at no cost through community agencies that work with the homeless and vulnerable populations, said Todd Gillespie, owner of the Hideout Steakhouse & BBQ.

“This is our way of giving back to the community,” Gillespie said. “We hope it’s the start of a new tradition.”

The restaurant is new to the Casa Grande foodie landscape, having opened in March.

Focused on steak, which is cut in-house, the Hideout serves an average of 500 people a day, Gillespie told a PinalCentral reporter in July. The restaurant also smokes its own meats, including brisket, tri-tip and pulled pork. Some of the foods served in the restaurant are Gillespie family recipes.

The turkey served to the homeless on Thanksgiving will be smoked at the restaurant in its in-house smoker. The other aspects of the meal will also be prepared and packaged at the restaurant.

And on Thanksgiving Day, Gillespie will have some of his family members volunteering alongside him.

“Even the grandkids are coming down to help,” he said.

The meals will be prepared in the morning and distributed between 11 a.m. and noon.

Recipients will be given meals in to-go containers and may eat them on the restaurant patio or take them home.

“This is something we wanted to do for the community,” Gillespie said. “We wanted to feed those who otherwise wouldn’t have a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day.”

Other groups are also working on Thanksgiving Day, hoping to feed those who might not have a celebratory dinner.

Seeds of Hope will host the annual community Thanksgiving Day meal again this year, offering in-person dining open to all from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Casa Grande Valley Elks Lodge, 909 E. Florence Blvd. There is no charge to attend. Those needing home delivery for shut-ins may call 520-836-6335.

Celebrate Recovery will be hosting a full, free Thanksgiving dinner at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Compass Christian Church, 1510 N. Casa Grande Ave. No registration is needed. The event is open to all who would like to enjoy a great meal, including families. Call 540-226-8976 for more information.

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CAC board member Walker admonished for remarks at campus
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SIGNAL PEAK — In an unusual move, the Central Arizona College Governing Board began its latest meeting on Nov. 16 by publicly admonishing board member Jerry Walker for comments he made the previous month while visiting the Superstition Mountain Campus.

According to a statement read at the meeting, Walker had asked CAC staff at the Apache Junction campus to bring issues directly to him as opposed to the college president, Jackie Elliott, was critical toward CAC groundskeeping employees and publicly criticized CAC administrators and fellow board members before he “engaged in extended promotion of his political and religious views” in front of staff.

This included touring the art department and “observing sculptures of vultures, at which Mr. Walker indicated he could place them on his lawn to attack or kill Democrats.”

While Walker was not removed from the board, following an executive session, the board determined he had violated CAC policy on ethics and code of conduct and removed him from his appointment as the board’s representative to the Arizona Association of Community College Trustees, in addition to publicly condemning his statements.

For his part, Walker denied any wrongdoing and refused to apologize. While he claimed some of the references to statements made were “hearsay,” Walker defended his right to publicly express his opinions, even in front of CAC staff.

“I am a Baptist preacher and my goal in life is to tell as many people about Jesus Christ as I possibly can under any circumstances,” Walker said.

Walker said he wanted to be confronted by his accusers face-to-face and that while he claimed he’d told staff he had no authority to make changes or decisions, he took umbrage with the idea he ought to defer to Elliott or any other CAC officials.

“Going through a chain of command is something I haven’t done since I retired from the Navy,” Walker said.

Walker, whose CAC bio says he is a “public health educator, life coach and Christian counselor,” was elected to the CAC board last November and was sworn in on Jan. 19 of this year. He represents voters in District 5, which includes Apache Junction, Gold Canyon and part of San Tan Valley.

He had previously served on the Maricopa Community Colleges Governing Board and also served as a member of the Pinal County Adjustments, Appeals and Variance committee.

His CAC term expires in 2026.

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Country Thunder announces Shelton, Florida Georgia Line as headliners
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FLORENCE — Some familiar faces will be taking the stage at Country Thunder in April, along with some newcomers looking to bring a little spark to Pinal County’s biggest event of the year.

The festival already announced during its pandemic-caused October stint that Morgan Wallen would be one of the headliners for the April 7-10 performances. On Tuesday, the rest of the main stage performers were revealed, including headliners Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line and Riley Green.

“It has always been customary for us to begin our festival run in Arizona,” said Country Thunder Music Festivals CEO Troy Vollhoffer. “It’s the perfect place to start on a high note — the weather is perfect, the fans are stoked and it really sets the stage for another exciting year of music festivals.”

Shelton last performed in Florence in 2017 as the last headliner. His star has only grown brighter since then, thanks not just to his music but his fame as a celebrity. He is a host on the hit NBC reality show “The Voice.”

Florida Georgia Line was at the previous year’s festival, reliably bringing a party atmosphere to the festival grounds with songs like their super-hit “Cruise.”

Green will be a fresh face among the headliners (Wallen had previously played the festival as an opening act). He rose to prominence in 2018 with the release of the single “There Was This Girl” and his debut album “Different ‘Round Here.” Previously, he was known as a quarterback for Jacksonville State University and a contestant on the reality show “Redneck Island.”

Other notable performers include Gabby Barrett, who crashed onto not just the country music scene but pop music as a whole in early 2020 with her smash hit “I Hope.” Barrett was actually scheduled to perform as one of the earlier acts in the April 2020 Country Thunder, before “I Hope” was released, but is now positioned to be performing much later in the night.

Other opening acts include Randy Houser, HARDY, Chase Rice, Lindsay Ell, Michael Ray, Tracy Lawrence, Jameson Rodgers, Blanco Brown, Sawyer Brown, James Barker Band and Mackenzie Porter.

More information on the festival can be found at countrythunder.com/az.