Best Artistic use of Natural Resources
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Staging A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the edge of a meadow at Bidwell Park’s Cedar Grove for the return of Shakespeare in the Park was a grand-slam play by the Legacy Stage theater company. So, too, was the production’s sparse staging, which put the focus firmly on the natural surroundings.
Spotting fairy folk flitting among the trees; hearing a gentle musical accompaniment of harp and violin; watching Athenians strutting about the stage as day turned into night—all combined for a transcendent theater experience not to be found within four walls.
The three progressives representing Chicoans in local government sit in minority positions. At least Butte County Supervisors Debra Lucero and Tami Ritter have each other (through the end of the year); City Councilwoman Alex Brown has been on her own since Scott Huber resigned last summer and got replaced by a conservative appointee.
Nonetheless, Brown has fought as hard and vocally for underserved Chicoans as she did when she was Vice Mayor in a 5-2 majority. She challenges assumptions, questions her colleagues and consistently dissents—usually alone—on council votes she considers bad policy or contrary to data-driven decision making. A lightning rod for the right, Brown will not seek a second term this November, which is a loss for Chico. We hope her fighting days aren’t over, that she continues to serve the community in other arenas.
Best Fancy Walking Path
Labyrinth at St. John
Need a quick escape to focus your spiritual energy? Check out the labyrinth located on the park-like grounds of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church (2341 Floral Ave.)—outside of normal church hours, you’re likely to find yourself the only one there.
The labyrinth is located behind the main church buildings and is set near a grove of trees and a seasonal crick, making it the perfect place for quiet contemplation. The labyrinth is a winding circular pathway, meant to represent the Stations of the Cross, and was built in 2017 as an Eagle Scout’s project.
Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, walking such mazes is said to be meditative and a good way to focus spiritual energies, and the beautiful surroundings certainly won’t hinder one’s search for peace and well-being.
Rallies in City Plaza
When a development on the national or world stage seems too monumental to impact as an individual, too seismic to process alone, what’s a person to do? In Chico, the response is often communal—and that was the case May 3 after news broke that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Hundreds of Chicoans, across demographic lines, gathered at City Plaza as the City Council met across the street; their chants supporting women’s right to choose echoed through the chambers.
People returned to the plaza for rallies and marches, including a protest June 24 following the court’s final decision. Peacefully, cathartically, en masse, the community found strength in solidarity.
Best Revival of a Community Event
Chico Art Festival
The return of this beloved community event is one of the highlights of 2022. The Chico Art Festival (formerly Art at the Matador) rebooted and relocated to St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church for its ninth edition; it featured an impressive collection of art and handmade creations from dozens of artists and makers working with various materials—paint, ceramics, stained glass, leather, felt, wood and more.
The two-day festival drew a crowd ready to return to in-person events—wandering in and out of artist booths, tapping their feet and dancing to live local music, sipping on coffee in the morning and margaritas in the afternoon. Nonprofit art groups also offered interactive experiences, like a weaving lesson for children and live screenprinting demonstrations.
We’re thrilled that Chico Visual Arts Alliance (ChiVAA), the group behind this delightful event, is already planning next year’s festival: Put May 12-13, 2023, on your calendar!
Dogs and beer
Amid the destruction of so much of “normal life,” a few advancements to good living have come out of the pandemic: namely, patios that allow dogs.
During COVID, drinking beer outside with a pooch was one of the few acceptable public indulgences. Now that everything has opened back up, and the patios in front of Duffy’s Tavern and The Banshee have joined pre-existing spots at the likes of B Street and Burgers & Brew, there are so many options for that most ideal date night: beer with your dog.
Best Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe
There’s nothing typical about Scotty’s, the bar/restaurant on the Sacramento River run by a former rodeo clown. The CN&R referred to the joint as a “ramshackle paradise” roughly a decade ago, and that description still stands, because not a damned thing has changed at this haven for river rats and would-be honky-tonk heroes.
The place might actually be some sort of interdimensional space/time vortex: You can sit quietly on the river-facing back patio and somehow imagine yourself at any point between 1975 and some indeterminate year in a post-apocalyptic future.
Not convinced? Check out the menu: With its 1990-something prices, it’s possible to get a tasty meal for two and a pitcher of beer for about $25 bucks!
Best Musicians’ Advocate
Andan Casamajor, the music coordinator for Secret Trail Brewing Company, has long been dedicated to supporting local musicians.
As the host of Secret Trail’s Wednesday open mic night, launched in September 2021, Casamajor has cultivated a welcoming and encouraging setting for up-and-comers as well as longtime performers. Of course, Secret Trail (132 Meyers St., Ste. 120) is just the latest spot where Casamajor has produced the very popular open mic that has been going on in Chico for decades—most recently at Tender Loving Coffee and before that at the old downtown location of Has Beans Coffee.
Always professional and clearly passionate about her work, Casamajor is an attentive, expert sound engineer, as well as a talented local musician and singer-songwriter (she heads folk-rock cover band Channel 66). She’s also provided sound engineering for various community events, such as Stonewall Alliance’s Chico Pride.
Our town is lucky to have Casamajor. The important work she’s done for years has uplifted local musicians and helped the Chico music scene grow and flourish.
Best Small Talkers
The dudes at Downtown Liquor & Market
Whether at a party or in an elevator, the best way to smooth over the awkwardness of being around other humans is simply to ask a question. Everyone likes to feel as though someone is showing interest in them, and just saying something like “What are you up to this weekend?” can make a stranger open up, sparking a conversation that leads to connection.
Elie Ibrahim and Frank Deshler at Downtown Liquor & Market (598 E. 8th St.) are masters of this sort of engagement. With a “Hey, Boss” when a regular walks through the door, followed by a casual question posed as money is exchanged for a bottle, the dudes brighten the days of more Chicoans than many shopkeepers in town.
Best Weekly Parking Lot Party
Flume Street Fair
There’s always something new to see at the Flume Street Fair, a colorful, eclectic weekly celebration of art, music and local creators on the corner of Eighth and Flume streets, hosted by Chico Art Studio in collaboration with the Chico ART Collective.
Every Saturday (except during the hottest months; June-August this year), vendors show off a range of goods—handmade jewelry, stained glass, ceramics, paintings and more. It’s an intimate, comfortable space, where artists and fair-goers can strike up a conversation easily and local musicians can show off at the event’s open mic or as a featured act. The fair also offers local food and beverage vendors.
The addition of this lively outdoor event to Chico’s Saturday festivities has been a breath of fresh air, especially during the ups and downs of the pandemic. Here’s hoping the fair will become yet another local tradition.
Best Fulfilled Promise
Rotary Centennial Park
North Chico residents waited 25 years for a park at the corner of Ceres Avenue and Whitewood Way. That’s what they were promised when the neighborhood was developed in the 1990s. Instead, decades passed with a giant field of weeds and rocks as a reminder.
But Chico Rotary, a service organization that marked its 100th anniversary last year, partnered with the Chico Area Recreation and Park District to transform the five-acre lot into a lush park with a playground, basketball court, picnic areas, grass fields and walking trail. Hundreds of volunteers from Chico, Paradise and Durham worked on the project. Lined with split-rail wooden fencing and accessible to the public, Rotary Centennial Park opened in December and continues to take root, recently adding a new climbing apparatus for kids.
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