Meet favorite authors and local businesses at Tucson Festival of Books

This post guest written by LFA Intern, Julie Carmody

Are you a book enthusiast? Looking for a good summer read?

Local First AZ members Julie Originals and Mama's Hawaaiin Bar-b-Cue at the 2014 TFOB

Local First AZ members Julie Originals and Mama’s Hawaaiin Bar-b-Cue at the 2014 TFOB

Come see the amazing Tucson Festival of Books, coming this March 14th and 15th. The Tucson Festival of Books is one of the largest book festivals in the nation, drawing in a crowd of over 130,000 in 2014. Held annually on the University of Arizona mall, this festival features hundreds of authors and books of all genres, bringing something new to every bookworm! This is your chance to see favorite authors such as Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Scott Turow, J.A. Jance and hundreds more.  Check out the author presentation schedule here and “bookmark” your favorites.

Come out for a day of fun and books under the sun, all while supporting key local literacy programs for Arizona’s youth. The Tucson Festival of Books includes book signings and fun-filled activities for the whole family. Alongside the Festival of Books, the University of Arizona will be hosting Science City, a fun and educational event providing tours of the university’s renowned labs and planetariums, a live animal show, and even a celebration of Super Pi Day (3/14/15). Featuring a number of Local First Arizona business members, the Tucson Festival of Books is a great way to show your support of our local businesses.

goodthreadsLocal First AZ will be at the festival helping out our friends at Goodmans GoodThreads program at Booth #350.  GoodThreads will be accepting donations of gently used, clean children’s clothing that will be sorted and organized by Goodmans’ employees to donate to AZAFAP (Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents).

Mrs. Green of Mrs. Green’s World will be signing her new book, Your Mother Called (Mother Earth) . . . You’d Better Call Her Back! at the Bookmans booth from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday March 14th and at the TEP booth from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday the 15th.

Brad Edmondson, the journalist and author of Ice Cream Social: The Struggle for the Soul of Ben & Jerry’s will be presenting at the Festival of Books  and discussing how companies like Ben & Jerry’s can make a difference.  Brad’s presentation will also discuss the B Corp movement and how companies like Goodmans and Technicians for Sustainability redefine their mission in the communities they serve.

Many other local businesses will be exhibiting at the event as well.  Be sure and stop by to say hi to our members at the festival!

Arizona Experience Store Booth #117
Bear Essential News Booth #343
Bookmans Booth #328
Childrens Museum Tucson #357
Centennial Hall/UA Presents Booth #154
Tucson Museum of Art Booth #171
Julie Originals #249
Good News Radio Broadcasting Booth #199
KXCI Community Radio Booth #191
Lovitt & Touché
Creative Juice Booth #240
Hughes Federal Credit Union #330
Mostly Books #148
The Loft Cinema Booth #176
Tucson Audubon Society Booth #271

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Embracing the Totally Unexpected at GIO Taco

16259692388_9056291b87_k We had an amazing member mixer in February, right at the heart of downtown at GIO Taco.  Brian Metzger and his crew served up amazingly tasty tacos. Our Local First AZ business members were having so much fun out on the patio that several passers by asked if they could join in the event.  Found right at the crossroads to downtown at Congress and 4th Ave, GIO Taco prides itself on being “Totally Unexpected”.  GIO serves up tasty tacos, burritos and more from 11am to midnight on the weekends.  Tacos range in exciting flavors from citrus grilled chicken to Korean BBQ pork.  With deep fried yucca tots and tasty empanadas on the menu, everybody leaves happy.  GIO also hosts Sunday family night where kids eat free and join in fun activities while the parents can enjoy extended happy hour prices.  Family night is a not to be missed event from 5 – 7 pm every Sunday.

16261438027_fc1a96dcaf_kAs the membership continues to grow in Southern Arizona, we get to meet lots of wonderful business owners that are helping to make our community great.  With so many members to meet, we want to make sure that folks are getting a chance to meet up with other local business owners to form lasting relationships.  We encourage all active members to take advantage of our Local Connections daytime speed networking event to make deeper one on one connections with other Local First AZ member businesses.  This event is limited to active Local First AZ members and only 20 members may attend in order to make sure that everyone can meet one on one with everyone present in the time allotted.  This event will only be offered every other month, so be sure and register now to save your spot.  Its a great way to make new connections and we promise you’ll have fun doing it.

Don’t miss next month’s mixer on March 4th at Jackson TavernRSVP here to connect with our amazing Local First AZ business community.

Business in attendance were:

A&E Recycled Granite, L.L.C.
Angeltalk Consultants
America’s Mattress
Arizona Imprintables
Arizona Jewish Post
Arizona’s Children Association
Art 2 Business
Community renaissance
Envoy Mortgage
Hacienda del Sol
Intestinal Health Institute
Julie DeMarre Photography
KXCI Community Radio
LifeDonor USA Foundation
Lotus Massage & Wellness Center
Mama’s Hawaiin Bar-B-Cue
Maw Studio
Maynards Market & Kitchen – SUSTAINING MEMBER
Molesworth Paving LLC
Nurse Tree Arch Design, L3C
O’Rielly Commercial and Fleet – SUSTAINING MEMBER
Pedersen Design Group
Playground Bar & Lounge
Revive Elements
Right touch massage therapy
Roadrunner Auto Glass
Roadrunner Office Supply
Santa Rita Steel
Seelie Studios
Smart Lofts
Solar Solution Az
Sun Styles Tile Craft
Sweeds Fabrication
Thomae Advertising
Tucson Federal Credit Union
Vantage West Credit Union
Western Sky Communications
Words, Ink PR

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Local First Members Mix it up at Scramble This Month


The local food scene in Arizona is collaborative. More and more we are seeing restaurants and chefs alike preferring to place produce and meat orders with local farmers and ranchers here in the state. And it’s no wonder with 15,000 farms and ranches in Arizona, there’s bountiful opportunities for local growth.

IMG_5559One such local restaurant utilizing Arizona grown foods is Scramble, a Breakfast Joint with locations in Scottsdale and Phoenix. Scramble prides itself on using the freshest ingredients from local farmers and vendors whenever possible. As they put it, “So instead of your eggs being delivered across the country in a truck, they are literally coming from across town.” By supporting local farms, like Hickman Family FarmsScramble is helping to recirculate up to four times more money back into our economy. Both breakfast and lunch are served all day, including delicious omelettes, breakfast burritos, and vegan breakfast options too!

Recently, Scramble hosted our February Lunch mixer at their newest location in Scottsdale. Stepping inside, your mood is sure to be brightened even before you’ve tasted their incredible dishes. Local First members poured in from across the Valley to lunch and network together in the brightly colored open space. Meals were delivered just minutes after we had ordered, (A service that any business owner on a tight schedule can appreciate!).

IMG_5558As we made our way around the room for member introductions, we had quite a few new lunch mixer attendees that chose to stay long after we left to discuss how they can work together. One trio in particular was Margo Brown of Wave Productivity, Jacqueline Destremps of Another Hand Advantage, and Giselle Aguiar of AZ Social Media Wiz. Both Giselle and Jacqueline specialize in promotion and marketing for businesses and use each other as referrals, depending on the client’s needs.

Margo specializes in developing organizational habits to increase productivity in the workplace and at home. Jacqueline and Giselle utilize Margo’s talents when a client is in need of developing an appropriate schedule for promotion and social media. The three have become more successful in their own business all while collaborating to increase each other’s client base as well!

We want to thank our host, Scramble, for a delicious and fresh meal as well as great service. Be sure to check our events calendar soon for April and May’s lunch mixer spots.

We look forward to lunching locally with you!

Thank you to all those in attendance:

Amer Society of Interior Designers – Arizona North
Another Hand Advantage
Arizona Trade Exchange
AZ Social Media Wiz
B&D Litho of AZ, Inc.
Beyond Merchant Service
Community Tire Pros & Auto RepairSustaining Member
DePaul Creative
Element plumbing
Good Works Auto Repair
Harmony + Health Acupuncture
O’Neil Printing
OnSite OilChange
Richman & Associates, Inc.
Scramble, a Breakfast Joint
Support My Club
The Office Pile
TrueRoots Development
Wave Productivity

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Sarah’s Real Food Journey

If you ask, you will find that people who truly care about the food they eat always have a story. Because our culture has largely de-emphasized the connection between food and health over the last few decades, many people will go their entire lives never thinking about the effect their food has on their bodies, and will proceed with consuming possibly toxic, nutrient-sparse food day after day. To highlight these stories, we’ve created this series on the Real Food Journey, to tell those stories of how and why we began to shift our own diets. 

Here’s the Real Food Journey of our ’15 Spring Semester Local Food Intern, Sarah Schenck: 

15 - 10Pop, Pop, Pop: The familiar memory of a fork puncturing tight plastic encasing a frozen chicken teriyaki bowl pre-microwave rotations took form in my mind as my sister and I began reminiscing.

“Ohh, do you remember those little frozen pizzas?”

Greasy pepperonis and rubbery dough, flavorless and mushy when pulled, sizzling from the microwave. Packaged in individual cardboard boxes that transformed into heating plates when folded. How could I forget the pungent, sometimes slimy packaged turkey that was a staple of my school lunches?

And of course, “When it’s burning it’s cooking. When it’s black it’s done,” the Schenck family motto that served as a humorous excuse for the charred hot dogs my dad served up on a regular basis.

These were the textures, packages, and ultimately, memories that shaped my childhood. The familiar brands you can still find at the warehouse club store are what we bond over fondly because they are the tastes of our collective history, no matter how unappetizing we now find them.

This, as you can probably tell, was before I began my real food journey. I can’t say there was any one defining moment, more so, it was a series of building blocks. The trail of small discoveries and subtle influences, that when I look back, all contributed to a significant lifestyle change for the better.IMG_3490 (1)

During my freshman year of college, on the first day of a class called Sustainable World, we split into groups and chose a topic we’d research for the semester: food. I found myself alongside three other young women. Discussion poured forth. Each of these unique, intelligent, and interesting individuals was either vegan or vegetarian, driven by compelling personal reasons. I was relatively new to the matter, despite my sister who had announced she was vegetarian a few years prior. I had ignorantly poked fun at her in response.

The conditions of factory farming, animal welfare, pink slime, hormones, antibiotics, pollution, food miles, and greenhouse gas emissions were all buzzwords I’d heard mentioned before, but never cared to lean about until suddenly they took weight as I saw the connections of the dietary choices of my vegetarian classmates.

That evening, I went to the campus dining hall where I ordered a chicken pita. Halfway through, I bit into a piece of poultry, and in that moment, I put down the wrap and knew I too would give up eating meat or at least the conventionally raised meat that dominates America’s food system.

sustainabilityThroughout that semester, bits came together to form a bigger picture. Friends recommended documentaries: Forks Over Knives, Dirt, Fast Food Nation, Food Inc. I ate them up. Over the next few years of college, as my course studies delved further into concepts of sustainability and how people, the planet that supports us, and our economy are intricately linked, I learned you cannot look at one without seeing implications on the others. The matter of food was no exception.

This influx of information left me feeling angry and deceived. I had been eating food laced with pesticides and herbicides and food that was genetically modified. There were all of these different chemical inputs and alterations to my food, and essentially to my body, that had been taking their toll on my health without my knowledge. I felt poisoned and furious that I had grown up for 19 years, unaware. For a short while, I was upset about my upbringing and that I had been raised on primarily processed foods (if you can even call them food) full of preservatives, artificial coloring, and little to no nutritional value.

IMG_1591With time, I realized my feelings were misdirected. This was a product of my environment and the society we’re in, and before, I had no reason to question it. How could I expect anyone else to? I also realized that anger didn’t do me any good, but awareness did. I found myself in a system where I seemingly had no control, but I was hungry for knowledge and change.

There are bigger forces at play in the global food system, influenced by politics and money. This can be overwhelming, but also compelling. With this discovery, I chose empowerment. I began gardening. I learned to fight off aphids naturally, without chemicals that would hurt the soil, put toxins in my body, and pollute the water. I transitioned from loving the trendy labeled lattes in my hand to choosing locally roasted, shade-grown coffee beans, raised with ethical practices that provide fair wages to the farmers who devote their livelihoods to my daily Cup of Joe. 20140403_141159 (1)I went from eating at chain restaurants to choosing local businesses run by ambitious individuals who are building a vibrant, connected community.  

I shared my discoveries with those I loved, hoping to empower them as well. For instance, the importance of reading ingredients, because even seemingly healthy foods like whole wheat breads can have secrets lying in their labels. It’s shocking, really! The ingredients are listed right there for us to see, but the majority of us are unaware that we should bother to look out for those preservatives or weird chemicals we can scarcely pronounce. I helped teach my dad the difference between “natural,” “organic, “grass fed,” “free range,” and all of these terms that have the potential to overwhelm and confuse. Suddenly, the phrase, “Is it local?” became more than a fun quote from Portlandia when I learned how Is It Local- - Portlandia on IFC - YouTubeshopping locally not only keeps 2-4 times more money circulating in the community, but how you can find foods that are tastier, brighter, crisper, and more nutritious when you buy locally and in-season as well. I shed light on these benefits when my dad wanted to know why his out-of-season tomato tasted mealy or why his Florida oranges were bland and watery. The norm in our food system is to pick fruits before they’re ripe, ship them thousands of miles, and allow them to sit in cold storage where they are ripened artificially with gases before making it to the grocery store where they’re available year-round. At this point, you’re ultimately paying for a dead piece of fruit with little nutritive value remaining. This, I felt, was something everyone should know.

Looking back, I’ve come a long way from frozen pizzas and microwave dinners, but not just in the way I eat. Ultimately, I have embarked upon a journey: a journey of gathering resources and learning from like-minded individuals with knowledge and stories to share. IMG_3500It is a journey that led to my passion in baking sourdough bread with local grains and ingredients I can pronounce, a journey of viewing food as the power source to my body, with the ability to build me up or break me down. It is a journey of learning to appreciate slow-cooked meals, allowing flavors to develop rather than zapping a frozen meal in the microwave. Even now, I continue to recognize potential for improvements. It wasn’t until I began this position as a Local Food Intern that I began to really give farmers’ markets a chance. It was hard for me to break my habit of buying what I was familiar with: packaged bags of carrots and potatoes from my regular grocery stores. One week I decided to choose cauliflower at the outdoor market instead. It was a struggle to overcome the stereotype in my mind that farmers’ markets are more expensive. But on this day, I realized many of the prices are the same, if not cheaper, and even when they are a smidgen more pricey, it’s worth it to purchase foods that were harvested recently, that are more nutritious, and to meet the faces that my money will support. Each week, I challenge myself to buy more at the market, to contribute a little less to packaging and greenhouse gas emissions, and to enjoy what’s in season.20140303_181544

It is a journey of humble discoveries, and gradual change, improving where I can, and admitting that it’s not about perfection, but rather awareness and action. If there is one thing I hope you take away, it is recognition that everything works in a system. I challenge you to seek the bigger picture, to look at things holistically, to explore where your food begins, the process along the way, and where it winds up when you throw it “away.” I challenge you to continue down a path of discovery, because by reading this, you have already begun your own real food journey.

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Local Gardening Resources for Arizona’s Warm Season

All over Arizona gardeners are prepping their beds to plant warm season vegetables. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, these Local First Arizona Members will help get you growing.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Getting Started

Attend Grow PHX Grow Your Own Food Summit on March 7th to learn all about seeds, growing your own food, and backyard chickens!

Summer Squash

Native Seeds/SEARCH is more than just a seed company. They have a great gardening guide for both the low and high deserts. You can also attend a Native American Seed Growers Workshop March 7th & 8th.

Valley Permaculture Alliance is continuously broadening its educational events, classes and workshops. They also have a seed library!

Be sure to also check out Southwest Gardener, the Tucson Botanical Gardensthe Desert Botanical Gardens, Food Conspiracy Co-op, and Terroir Seeds/Underwood Gardens for gardening books, workshops, information, tips and tricks, seeds, and plant sales.

Space for Rent


Community Gardening

The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona offers home gardening classes, runs several farmers markets, and you can rent a plot in Las Milpitas Community Farm.

Other member community gardens include Roosevelt GrowHouse and Mesa Urban Garden. Find even more community gardens in Maricopa County, Tucson, Flagstaff, and Cottonwood.

Seeds and Seedlings

diversity basket

Diversity of Native Corn

We are lucky in Arizona to have both Terroir Seeds/Underwood Gardens and Native Seeds/SEARCH for locally grown and desert adapted seeds.

Be sure to check out the Desert Botanical Garden’s Bi-Annual Plant Sale March 20th-22nd for native pollinators!

Maya’s Farm has several varieties of heirloom tomatoes on sale now at the Phoenix Public Market and The Farm at South Mountain.

Visit a farmers market near you for plant starts, seedlings, and maybe even compost.


Vegetable Plant Starts

In Flagstaff, TerraBIRDS has a Garden Starts CSA program providing high elevation seedlings, and it’s not too late to join.

There are many nurseries in Arizona as well, including Harper’s Nursery and Landscaping and Desert Horizon Nursery where you can find vegetable starts from Vilardi Gardens.


Gardening Supplies



Looking to improve your soil? Try Great Big Plants and Recycled City for amendments.

Find other garden supplies at:

Help for Hire

Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash

Don’t have the time or manpower to get a garden started on your own? Garden Guru AZ, Nurse Tree Arch Design, and Red Bark Design can help!

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From Flip Flops to Flannel: One VISTA’s Journey From Big City Life to Service in a Small Town

This blog post was written by Kelsey Melvin, Local First Arizona’s Americorps VISTA working as outreach coordinator in northern Arizona and based in Cottonwood.


I had several people give me that, “oh boy, good luck” look as I was congratulated upon announcing my commitment to AmeriCorps VISTA service and my assignment in Cottonwood, Arizona. I can’t really blame them. After all, I was moving for the first time in my life out of the city I grew up in, which boasts a population close to 230,000, to a rural town by the name of Cottonwood. Population: 11,000.

Moving out of the big city and into a rural town, although challenging, was the best decision I have ever made in my life. At first, yes, I missed the convenience of having Target around. And of course I missed having a shopping mall let alone a movie theater. However, all of those things are completely obsolete to me at this point in time. I would never give up the unique people I meet in town, the one-of-a-kind local dining establishments, nor the excitement of all the outdoor adventures available to me now for a single thing. I have experienced my first snow day, adopted my first rescue kitten and even got engaged. I love this rural town!

cottonwood-4_Kelsey_LoganMore than just moving to Cottonwood for a volunteer service project, I moved to a small town to discover who I was and what mattered to me. One of those things that matter the most to me is Deaf Awareness and Education. My fiance is fully deaf and noticed instantly a severe lack of community knowledge and resources available to the hard of hearing community. Upon meeting several other community members that were deaf or hard of hearing, most of which were craving a social outlet with others that understood them fully, we simply could not stand by without doing something. We immediately met with a local dining establishment owner that we knew signed ASL. We talked to her about the idea, she connected with other members across the Verde Valley and there we had it; an American Sign Language Club. We have been meeting consistently now once a week for several months where community members can come learn how to sign, practice sign, or just become more culturally aware of an often ignored population.

OldTownBeing a VISTA is simply about serving your community. Yet serving your community does not necessarily stop at the same moment your assignment description stops at. You signed up to make a difference so make one. Not just for the organization you are serving with but for the community you are serving for. Learn about your community and see where you fit in on a personal level and go from there.

Find your passion, do not give up and keep changing the world.

Thanks for joining us at Local First Arizona, Kelsey! We’re honored and proud to have you on our team! 
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Mixer at Indian Gardens Cafe & Market – First in Sedona!

SedonaMixer_outsideLocal business owners joined Local First Arizona and and other local folks for the Local First Arizona Mixer on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 from 5:30-7:30pm. The event was held at Indian Gardens Café & Market in beautiful Oak Creek Canyon, just north of Sedona.

Indian Gardens was originally built in 1948 as a gas station and general store to serve the developing community of “Indian Gardens” in Oak Creek Canyon and the greater Sedona area. Owned by the Garland family since 1984, the historic building is made from local rock and timber.

SedonaMixer_SignInIn 2011, the family completed a remodel to restore the historic building and, according to Daniel Garland “refocused the market on community, regionalism, and local food, and beverage.” Indian Gardens serves breakfast and lunch daily with seasonal, local, and organic ingredients. They offer a full-service coffee bar with self-sourced, single-origin green beans, custom-roasted to our specifications by local roaster, Firecreek, featuring all organic milks and syrups. The also offer a great selection of craft and local beer and wine, locally-made chocolates and baked goods. Garland is also excited to announce that they recently acquired an irrigated agricultural property in Sedona, which will bring even a more local focus – providing produce for the market’s menu and for the store.

SedonaMixerPeopleThis event was an exciting opportunity for folks in Sedona and the Verde Valley, and throughout Northern Arizona to connect with existing members, as well as to build a stronger network of local, independent businesses in the region. Local business owners throughout northern Arizona mingled, networked, and learned more about what Local First Arizona is doing to build the local economy throughout northern Arizona.

SedonaMixer_KimberFounder and director, Kimber Lanning, joined the group and talked about the organization’s direction in 2015. The organization also distributed its new Verde Valley Small Wonders Maps and also talked about the new local Benefit Corporation quick assessment program, and other programs happening statewide.

In addition to Local First Arizona staff, Sedona City Councilman, Jon Thompson, and Sedona Chamber of Commerce CEO, Jennifer Wesselhoff, joined the group and discussed the many exciting strategies Sedona is working on to promote local businesses. Ms. Wesselhoff discussed the exciting sustainable tourism and marketing campaign that the Sedona-Verde Valley Tourism Council is working on with National Geographic. The project kicks off in April of 2014 and will be a new way to attract tourists to the Verde River Valley and Sedona’s Red Rock Country.

The next northern Arizona mixer will be held on Thursday, 3/26 at Watters Garden Center in Prescott – RSVP today!

Look who joined us in Sedona!

Indian Gardens Cafe & Market
Arizona Offroad Tours
Sedona Monthly Magazine
West Side Deli
Source One Supply
Lanning Gallery
Turquoise Tortoise Gallery
Local Juicery
Sedona Chamber of Commerce
Second Chance Center for Animals
Sedona City Schools
Verde Digital Works
Mingus Union High School
Sedona City Councilman Jon Thompson
City of Flagstaff Sustainability Office
Green Papillon
Dr. Marta Adelsman
Deep Harmony
Robert Wooten Productions
Verde Valley Rangers
Sedona Community Center

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Get the Boutique Experience at Cottonwood’s Tavern Hotel

If you’re planning your next getaway and looking for something truly special, look no further than The Tavern Hotel. Originally built in 1925 as a grocery store, slideshowimage2this little hotel is
packed with a ton of personality. With a cool European design and high-end finishes, each of The Tavern Hotel’s room options are sure to impress. With a commitment to providing a welcoming atmosphere, you’re sure to get the relaxing, personalized vacation that you’re looking for.

Visitors can choose from two room styles – the Deluxe King and the Deluxe Queen- or opt to stay in the charming two bedroom cottage next door. All rooms come with a pillow-soft flat-topped mattress, 32 inch flat screen tv (with free HBO), and king-1 Philosophy line bath and spa products. Other perks at The Tavern Hotel include a complimentary cocktail upon check-in and free continental breakfast at one of two neighboring restaurants – Crema or Red Rooster Cafe. Visitors can also choose to indulge in one of the hotel’s special packages: Sip & Stay, Date Night in Old Town, or Verde Canyon Railroad. These packages have something for everyone and will further allow you to customize your stay at The Tavern Hotel. More information about these packages is available here.

Recently, The Tavern Hotel was named one of PHOENIX magazine’s “52 Weekend Adventures” as Cottonwood’s best sleepover. It probably has something to do with the owners’ commitment to making the hotel your home, for however long you happen to be staying with them. One of the great things about staying in locally owned hotels is the fact their commitment to providing a special experience for their guests. The owners are known for greeting visitors by first name, and for their genuine desire to help guests take full advantage of their stay in Cottonwood. This great service   is what makes The Tavern Hotel so special, and has earned it a 5/5 star rating on TripAdvisor. You can read some of the glowing reviews for yourself here.

We are regular travelers and “foodies” and we cannot sing enough praises about the Tavern Bar, Grill and Hotel. From the moment we walked in we were overwhelmed by the tremendous hospitality and friendship that Melissa and Kris showed us.

- Daniel J from Peoria, AZ

If you’re looking to explore the area, The Tavern Hotel’s verderrlocation is nothing to turn up your nose at. Nestled right in the heart of Old Town Cottonwood, a stay here puts you in the perfect location to take advantage of everything that the Verde Valley has to offer. The Tavern Hotel is less than a mile from Blazin’ M Ranch and Dead Horse Ranch State Park. You’re also in close proximity to Tuzigoot National Monument and the Verde Canyon Railroad.

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3 Phoenix Landmarks to Check Off Your Bucket List

On Thursday February 12th, Localists got to explore a behind-the-scenes sampling of some of Phoenix’s coolest locations at “Timeless Phoenix:” Stockyards Original Steakhouse, the Pueblo Grande Museum, and Tovrea Castle. Not only did we get to go behind closed doors, but we got to meet some of the people that keep these locations dynamic and make them unique.

Read on to see what we experienced, and find out why you must add these three Phoenix gems to your bucket list:

1. Stockyards Original Steakhouse

The first stop on our Localist tour was at the Stockyards Original Steakhouse. Localists were treated to quite the spread of appetizers to fortify them for the events ahead. Arriving at 5:30 to enjoy happy hour before the tour kicked off, we were excited to learn about the Stockyard’s daily happy hour deal. Aside from the amazing offerings we had, we learned that if you show up during the regular happy hour, The Stockyards provides complimentary chips & salsa, and sliders!

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 9.25.34 AMWe learned all about the history of the building, from E. A. Tovrea the original land owner and “Cattle Baron” of Phoenix, to his wife Helen’s decorating styles. We were struck by the hand-painted antique murals that cover the walls with different scenes from beloved melodramas and favorite Tovrea family vacation spots. It is even thought that Katherine Patton artist of the murals painted herself into each scene, sometimes assuming the role of chamber maid, others as anonymous background park-goer. Before we knew it, it was time to board Ollie the Trolley and take the short trip over to the Pueblo Grande Museum.

2. Pueblo Grande Museum

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 9.26.17 AMSeveral of the Localists had never been to PGM, certainly none of us had seen the archives, but we were awe-struck by the ancient Maricopa Pottery that is currently off limits to the general public. We learned that Maricopa Pottery (made using heritage clays collected from the Phoenix area), was extremely difficult, due to the lack of moisture in the clay.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 9.26.43 AMThe docent at PGM had set out a cart of late 19th century Maricopa Pottery, to give us more context about the history of the pottery. She showed us some particularly showy examples, and we learned that pottery made with long necks or intricate coloring patterns was particularly hard to render in this medium. These were without a doubt certainly the “show off” pieces. Although that night we only got to tour the current exhibits and the archives, we left excited to return and tour the grounds and ancient structures that can be seen at Pueblo Grande Museum today.

3. Tovrea Castle

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 9.27.51 AMBoarding Ollie the Trolley once again, we headed towards the Tovrea Castle, a Phoenix landmark that had enticed all of us for years. We pulled up to the gift shop that sits at the base of the castle, and were greeted by none other than Marie Carraro, grand daughter of the castle builder Alessio Carraro, who joined us on the tour. It was a surreal experience pulling up to the base of the castle, and seeing those lights up close. We got to tour the basement and the first floor (upper floors were closed for renovation), and learned so much about the history of the castle! The castle was built towards the end of the roaring twenties, and was originally intended to be a destination hotel (similar in time frame to the Biltmore and the Westward Ho).

However, the timing proved disastrous Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 9.27.38 AMand necessitated a quick sale of the property to Della Tovrea, who lived there enjoying the sweeping desert views until a nightmarish night in her eighties. She was known for her beautiful collection of turquoise jewelry, and one evening two thieves broke into the estate. Rather than backing down, this true wild west woman (again, in her eighties!), fought back. The scuffle went through many rooms in the home, culminating in the discharging of a firearm in the kitchen where a bullet hole still exists in the ceiling. Della was eventually outmatched, and was left tied to a chair while the thieves escaped with her jewelry. After hours of wriggling, she managed to untie herself, and made her way down the hill that the castle stands on to call for help, navigating her way through the cactus garden by moon light. Eventually one of the thieves was apprehended, and many of her jewels were returned.

Localist Red 500x333The evening culminated with a final roll call, and the handing out of Localist swag bags. It was a great way to start the Valentine’s Day weekend, and a great way to celebrate Arizona’s Statehood, and some truly original Localists. Since there was so much demand for this event, we will happily be offering “Timeless Phoenix” again to our Localists sometime in the future. Thanks to all who joined us on this special Localist outing! Want to get in on the fun? Make sure to sign up to be a Localist today!

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Third Edition of the Verde Valley Small Wonders Map Launches Across the State

Local First Arizona has now released the third edition of the Verde Valley Small Wonders Map, a pocket-sized guide featuring forty-three local restaurants, hotels, shops, and experiences located in the Verde Valley area. All of the businesses included in the guide are independently owned and operated.VVSWM 3rd

“Local First Arizona created the Small Wonders Maps to make it fun and easy for residents and visitors to find and support local businesses in our local communities, which keeps more dollars circulating in the local Arizona economy,” said Meg Williams-Jamison, Northern Arizona Director for Local First Arizona. The third edition of the Verde Valley map is more than a guide to finding fun local things to try, it is a resource on how to experience the Verde Valley like a true localalist. The success and growth of this map shows the desire for this kind of guide from locals and visitors alike.

Some of the participating businesses featured in the third edition of the Verde Valley Small Wonders Map include newer wineries such as Four-Eight Wineworks and Burning Tree Cellars, but also include local favorite hangouts like Crema Cafe, Nate’s Cowboy Cafe, Blazin’ M Ranch, Hilltop Deli, Copper Art Museum and many more. “We are thrilled to be able to show off the wonders of the Verde Valley with this map,” said Kelsey Melvin, Northern Arizona Outreach Coordinator for Local First Arizona. “There are so many unique places to try in this region and the small wonders map makes it easy to explore this beautiful part of Arizona.”

verde valleyMaps will be distributed at the hotel welcome desks across the northern Arizona region, visitor centers at the various towns involved, the local state parks, and local businesses in the Verde Valley area. Local First Arizona staff will even be helping out as “downtown docents” while different events take place in town throughout the year, handing out the Verde Valley Small Wonders Maps and telling out-of-town visitors about the local spots that make the Verde Valley special.

Local First Arizona has also produced Small Wonders Maps for Central Phoenix, Phoenix Arcadia Area, Tucson, Gilbert, Glendale, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Mesa. The Verde Valley Small Wonders Map can be downloaded digitally by clicking here. Business owners, realtors, property managers, hotels, event organizers, and individuals can request maps for distribution free of charge by contacting Northern Arizona Director Meg Williams-Jamison at

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