Published in the March 13 – 26, 2019 issue of Morgan Hill Life

South County actors will perform in “Mamma Mia!” in San Jose. Photo courtesy Atom’s Portraits

Some of South Valley’s most popular theatrical talent will shine as “super troupers” in San Jose Musical Theater’s “Mamma Mia!” opening later this month at Evergreen Valley College Theater.

Morgan Hill resident Marilyn Pifer, who is on the SJMT board, told us that many people who have graced South Valley stages will be performing. Morgan Hill residents in the cast include Dan Devou, Rob Christopher, Nick Bedard, Nikki Cendreda, Megan Griffin, and Joy Reynolds. Gilroy resident Mary Beth Anderson is also in the show. Other South Valley Civic Theatre veteran players Lindsay Sommers and Edie Flores appear as well. Producer Marianne Snook, choreographer Nicole Tung, costume designer Michelle Griffin, and lighting designer Dylan Maack (all from Morgan Hill) and associate producer Ingrid Rottman (from Gilroy) also all have extensive SVCT experience.

The Morgan Hill and Gilroy residents make up nearly a quarter of the cast and crew, Pifer told us.

“Most of the South Valley contingent have been involved in recent South Valley Civic Theatre shows,” she said.

Head up north and catch the local performers in “Mamma Mia!” For showtimes, tickets, and directions to the theater, visit or

In 2017, Mike Lindley with Smokin’ Mo’s smoked the competition to win Overall Grand Champ and $2,000 in the official Kansas City BBQ Society-sanctioned competition. Photo courtesy Gilroy Garlic Festival.

arbecuers, are you hankering to get out their tongs and begin grilling for fun and money? Well, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is seeking both professional BBQ teams and amateur grillers to compete in the fourth annual Gilroy Garli-Que BBQ Challenge.

On Saturday, July 27, seasoned professionals will face off in the Gilroy Garli-Que BBQ Challenge, officially sanctioned and judged by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. Teams will compete for prize money, trophies, and bragging rights — not to mention the coveted People’s Choice Award. Each team will barbecue pork ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and brisket — plus an optional category just for the Gilroy competition, “Anything Goes with Garlic.”

A panel of KCBS certified judges will select winners for each of the five categories, who will be announced Saturday afternoon. Festival guests can purchase tasting tickets to sample dishes and vote for their own “People’s Choice” award winner.

July 28 will be the Gilroy Garlic Festival Backyard BBQ Rib Throwdown, open to amateur grillers and local residents who have never participated in a sanctioned professional BBQ event. Prize money will be awarded to the top three teams. Garlic is a required ingredient; participants will be expected to provide their own meat, ingredients and grilling equipment. Teams interested in competing are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Official contest rules and online application forms are posted at

Janu Goelz

Alara Cellars, an up-and-coming winery located in Gilroy, has been selected as one of Wine Business Monthly 2018 Top 10 Hot Brands. According to Wine Business Monthly, this list delves into what it means to be a part of the American wine industry. They choose wineries that best exemplify their region or variety, and that dare to take big risks with big rewards. Each year, they release a list of top vintners, producers, wineries and wines that represent what it means to be a part of this culture. “2018 was an awesome year for Alara Cellars” said winemaker and owner, Janu Goelz. “It’s a huge honor to be a part of Top 10 Hot Brands.”

Wine Business Monthly has chosen to feature Alara Cellars’ 2017 Grenache Blanc. Earlier this year, Alara’s 2017 Grenache Blanc won Best of Show, Best White Wine, Best of Class and a Double Gold in the Central Coast Wine Competition. Alara Cellars opened in 2017 and has already been accredited with numerous awards.

Congratulations, Janu.

From left, Sabrina Bohnsack, Diya Kandhra and Sofia Ruster. Photo courtesy AAUW

While we’re offering congratulations, here’s to the talented public-speaking students from Ann Sobrato High School and Oakwood School who participated in the AAUW Eleanor Stem Allen Memorial Speech Contest Jan. 22. The event was sponsored by the Morgan Hill of the American Association of University Women and the Morgan Hill Library.

This year’s theme was:  “How Do We Eliminate Violence Aimed at Our Schools?” Students spoke on improving mental health services, gun control, and the prevention of bullying. Cash prizes were given to the following students: Sophia Ruster, 1st place, Oakwood School; Diya Kandhra, 2nd place, Ann Sobrato High School; and Sabrina Bohnsack, 3rd place Ann Sobrato High School.

Glad the students are speaking up about a topic of social relevance.

Congratulations to local artist and physician Dr. Navreet Dhillon and the owners of the Art of Yoga studio for their efforts in raising money for Cecelia Ponzini’s Edward Boss Prado Foundation, the 2019 Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Nonprofit of the Year. They raised more than $1,600 with proceeds from her art show that ran late last year at the Morgan Hill Yoga studio owned Theresa McClaren and Cerise Burns.

I’m sure Cecelia will put the money to good use with one of her many programs that benefit local families.

Rich Firato dressed as a pirate for the students at Paradise Valley Elementary School for Read Across America Day celebrating the writer Dr. Seuss.

Jim Carrillo dressed up as “The Cat in the Hat” for the students at San Martin/Gwinn Elementary School for Read Across America Day celebrating the writer Dr. Seuss.

Love it when our community members go all out for the Read Across America event for Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Way to go Rich Firato, the Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Man of the Year, and Jim Carrillo for dressing  up as the benevolent pirate and the Cat in the Hat, respectively.

I know the children really enjoyed hearing from both of you! Congrats to you and to all the others who read stories to third-graders this year.

Robert Airoldi

Robert Airoldi is the editor of Morgan Hill Life newspaper. If you have a story idea or an Around Town column item you want to tell him about, you can reach him at (408) 427-5865 or at
Robert Airoldi