Our team at Regenerating Sonora hit the ground running this January, starting off with the adoption of the Superior Prickly Pear Festival! Formally managed by the Superior Chamber of Commerce, their board voted to transfer all rights and responsibilities over to Regenerating Sonora. WAHOO!!
Additional January highlights include:
Completed renovations to host healers like Geri Romero, who will soon serve clients at Leo’s
Brought in Community Development expert, Joel Glansburg, who is consulting with us on the Prickly Pear Festival and beyond (More on this coming soon)
Met with the leadership at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and discussed partnership opportunities
Interviewed an archaeologist, geologist, local elders and leaders about what makes Superior unique
Went to Tucson and met with Permaculture expert, Brad Lancaster, who is now interested in participating in the festival.
Met with team members of Native Seed Search and recruited a volunteer for the Prickly Pear Festival
Met with members of Local Arizona First, including Kimber Lanning and Chef Gabe Gardner, to discuss Commercial Kitchen concepts.
Completed a logo design for the Community Harvesters.
Shot a Youtube video for Community Harvesters.
Hosted a photo shoot inside Leo’s for an upcoming theatrical performance in Phx.
We’re now building partnerships with key individuals and organizations to support the success of the festival, and the expansion of educational opportunities at Leo’s Community Development Center.
We have a lot going on in February, including hosting a 3 day governance workshop with Sociocracy expert, Diana Leafe Christian, conducting more interviews about what makes Superior unique, and additional partnership meetings for the Prickly Pear Festival.
Exciting news for our organization and our town as whole!
For the past nine years, the Prickly Pear Festival has been successfully organized by the Superior Chamber of Commerce, achieving a steady increase and broad attendance. The Chamber has voted unanimously to transfer all rights and responsibilities of the event so they can dedicate efforts to their business members. Regenerating Sonora is a newly founded nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing and enriching the quality of life in Superior and its surroundings, its hub of operation is at the Leo’s Community Development Center (formerly Leo’s market) located on 52 North Pinal Ave.
“We are thrilled to take responsibility for the Prickly Pear Festival. This event fits perfectly with our mission to enhance life in Superior and provide exciting and regenerative activities for everyone to participate in.” ~ Christopher Casillas Co- Founder of Regenerating Sonora.
Well – it’s been quite some time since we’ve made an update here. A lot’s happening and we sometimes forget to pause to tell our story. We’ve been hard at work on much behind the scenes, not to mention the fun public gatherings we’ve held.
We ordered in pizza and screened The Biggest Little Farm. It’s a documentary about a couple who decide to get into the farming business without really knowing what they were getting themselves into. Aside from our expert growers on the team, most of us are totally inexperienced when it comes to the community garden we’re planning. We’re slowly coming to agreement on how we want our garden to be designed, and the movie was nice a inspiration for us. Afterward, we formed a talking circle and shared our impressions and ideas the movie conjured up in us.
Want to know about an interesting pattern?
Here are three successful plans that were executed after getting together over drinks at the bar.
Exhibit A: going back in history a bit, our food systems group, Community Harvesters, was founded after a cocktail inspired conversation between Bert Archer, Mary Karlin, and Chris Casillas. Bert and Mary were observing the wasted food growing in yards all over town, and saw the potential to turn that into goods at the farmers market. The next day a concrete plan was created, an orchard picker was procured, and the group Community Harvesters was born! Community Harvesters is a critical part of Regenerating Sonora, and we’re grateful for Mary and Bert’s leadership here.
A more recent example of this pattern is Regenerating Sonora’s participation in the Miracle on Main Street parade. A week before the parade, some of us were hanging at the Barmacy. One drink lead to another until, naturally, the question was asked by Pete Casillas, “How about we join the parade?” Even though some of our crew was busy working the event (Thank you!) we still managed to get a good group together and had a ball. Our numbers were few, yet our presence was felt and our energy contagious! 🙂
We hosted an afterparty at Hotel Magma’s tearoom following the event and kept the good times rolling!
Party At The Pit!
A third example of bar time conversation turning into an actualized plan happened just last week with Debbie Olson and Maria Salcido. Most already know that Maria serves as a light for Pinal Avenue ever since she got her grandfather Juan’s Central Bakery up and running again with the help of her son, James. Debbie, a gifted artist in our town, has been hard at work bringing properties in the neighborhood back to life. The two of them were at Porters talking about Pinal and how revitalizing the neighborhood has the potential to ripple out and cause massive positive change. They were joined by David Guzman, Pete Casillas, and Chris Casillas who are on that same page and see Leo’s playing an important role in helping this vision along. Hardly any time passed before Debbie offered her fire pit for an informal neighborhood gathering she had been wanting to organize. Two nights later, the central fire was lit, and we enjoyed a beautiful Winter Solstice celebration around a fire.
There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning…
– Hunter S. Thompson
Looking ahead, more parties at the pit, we’re also bringing more world-class folks into town early next year, and much more to come!
It took a lot of work to get Leo’s in a place where it can welcome in the community again. Holding gatherings and hosting guest speakers comes with a set of requirements, like a working bathroom…for example. With the help of John Beck, Jess Valdez is leading the charge to beautify Leo’s, helping it to realize more of its potential. We got a chance to ask Jess some questions so we can all get to know him more:
Tell us about yourself!
My family is from Superior so I have lived here on and off my whole life. About eight years ago I moved to Phoenix but after five years of living in Phoenix I was glad to move back. Before I moved I was the Art Teacher for the school district for about two years before teaching in Apache Junction at a small charter school. After meeting my wife about three years ago we decided to move back to my childhood home in Superior for the more peaceful atmosphere and to be closer to nature.
What do you love about Superior?
There are so many things that I love about Superior it is hard to just pick one, I enjoy the peaceful nature of the town and the friendly people. The residents of Superior seem to have a better respect for nature and all the benefits of living in a small town. Not hearing sirens all the time and the constant hustle and bustle of the big city is wonderful. My wife and I enjoy being able sit outside on our porch with our animals and just enjoy the noises of nature and being able to connect with the environment.
If you could wave a magic wand and improve something about our community, what would it be?
I feel since I have been back to Superior I have seen too many small businesses on main street shut down. I was especially sad to see the comic book store shut down. Having the small businesses in town thrive again would be a great site to see.
What potential do you see in our community?
I feel the community is growing for the better. Main street, compared to when I left, is in great shape, most of the building look in good repair. Every event the town puts on has been a success, I go to every one and they all seem to get bigger and bigger. With Leo’s I feel this town will gain a huge asset it hasn’t had before or in a long time. The town really needs a place that the community can gather and discuss ideas or learn about new concepts. It would be a great place for kids to gather after school as a safe space where they could get help with homework or just “hang out”.
What has it been like bringing new life to Leo’s?
Bringing life to Leo’s has been an amazing experience. Growing up here and seeing Leo’s turn into something more than the neighborhood market to get chorizo is astonishing. The building has a history within the town and with the transformation it now has a chance to be a beacon for the community in its future development.
What else do you want people to know?
I want people to know that along with it’s rich history and past the town of Superior has a great future. People leave but it seems most people come back eventually, or always keep Superior in their hearts.
Thank you Jess for sharing your story with us, and thank you for the hard work you’ve put in to get Leo’s going again. When things really take off at Leo’s, we’ll all remember and express gratitude for the work and heart you and John put in during the early days to pave the way for the blessings our community enjoys.
The following is a press release to be submitted to local news outlets:
Change makers and sustainability experts from Sweden and the Netherlands came to Superior on Saturday to share with locals how communities around the world are relying more on each other and less on money to get their needs met. The event was catered by Brick House Bakers and Aravaipa Nanas and marked the first official gathering at Leo’s Community Development Center – formally known as Leo’s Grocery & Meat Mart. The center is focusing on effectively working together to pass on a better community for generations to come, and sees Superior becoming a global inspiration in community living. To that end, the center will hold more community gatherings, incubate sustainable projects, and host a diverse range of world-class speakers. In this way, Leo’s Community Development Center will aid the town of Superior in taking a leadership position in self-sufficiency, sustainability, and relocalization. The center is also home to Community Harvesters, a passionate team focusing on local food systems development. The Harvesters are in the midst of launching the first of many community gardens around town, and also help staff the Farmer’s Market on 2nd and 4th Friday’s at the Food Hub. Along with this, they partner with households who already have food growing in their yards and want to sell their surplus. To get involved, learn more, and find out when the next gathering will take place visit www.RegeneratingSonora.org