Out and About: Arden

By Jessica Laskey
June 2019

Well Deserved!

Inside columnist receives national humanitarian award

A hearty congratulations to our own Norris Burkes, author of Inside’s “Spirit Matters” and the self-syndicated column “Spirituality in Everyday Life,” which appears in 35 papers nationwide. The retired military chaplain is the recipient of the 2019 Will Rogers Humanitarian Award sponsored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

In his columns, Burkes has written extensively about the humanitarian project Chispa, which sponsors children’s libraries in Honduras and equips them with quality books in Spanish.

Chispa began in summer 2012 when Burkes’ daughter Sara donated books to a tiny mountain school, then stayed to organize what became an undertaking with global reach. In January 2018, Burkes and his wife went to Honduras for three months and he wrote about the experience in his columns. In March 2019, he rallied readers to travel with him to Honduras and about 12 volunteers from different states, including two from the Sacramento area, responded to his challenge to serve on a one-week mission to launch another library space.
“The volunteers were people I had never met before,” Burkes says. “We prepare and paint pretty space for the books, build bookshelves, pack the books and train the teachers. We met all the students.”

Over the past five years, the libraries have served more than 60 local communities and provided more than 14,000 books to schoolchildren. Burkes’ columns have raised approximately $30,000 in the last three years and provided 18,000 books to more than 50 schools and organizations.

For more information on Chispa, visit chispaproject.org. To read Burkes’ columns, go to insidesacramento.com/spirit+matters.


The City of Sacramento recently announced updates on its highly anticipated C3 Project, the renovation and expansion of the Memorial Auditorium, Community Center Theater and Convention Center.

The Community Center Theater will close for construction this month, followed by the Convention Center in July. Both are scheduled to re-open in fall 2020.

During this time, all shows scheduled at the Community Center Theater will be relocated to the Memorial Auditorium, which will have completed its renovation.

Conventions and conferences will be temporarily hosted at various venues throughout the city, but Downtown hotels will continue to host overnight visitors.

The groundbreaking ceremony for this new phase of construction will be Friday, July 26, at 10 a.m. For more information, visit cityofsacramento.org.


NEO Escape Rooms, the winner of the 2018 Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s Calling All Dreamers competition, will open to the public this fall on the Old Sacramento Waterfront at 1124 2nd St.

The escape rooms will immerse players in Sacramento during different time periods—including the future.

“We wanted to capture the essence of Sacramento in games that are physical, mental, social and emotional,” says co-founder Acme Lee, an escape room and video game aficionado who collaborated on the winning business pitch with longtime friend Gabriel Berzamina. “People can have so much more fun doing an escape room together than they can sitting disconnected at a movie theater.”

Because Lee says escape rooms are “the ultimate storytelling platform,” the founders created three standalone stories with different themes—action, horror and sci-fi—that all belong to “the NEOverse” and test players’ abilities to solve puzzles while learning about Sacramento.

Follow their journey on social media and check out neoescaperooms.com for more information.


Luxury movie theater chain Cinema West has opened a new outpost in Country Club Plaza. The mall has been going through a renaissance of sorts, with new construction and new tenants, and Cinema West is getting the party started.

“Country Club is a wonderful, historic landmark that this neighborhood absolutely adores,” says James Howard, executive director of Petaluma-based Cinema West. “It’s been distraught and gone astray because of its major stores disappearing, so landing this theater as the anchor tenant is a big coup for the project.”

The cinema’s design is a combination of luxurious and accessible. Sleek touches like chandeliers and a stunning bar that looks like something straight out of an upscale Las Vegas hotel share space with an Icee machine that caters to kids. Thirteen auditoriums—including two “Giant Screen” theaters—feature electric recliners and access to an expanded menu that includes beer, wine and cocktails. For every adult’s inner child that still craves Icees, there’s a frozen drink machine that serves margaritas.

“We want people to come and hang out here,” Howard says, noting that the lounge area looks like “Starbucks meets an Apple store.” “We feel such pride and excitement knowing this will be a huge draw for the local community.”

The project is also green, with LEED finishes and “smart” touches like HVAC and lighting systems that can be controlled by an app on the manager’s phone. The theater is so impressive that even Coca-Cola took notice—the first four models of the company’s newest Freestyle drink machines can be found in the lobby.


The 18th Sacramento French Film Festival brings this year’s most acclaimed French films and two classics to the Crest Theatre on June 21–23 and 28–30.

SFFF will present 20 feature films, each preceded by a short film and always with English subtitles.

In addition to the movies, guests can enjoy coffee and pastries, DJs, an art exhibit, Q&A sessions and post-screening discussions with local film experts.

This year’s films include “The Freshmen (Premiere Année)” by Thomas Lilti, “In Safe Hands (Pupille)” by Jeanne Herry, “At War (En Guerre)” by Antoine Brizé, and “In the Move for Love (L’Amour Flou)” by Romane Bohringer and Philippe Rebbot.
SFFF’s Classic Series will be dedicated to filmmaker extraordinaire Agnès Varda, who passed away in March.

Tickets are $12 for single tickets to $90 for a Full Festival Pass. For more information, visit sacramentofrenchfilmfestival.org.


Get your art on at the free Second Saturday, presented in partnership with Verge Center for the Arts, at DOCO (Downtown Commons) at 660 J St.

On Saturday, June 8, young artists can enjoy a Mini Verge Kids Summer Studio Camp from 10 a.m. to noon.

Participation in DOCO’s Second Saturday activities is available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, visit docosacramento.com.


Sacramento museums are offering tons of unique classes, camps and activities for kids this summer. Space is limited, so sign up now!
Crocker Art Museum will offer art camps with various themes, such as bugs, trees, birds and water, starting June 17. Campers ages 5–6 and 7–9 will enjoy high-quality, full-day art camps. Visit crockerart.org/camps2019.

Fairytale Town will hold 27 themed educational summer camps. Children ages 4–6 and 7–9 will explore art, literature, puppetry, gardening and more. Visit fairytaletown.org/educational-programs.

Verge Center for the Arts will have themed studio camp weeks starting June 17. Kids ages 6–9 and 10–13 will learn about installation art, paper mache and murals. Visit vergeart.com/classes/kidscamp2019.

For information on all participating museums, visit sacmuseums.org.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at jessrlaskey@gmail.com. Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month.

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