‘We’re in shock’: Popular Shoki Ramen House on 21st Street shut after fire

Originally published by SacBee.com on July 19, 2018

A fire just after midnight Thursday has forced the closure of a popular Sacramento restaurant near Broadway.

The fire caused extensive damage to Shoki Ramen House at 2530 21st St., after breaking through the back windows of the building, according to the Sacramento Fire Department.

Crews were able to knock down the flames within about five minutes, fire officials said, but were on scene for several hours afterward to put out hot spots and deal with lingering smoke in the building.

The cause of the fire is unknown and an investigation is ongoing, fire officials said. No injuries were reported.

Shoki Ramen House, which has a second location on R Street, was opened in 2011 by chef Yasushi Ueyama and his wife, Kathy.

“I thought it was a prank,” Kathy Ueyama said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Kathy said she and her husband drove to the restaurant as soon as they heard about the fire, but she still didn’t believe it was real until she confirmed the call came from the fire department.

“It’s very devastating,” she said. “We’re in shock. I don’t know what happened. Right now, we’re just feeling a little lost. [We’ve received a] lot of nice comments from the customers. My husband and I are very grateful that no one was hurt.”

A version of this story was published in the print edition of The Sacramento Bee in the local section on page 4B July 20, 2018.

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UC Davis grad, Sacramento native ‘among the elite’ in American Ninja Warrior finals

Originally published by SacBee.com on July 19, 2018

Sacramento native and local business owner Anna Shumaker represented the region with a run on the “American Ninja Warrior” course in the season 10 finals in Los Angeles, which aired Monday on NBC.

“ ‘American Ninja Warrior’ follows hundreds of competitors as they test their skills on new obstacles in an attempt to join Isaac Caldiero as just the second person ever to win the $1 million grand prize,” reads a description of the show.

Ultimately, the 26-year-old gymnast and UC Davis graduate failed to complete the course. Her run lasted 7 minutes, 16 seconds and ended on the “giant cubes.”

According to the show’s commentary team, Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, at 5-foot-4, Shumaker’s height limited her ability to move from one giant cube to the next.

Still, she was referred to after her run as being “among the elite” by the commentators. The team also dubbed her Anna “Playmaker” Shumaker.

Though she didn’t make it to the end, as the crowd began to chant her name, Shumaker became the first woman to make it past the “door knob drop,” which is where her course ended when she appeared on the qualifying episode on June 6. Additionally, Shumaker climbed the “warped wall” successfully for the first time.

“Simply Magical,” Shumaker said on Facebook. “These are the only words I can think of to describe this moment. Feels like just yesterday that I started dreaming of this moment. It’s been a goal of mine from the beginning to get up that wall. Still can’t believe it’s come true.”

As seen on the show, Shumaker’s mom and her mom’s boyfriend were in attendance for the finals and they even brought along the family dog Bosley.

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Shumaker resides in Sacramento and owns two businesses, ShuFit Personal Training, which is located in West Sacramento, and OnPoint Nutrition.

Shumaker graduated from Alameda High School in 2010 and from UC Davis in 2014 with her bachelor’s degree in exercise biology. She competed in gymnastics for 18 years, including for the Aggies.

She began training for “American Ninja Warrior” in 2015 and saw it as a way to fulfill the competitive drive that fueled her gymnastics career.

Prior to the appearance in the finals this week and her qualifying run in June, Shumaker is coming off an appearance in the finals of “Team Ninja Warrior’s” second season as part of Team NorCal Ninjas. She also competed on season nine of “American Ninja Warrior,” but said her run was not aired.

“It’s been so surreal, and I can’t thank everyone enough for the kind words, love, and support I have received,” Shumaker said. “And a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came to my watch party! I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to be surrounded by so many amazing and supportive people. It truly warmed my heart having you all there with me.”

You can see Shumaker’s full run here on “American Ninja Warrior’s” official YouTube channel.

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Flowers Foods recalls Swiss Rolls due to possible salmonella contamination

Originally published by SacBee.com on July 19, 2018

Flowers Foods has voluntarily issued a recall alert for its Swiss Rolls snack cakes and Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread because of a possible salmonella presence.

The salmonella was found in whey powder by the ingredient’s third-party manufacturer and supplier.

The Swiss Rolls are sold under the brand names Mrs. Freshley’s, Food Lion, H-E-B, Baker’s Treat, Market Square, and Walmart’s private brand Great Value and distributed nationwide, according to the company.

The old-fashioned bread is not distributed in California but is sold in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The “best by” date varies and there are multiple UPCs for the products, the company said. You can visit this link to see which dates and UPC codes are affected.

The Georgia-based company, which owns several brands, including Wonder, Nature’s Own and Tastykake, is urging consumers not to eat the products and to discard them immediately. Alternatively, the company says products may be returned to the store from which they were purchased for a full refund.

The company has also provided a website and phone number for its consumer relations center at 1-866-245-8921.

No illnesses have been reported.

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Former Toys R Us workers seeking hardship fund from the company’s owners

Originally published by SacBee.com on July 19, 2018

A group of former Toys R Us employees is seeking a hardship fund from investment groups that it says are responsible for the demise of the company

The group “will hold a series of actions to raise awareness about their push for private equity firms and creditors to create a hardship fund for the 33,000 employees who lost their jobs after the retailer closed its doors last month,” according to information provided by the group.

Former workers and advocates planned to speak during CalSTRS’ board and committee meetings at its West Sacramento headquarters to “tell stories of losing their jobs and push the pension board to engage in responsible investment and offer their support.”

On Friday, July 20, the group plans to protest at a building located in San Francisco that is majority-owned by Vornado, one of the Toys R Us investors.

According to the group, after being laid off without severance pay, the former employees are seeking $75 million in hardship funds from three investment firms, Vornado, KKR and Bain, which gained ownership of Toys R Us in 2005.

KKR and Bain are open to contributing to the fund, but Vornado has not commented on the matter, the group said.

An earlier version of this story can be read here.

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Here’s how to get free McDonald’s french fries every Friday for the rest of the year

Originally published by SacBee.com on July 18, 2018

Love McDonald’s french fries? You’re in luck this Friday. And the next Friday. And …

McDonald’s french fry fiends can grab a medium order courtesy the company’s mobile app every Friday for free for the rest of the year.

The promotion requires users to purchase at least $1 worth of food through the app — which is available for Android and Apple devices — anytime and then present a mobile coupon in store on Friday to redeem the free fries.

The promotion is good until Dec. 30.

Not a fan of french fries but still want a freebie? Another deal that works the same way allows users to grab a free small soft drink on Fridays instead.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to spend $1 to qualify for the promotion because other app-exclusive deals include a $1 McDouble cheeseburger and a coffee of any size for $1.

This story was also published in the print edition of The Sacramento Bee in the business section on page 5C July 20, 2018.

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State Fair challenges military chefs to turn ready-to-eat meals into gourmet cuisine

Originally published by SacBee.com on July 18, 2018

Expert foodies probably wouldn’t be too excited to chow down on ready-to-eat military field rations, but a challenge at the California State Fair aims to turn them into gourmet dining experiences as teams compete to impress celebrity judges.

On Thursday the fair invites military personnel and veterans in for free with valid identification. And to celebrate Military and Veteran Appreciation Day, the fair is holding its sixth annual MRE Cooking Challenge.

The Meal, Ready-to-Eat, also known as MRE, are “individual rations, self-contained in lightweight packaging that can be warmed without a fire or stove, originally designed for the United States Military to consume during combat or similar field conditions without food facilities,” according to Ready Store, which sells them to the public.

Hosted by CalVet and the California Military Department, the challenge will feature three rounds where military cooks from several branches will team up with veterans to attempt to transform MREs into “culinary delights,” according to a press release.

The meals will then be judged by a panel of celebrities on taste, presentation, skill and showmanship, the release reads. Teams will have 30 minutes to prepare the meal.

Celebrity judges were not announced in the press release, but there will be a few special guests in attendance, including World War II pilot Bud Anderson, Women Veterans Alliance founder and director Melissa Washington and John Busterud, a member of the California Veterans Board.

The events will be held in “The Kitchen,” which is in Cal Expo Building B.

  • First qualifying round: Noon-1:30 p.m.
  • Second qualifying round: 3-4:30 p.m.
  • Final round: 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Family members of military personnel and veterans will be expected to pay normal fair entry fees.

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Teenager to be charged after a ‘safe and sane’ firework allegedly started Grant Fire

Originally published by SacBee.com on July 18, 2018

Cal Fire announced Wednesday that charges will be filed against a 17-year-old boy who allegedly caused the Grant Fire with a ‘safe and sane’ firework.

Cal Fire responded to a vegetation fire west of the Grant Line Road exit on eastbound Interstate 580 shortly after 5 p.m. on July 8, according to Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. The fire lasted less than 24 hours as fire crews were able to fully contain it by around 7 a.m. the next day.

Kelly said the teen who confessed to sparking the blaze went to the Manteca Police Department on July 9 and told officers he and an 18-year-old friend were driving along I-580 prior to the fire breaking out when they pulled over after having car trouble.

The teen said he was messing around and threw a firework into the engine compartment of the car and it lit the nearby grass on fire. He and his friend tried to put the fire out by stomping it. They left the scene and called 911, but did not disclose that they caused the fire, Kelly said.

The fireworks were marked for legal use, but the use of any fireworks, including ones marked with the “safe and sane” label are illegal in unincorporated areas of Alameda County, Cal Fire said in a press release announcing the cause.

Officers are in the process of submitting charges of “causing a fire in a negligent and reckless manner” to the district attorney’s office and Kelly said the teen will be arrested. Kelly said the charge is different than arson, which is deliberate. The 18-year-old is not being charged.

The fire was thought to have burned more than 640 acres but “enhanced mapping technology” revealed a smaller area had burned. In total, the fire burned 480 acres of the unincorporated state responsibility area.

It took “a large and coordinated response from over a dozen agencies,” including 10 fire and law enforcement agencies, and fire engines from San Joaquin County and the Alameda County Public Works Agency.

“The fire shut down both directions of the highway for several hours and impacted thousands of motorists,” Cal Fire said in the release.

Kelly described the teen, whose name is not being released because he’s a minor, as being “very cooperative and very remorseful.”

“Luckily the fire did not cause any structural damage,” Kelly said.

A version of this story was also published in the print edition of The Sacramento Bee in the local section on page 4B July 20, 2018.

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Why are former Toys R Us workers planning to protest CalSTRS’ investments of private equity?

Originally published by SacBee.com on July 18, 2018

Toys R Us may no longer be the place where kids refuse to grow up, but its former California employees are refusing to walk away without compensation.

On Thursday, former employees of the defunct toy retailer plan to speak at a CalSTRS board meeting in West Sacramento to present their case and “call on the pension fund to halt new investments in KKR and Bain Capital until there has been a thorough review of their investment in Toys R Us,” according to a news release.

Supporting the workers are Rise Up Retail, the Center for Popular Democracy and the Organization United for Respect.

“Three Wall Street giants – Bain, KKR, and Vornado – took ownership of the retailer in 2005 and saddled it with debt, accelerating its spiral into bankruptcy,” the press release said. “Laid-off workers have been calling on pension boards across the country to stop new investments in the private equity firms.”

The group says that shortly after a pension board in Minnesota responded to an investment freeze request from the state’s governor, KKR, which is described as an investment firm based in New York, announced it was willing to speak with the group.

Following the board meeting, the groups plan to protest at noon Friday at a building located at 555 California St. in San Francisco that is co-owned by Vornado, which the group says is one of the investment firms behind the demise of Toys R Us.

At the rally, “the Toys R Us workers, who were laid off without severance pay, will demand that Vornado pay its share of the compensation they are owed,” the release said. “Vornado has stayed silent amid mounting pressure on the company to contribute funds to Toys R Us families, many of whom are facing hardship.”

Toys R Us closed its last stores at the end of June, leaving many former shoppers upset over the loss of the retailer. After filing for bankruptcy last year, the company shuttered more than 700 stores in the U.S. and more than 30,000 employees lost their jobs.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Rise Up Retail, the Center for Popular Democracy and the Organization United for Respect do not represent former Toys R Us employees.

An updated version of this story can be read here.

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West Sacramento to make ‘quick action’ improvements to transportation with grant from AARP

Originally published by SacBee.com on July 18, 2018

The AARP has named West Sacramento one of 129 cities to be awarded grant money in the second-annual AARP Community Challenge for its innovations in transportation.

The competition included more than 1,600 applications from nonprofit organizations and government officials, AARP said. Winners will receive a portion of $1.3 million. The exact dollar amount awarded to each city was not announced.

Applicants had to detail “quick action” projects that would help communities “make immediate improvements and jumpstart long-term progress to support residents of all ages.” Work must be completed by Nov. 5.

Four other California cities were among the winners: Long Beach, Chula Vista, San Diego and San Francisco.

“The city of West Sacramento will develop various forms of education and programming to encourage older adults to use the city’s on-demand car and bicycle transportation system,” AARP’s description of the city’s project said.

“West Sacramento will be using the small award in conjunction with other grants to make it even easier for people of all ages to connect to and use the West Sacramento On-Demand with VIA rideshare service and Jump Bikes,” West Sacramento’s mayor Christopher Cabaldon wrote on Facebook.

“Making mobility universally convenient, customized, personal, reliable, and affordable is one of the top strategies in our AARP-supported Age-Friendly Action Plan, and transit-rideshare and electric-assist bikeshare are two key innovations where West Sacramento is leading the way.”

The Community Challenge is part of AARP’s Livable Communities program, which “supports the efforts of neighborhoods, towns, cities and rural areas to be great places for people of all ages.”

West Sacramento launched its local VIA ride share program this spring and the Jump Bikes project launched in Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis in May.

West Sacramento was one of last year’s winners, which also included San Diego, Fontana and Santa Cruz. In 2017, the city won grant money to help “improve pedestrian safety by adjusting signal timing and installing pedestrian-controlled crosswalk buttons near a housing development occupied by older adults.”

This story was also published in the print edition of the Sacramento Bee in the local section on page 2B July 21, 2018.

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What’s new at the California State Fair? Here’s everything you need to know

Originally published by SacBee.com and as the cover story of the print Sacramento Bee’s Ticket section on July 13, 2018

download (1)It’s time once again for the California State Fair.

That means thousands of kids running around and screaming with joy, mom and dad viewing the exhibits, plenty of deep-fried and oversized foods, thrilling rides and lots of sights and sounds for the entire family.

The fair runs from July 13 through July 29 and features several free and discounted days, limited-time attractions and quite a few brand-new experiences.

It can be quite overwhelming when planning a full day, so we’ve put together a guide to help.

What’s new?

For those who find the mid-July fair too hot to handle, organizers have added several “Cool Spots” throughout Cal Expo, which recently got a new acting police chief, where fairgoers can stop and cool down. In these locations, full-body misters squirt a cool mist of water from head to toe at the touch of a button. They even include charging stations for your phone and free Wi-Fi.

Speaking of phones, for those who are attached to theirs, the fair has added selfie spots throughout, where photogenic fairgoers can stop and snap a pic and post those grinning faces to social media for a chance to win a prize.

A new exhibition, “The Future of Good,” will examine “how we will grow and eat in the future to meet the needs of an expanding population,” according to information provided by fair organizers. The exhibit, featuring 50 images from 27 photographers, also highlights California’s role in food production on a global scale.

In addition, new at this year’s event is a “Silent Disco” at the Expo Center, where music lovers can don headphones and jam out to kid-friendly tunes provided by disc jockeys. DJ battles will take place in the evening.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in a tiny house, you can tour about a half a dozen of them from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the first weekend of the fair at the Miller Lite Racktrack Grandstand.

A life-size board game that educates players about agriculture, called “Life’s Big Ag-venture,” will be featured and aims to encourage interest in agricultural careers and ag support organizations.

The fair will newly feature a Navy Week, the ability to follow the fair on social media and earn a special beverage with a secret code, and a “Lady Bird” experience where fairgoers can buy a special ticket to get unlimited use of the Log Ride and watch a screening of the film.

New rides

Perhaps the most popular of the State Fair’s attractions — at least among kids and kids-at-heart — is the fair’s carnival area, which offers everything from spooky houses to the giant Ferris wheel.

This year, there are a few new rides to check out. According to the State Fair’s official ride guide, the one new ride in the Kids Park is called Puppy Love. The Main Carnival features four new rides — Mega Flip, Turbo, Cyclone and Wind Surfer.

The rides from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch will be returning this year as well. Those include Balloon Samba, Bumper Cars and Dragon Wagon. For more information on rides, including carnival hours, pricing and restrictions, take a look at the official ride section of the State Fair website.

Concert series

The State Fair’s concert series lineup was announced in March and you can see which artists will be taking the stage this summer below.

  • July 13 – War
  • July 14 – Berlin featuring Terri Nunn
  • July 15 – Trace Adkins – How Did We Get Here Tour 2018
  • July 16 – Kool & The Gang
  • July 17 – Queen Nation
  • July 18 – Happy Together Tour 2018
  • July 19 – Easton Corbin
  • July 20 – Con Funk Shun
  • July 21 – Night Ranger
  • July 23 – Sugar Ray
  • July 24 – Tenth Avenue North
  • July 25 – Paperback Writer – The Beatles Experience
  • July 26 – Los Lonely Boys
  • July 27 – The Greg Kihn Band
  • July 28 – The Spinners
  • July 29 – UB40 featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey

Concerts are free with admission to the fair, and seats are first-come, first-served. However, tickets can be purchased for reserved seating. For more information about the concert series, head over to the official State Fair concerts page.

New this year are Kids Bopp and ZZ Top concerts at Papa Murphy’s Park, which is the home of the Sacramento Republic FC and is located on the grounds of Cal Expo. Kids Bopp will play on July 16 and ZZ Top with George Thorogood and The Destroyers will rock out on Thursday, July 26. Keep in mind, these shows require a separate admission fee.

New foods

Of course, the fair wouldn’t be the fair without unique and – depending on whom you ask – delicious things to eat and drink. Fair organizers have provided The Bee with a list of new and unique edibles for this year’s event and some are shown below (vendor in parentheses).

  • World’s most sour ice cream & world’s hottest ice cream (Cardinali Sweet Treats)
  • Sweet & savory crepes (Planet Crepes)
  • Elote fries, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos fries and lobster fries (Sharky’s Fry King)
  • Jalapeno popper burger (Stuffie’s Char-Broiler)
  • Fresh pressed juices and Acai bowls (Good Roots Café)
  • Bison ribs, Grizzly MAC attack (macaroni & cheese, pulled pork, coleslaw, barbecue sauce) (Montana Q)
  • Flamin’ Hot Cheetos corn on the cob (The Corn Shack)
  • Pretzel dog on a stick (Grandma Herzberg’s Pretzel and Lemonade)
  • Deep fried cannoli (Sweet Cheeks)
  • Pasta (William Henry’s Hammertime)

Free and discounted days

If you’re looking to save a little green, there are several free days and discounts for this year’s State Fair.

On Mondays, there will be free admission until 3 p.m. for anyone who donates three canned or dried food items, which will be given to the Elk Grove Food Bank. On Tuesdays, kids under 12 are free and rides are just $2 for everyone. Wednesdays and Thursdays offer $2 food item sales by fair vendors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Fridays, attendees aged 62 or over will receive a $2 discount on admission.

Those who purchase a ticket to the Sacramento Republic FC match on Saturday, July 21 will also receive free fair admission for that night. Additionally, the Republic FC will host a “Kick On Goal” event at Papa Murphy’s Park from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17 where a player from the team will sign autographs and take photos with fans from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

On Thursday, July 19, active duty military and veterans will be able to enter the fair for free. On Thursday, July 26, admission is free for first responders. Both of these free days are sponsored by BloodSource.

State Fair favorites

Several fan-favorite attractions, exhibits, competitions and more are returning this year. Some of those include the Best of California Brewfest, National Wiener Dog Races, cornhole competition, horse racing, local musicians and artists, photography and Steampunk competitions, olive oil tasting events and fireworks every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m.

For more on admission pricing, dates and times and other details, visit the official State Fair website at castatefair.org.

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