Tearful hugs and good-byes were the norm Tuesday, Aug. 10, as kindergarten students were left at school by parents on the first day of school in Sedona.

Kindergarten student Jazmine Scrogham stays close to her mother, Heather, before heading into her first day of school Tuesday, Aug. 10, at West Sedona School. For some parents, leaving their children at school for the first time was tough, providing an emotional moment for both the parents and children.Sedona parents of kindergarten students at West Sedona School said it was tough leaving their children at school for the first time.

Most parents called it a rite of passage and said their
children were well prepared and anxious.

Jessica Herrera said there was little doubt her daughter, Tressie, was going to do fine. It helps knowing her daughter’s teacher very well.

“She is ready for the first day,” Herrera said.

West Sedona School Principal Lisa Hirsch said there were 50 kindergarten students enrolled on the first day of school. Two of its classes are a combination of kindergarten and first-grade students, and the third class is for preschool to second grade.

Hirsch said young children seeing their parents leave for the first time can be extremely frightening, especially for a
5-year-old child.

“It’s called separation anxiety,” she said. A young child may not realize what is going on, and a few might think their parents are leaving them and not coming back, since this pattern is so new to them.

The majority of students, Hirsch said, understand they are being dropped off for the school day, especially if they attended preschool.

First-grader Elsey Schroedl, 6, seems a bit nervous while waiting for classroom doors to open on the first day of school at West Sedona School on Tuesday, Aug. 10. Administrators and teachers from West Sedona School, Big Park Community School and Sedona Red Rock High School welcomed hundreds of students back from their summer vacations for the 2010-2011 school year.However, she said, there will likely be a few students who might be surprised at the length of the school day, since the time preschoolers spend in school per day is often not as long.

“Some students will cry and hang onto parents,” Hirsch said. “In a few minutes, the crying stops. They are very young. They are only 5.”

Josiah Fleishman was dropping off his daughter, Athena, for kindergarten and said he was excited for her, adding it was a nice school with a good staff.

“I am so proud to see her growing up. I didn’t think [this] would come so soon. I have full confidence in her, and she will do great. She’s ready. She is fearless,” he said.

Maria Diaz, who was dropping off her daughter, Ana Ruby, called it an exciting time. She said her daughter is ready for this next step, and she is sure Ana Ruby will soon become friends with some classmates.

Tressie Herrera, 4, holds her mother’s hand while waiting for doors to open for the first day of kindergarten class at West Sedona School on Tuesday, Aug. 10. Kris Rodarte, a parent teacher association member of the school, said West Sedona has great teachers, so the first day of school was going to be great.

Jazmine Scrogham clung to her mother while crying, but her mother, Heather Scrogham, said the tears had nothing to do with school; they were mostly for her daughter getting into trouble beforehand.

She said it was going to be difficult to leave her daughter at kindergarten because she would be thinking about her constantly.

“I will be crying all day at work today,” Scrogham said.

Positive change certainly can start with one person, and Sedona’s Susan Henkels has begun.

Henkels is attending a class in which a project to change the world is a part. Henkels had an idea, a big idea.Susan Henkels relaxes in the garden at her West Sedona home July 29. She started a campaign to change the world by celebrating personal relationships. Sunday, Sept. 5, is expected to be proclaimed “A Day in the Heart of Relationship” by the Sedona City Council.

“Originally, I wanted to flip the divorce statistics from 60:40 to 40:60 by 2022. I still do, but I needed a project I could finish in the four-month span of the class. So I chose a day to celebrate relationships,” Henkels said, “one day to acknowledge and appreciate the people you care about.”

Henkels chose the Sunday before Labor Day and Sedona to start.

With that idea in mind, she drafted a proclamation designating Sunday, Sept. 5, as “A Day in the Heart of Relationship.” Henkels went to Sedona Mayor Rob Adams, who agreed it was a great idea and approved having the proclamation brought before the City Council. The council will read and present the proclamation to Henkels at its regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 10.

“It has been said that wealth was the No. 1 value in our lives. Recent surveys indicate that relationship is now the more important value,” Henkels said. “It’s a day of its own for all of Sedona to celebrate and share with others the joy of their relationships.”

Henkels has counseled couples for many years and discovered two things most often missing in nearly all of the troubled relationships: gratitude and appreciation. “A Day in the Heart of Relationship” is an experience in showing appreciation and gratitude to the people each person cares about, she said.

“As a country, I think we’re sad; we’re depressed. We could use something that can help turn that around. This, when people participate, has the potential to do that, at least on a personal level, and it could grow out to the community,” Henkels said.

For Sedona, now that the State Route 179 construction is coming to an end and the roundabouts are in, Henkels said the city and its residents are ready to celebrate the beginning of a vibrant time.

“I think we are ready to play together as a team, with a shared vision of the possibility that powerful relationships can begin to heal our town, our state, our country and our world,” Henkels said.

Henkels invites everyone who is reading this article to take the day on in any way they would like to honor the relationships that are important to them. The relationships can include spouses, significant others, family, friends, someone who may be alone, pets, employees, bosses, customers or visitors. It can be people within an organization or on a committee, a congregation, city workers or any other relationship that is deemed important and meaningful.

All who participate can choose the method by which they want to celebrate. It is whatever people come up with. Henkels has no preconceived agenda. However, one couple she talked with plan to renew their wedding vows on that day. Four of her friends are getting together for a party.

“Even if it’s just a ‘thank you’ to the person you live with who’s done something nice for you, or simply tell them, ‘I love you,’” Henkels said. “My biggest concern is people will think this is a nice thought, but won’t do anything. I really want people to actually do something. It is amazing the good feeling you get when you do.”

As far as measurable results from her project, Henkels said she doesn’t know. She just hopes people will take the day to celebrate their relationships and pass it forward.

“Part of the project is to give it away,” Henkels said.

Now, Henkels asks that people send her an e-mail describing what they are actually going to do, relationship-wise, on Sept. 5. Photos of the event are also welcome at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“If we do this, Sedona will be known as a friendly, welcoming community where people interact with honor, appreciation and respect. I also would like to see Sedona become a model for this ‘Day in the Heart of Relationship’ for every city and town in this country,” Henkels said.

Sedona’s Cullen Heath is headed south for the winter.

Heath is this year’s participant in the Rotary Club of Sedona Youth Exchange program. He will spend the next 11 months with a host family in Santos, Brazil. The small town is a few miles east of Sao Paulo.Cullen Heath is excited about his upcoming exchange student trip to Santos, Brazil, for the next year. He is a participant in the Rotary Club of Sedona Youth Exchange program. Heath talked Thursday, July 29, about what he plans to do while in Brazil.

“It’s a very tropical area. The weather’s perfect, and my host family lives right on the beach,” Health said. “This is something I really wanted to do.”

Heath was born in Sedona and attended Sedona Charter School. He is the son of Suzi Heath and Max Kanaus, and he graduated in May from Sedona Red Rock High School. His brother, Max Kanaus Jr. is 10 years old. Heath speaks Spanish but said he’ll have to learn Portuguese, the language spoken in Brazil.

When he returns, Heath will be ready to start classes as a college freshman. So far he has not decided on a college but may attend Arizona State University or the University of Arizona.

In Santos, Heath will attend classes with his host brother and sister, Diogo, 20, and Juliana, 19, learning mostly about the culture and the language.

“I’ve spoken with my host family. I’m looking forward to meeting them. I also want to see Rio [de Janeiro] and spend time on the beach,” the tall blond wearing a Malibu T-shirt said.

Heath sees his adventure as a great opportunity not many people have a chance to experience. Rotary worldwide sponsors about 7,000 students in the international program. Youth from the United States travel to other countries and youth from those countries come to the U.S. The goal of the program is to promote international understanding.

Funds to support the exchange are provided by the sending and receiving Rotary Clubs as well as money raised by the student.

“The Rotary is a great club. I’ve attended some of the meetings. They do a lot in the community,” Heath said.

Rotary Club of Sedona New Generations Chairwoman Kathy Gorchesky sponsored Health for the program. She knows Heath through his mother from the Scorpion Booster Club. Suzi Heath is on the board and Gorchesky is the president.

“[Gorchesky] really made it possible for me and pushed it forward,” Heath said.
Gorchesky said Heath was a very deserving person to be a participant in the exchange program, and thinks he will do very well in Brazil with his host family.

“He is a fabulous person. Cullen is very adventurous and has a genuine interest in service above self,” Gorchesky said.

Heath is sure the exchange experience will affect his future but is not sure in what way yet.

“I’ll learn another language, for sure, and I’ll have a better understanding of a different culture — I’ll be living right there,” Heath said. “I’ll have an adopted, extended family, too.”
Heath was completely packed for the trip a full week before his departure date of Saturday,
Aug. 7.

“I’m going to Los Angeles to visit family for a week before I take off for Brazil,” he said.

meet_your_newsroom_logoWhile hard news stories are a community newspaper’s meat and bones, its feature stories comprise its heart and soul.

Rather than cover the movers and shakers of city and county government, feature stories explore the lives of individual residents and the good works done by local nonprofits, volunteer organizations, students and seniors.

Sedona Red Rock News Feature Writer Lu StittLu Stitt is the Sedona Red Rock News’ feature writer, having worked as a reporter in Sedona and Cottonwood for more than 15 years.

“Being the oldest reporter on staff, I don’t have any knowledge to pass on — everyone is very capable — but I think my years help enhance my stories,” Stitt said. “I have a lot of life under my belt.”

Stitt was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1947, the middle of three daughters. Stitt said she was the “adventurous one” — her sisters Tess, 67, and Anita, 61, both still live in Fort Wayne.

Stitt attended Bishop Lures High School, a parochial school, and graduated in 1965.

She went to work as a secretary for International Harvester, a farm machinery and big truck company, but took night classes to become an English teacher at Indiana University-Purdue University Extension.

Three years later, she met her future husband, a fraternity pledge who she said looked like actor Sal Mineo, from “Rebel Without a Cause.”

The couple married in May 1968 and Stitt left school to raise their three children, Brian, Angela and Daniel.

The family moved to Mesa in 1973 so that Stitt’s husband could work at International Harvester’s proving grounds in Phoenix.

As they drove into Salt River Canyon, Stitt said she felt like she was coming home even though she’d never been in Arizona before.

After her youngest child started kindergarten, Stitt returned to school.
“I needed something to fill my time and I loved going to college,” Stitt said. “When my kids were doing their homework, so was I.”

Lu Stitt plays the flute during a Clarkdale holiday celebration. Stitt is the feature writer for the Sedona Red Rock News.She took a series of writing classes at Mesa Community College. In her third semester, she was approached to write for MCC’s school newspaper, The Legend.

“I liked the process, and so I wanted to get a degree in journalism,” Stitt said.
Stitt transferred to Arizona State University in fall 1981. She graduated with a degree in mass communications with a specialty in journalism in 1984 at age 38. She met news anchor Walter Cronkite, for whom ASU named the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication the following year.

Like most ASU journalism students fresh out of school, Stitt applied to write for The Arizona Republic, but the newspaper never hired students without experience. Stitt did freelance for the paper covering feature stories, such as the haunted house of Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks.

Once Stitt’s children were grown and out of the house, she went back to work full-time in 1988 as an administrative secretary for ASU’s news bureau.
In 1994, Stitt said she found an opening working with Larson Newspapers and contacted then

Managing Editor Tom Brossart, who hired her as a feature writer within the week.

Stitt said she was surprised to arrive and find Patrick Schweiss working as Larson Newspapers production department manager — coincidently she had worked with him in 1988 when he was a student employee of ASU’s transportation and parking department.

One of her first feature stories was interviewing “Singin’ in the Rain” actor Donald O’Connor, chosen as grand marshal of the Sedona St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1995.

Brossart promoted Stitt to news editor of the Cottonwood Journal Extra in 1995 and she covered features and hard news in Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Jerome. She transferred back to Sedona as the feature writer in October.

Over the last 15 years, Stitt has interviewed hundreds of residents and a few celebrities, such as former President Gerald Ford, 1996 presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, comedian Jerry Stiller and actresses Anne Meara and Connie Stevens.

Part of her passion for journalism comes from a desire to give back to the community.

“This job leaves me little time to volunteer,” Stitt said. “But I can bring out the stories, cases and campaigns that are doing good things. I’ve had people tell me they volunteered because of an article. That’s my way of giving back.”

Family is also important to Stitt. Her daughter, Angela, 38, shares Stitt’s home in Cottonwood with her daughter, Nikol, 17, and son, Tyler, 15. Stitt regularly visits her sons in Phoenix, 41-year-old Brian and 35-year-old Daniel, his wife, Jenny, and their children Dallas, 7, Kiera, 2, and Kaitlyn, 3 weeks.

“Playing music is one of my greatest joys,” Stitt said.

Stitt has played flute with the Cottonwood Community Band since 1996. The 40-piece band practices weekly and plays four or five times a year, mainly on the patriotic holidays.

Stitt started playing flute in her freshman year of high school. After moving to Arizona, she played with the Mesa Community Band for 20 years.

Stitt came from a musical family. Her father primarily played trumpet by ear and wonderful piano, and he had a baritone voice honed as a drill sergeant in World War II. When he met his future wife, she was singing with the United Service Organization.

Stitt’s father was also a basketball referee and baseball umpire who gave Stitt her love of baseball.

“He used to say I was his only son,” Stitt said. “I was the adventurous one. I used to go into the woods with him, climb trees, fish with him.”

A “domestic at heart,” Stitt said she enjoys knitting and sewing, and creating handmade gifts and has recently taken up spinning her own yarn. She said she has a lot of fun on the dance floor and enjoys exploring and experimenting in the kitchen. She is also a Living History reenactor at Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde.

“I am a doer of many things but a master of none,” Stitt said

Several Sedona youth decided not to wile away their summer and enrolled in a theater workshop.

Only a few days after the class started, the youth, mostly teenagers, performed what they wrote, staged and rehearsed for the public. They also performed some impromptu skits, acting in the moment.

Sedona resident Elijah Torok performs an impromptu skit during a performance of a teen theater group Saturday, July 24. The teens in the workshop presented rehearsed skits along with improv scenes during the performance, which ended a nine-day workshop taught by Shondra Jepperson and Dev Ross.“They did this in just nine days,” instructor Shondra Jepperson said. “It’s an intensive workshop, and these kids are good.”

This is the third year instructors Jepperson and Dev Ross have taught the teen theater workshop, which has been well attended with more than 12 students each summer.

“It’s always been very successful. Dev has a lot of expertise in teaching youth in acting, voice and production,” Jepperson said as Ross worked with the youth, moving them around to create a better stage presence.

Jepperson and Ross are actively involved in the entertainment scene around Sedona and the Verde Valley. They are also teachers, currently working in their fields.

“We facilitate what they put together,” Ross said. “It allows them to individualize and come up with what they think is OK. We annihilate the word, ‘No.’ Nothing is dumb. Every offering is a gift and there are no mistakes, just opportunities to learn.”

The class participants, boys and girls ages 12 through 18, created their own skit, dialog and blocking. Jepperson and Ross gave tips from time to time during the July 23 rehearsal.

Half of the performance Saturday, July 24, was improvisational, and the other half was made up of rehearsed skits. Proceeds from donations went to the Sedona Public Library, where the workshop was conducted.

Ataiyo ViFora, left, and Lydia Mosley act out an impromptu sketch during a performance of a teen theater group Saturday, July 24. The teens in the workshop presented rehearsed skits along with improv scenes during the performance, which ended a nine-day workshop taught by Shondra Jepperson and Dev Ross.For Miriam Mosley, 15, a home-schooled student, the teen theater workshop is fitting right in with her dreams.

“After I wanted to be a ballerina and then a princess, I wanted to act,” Mosely said. “I love this and how they’re showing us how to come up with things on the spot. I definitely want to do this in college.”

The only thing Mosely has not settled on is whether she likes the stage or the screen more.

“This is for the stage, so I’ll see how it goes,” she said and grinned her best stage smile. “When I find a program like this, I join it.”

Ataiyo Viafora will be a freshman at Sedona Red Rock High School in the fall. He’s been acting for several years, including with the Missoula Children’s Theater. His most recent role this year was that of the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Acting is a great way to be different than your actual self. There are a bunch of different possibilities. It’s better than playing video games because you’re actually doing it,” Viafora said.

Jepperson and Ross said they will definitely conduct another workshop next summer. 

“We love working with the kids,” Jepperson said.

Ten Sedona Boy Scouts were called to serve when their flight to Phoenix was forced to make an emergency landing in Flagstaff on Sunday, July 25.

The boys were on board an Allegiant Air jet traveling from Billings, Mont., to Phoenix, along with three supervising adults, when the pilot came on the public address system and told them she had to take the airplane down in Flagstaff. One of the airplane’s engines had shut down.

boy_scouts_7-30“We weren’t expecting this at all,” Boy Scout Kevin Schweiss said.

Schweiss was on board with his father, Patrick Schweiss, and Boy Scouts Walter Spokes, Jason Lionberger, Paul Zenovitch, Joseph Remy, Tanner Rauch, Peter Hoyle, Chas Rescigno, Ethan Tedrick and Jake Ramirez. Patrick Schweiss, Walt Spokes and Randy Conilogue were the three adult chaperones.

The boys had been in Idaho at Island Park Boy Scout Camp and were on their way back from learning the very skills they would use to help other passengers.

“This is actually what we train for,” Kevin Schweiss said. “You don’t ever think you’d have to use it.”
After the pilot announced the early landing, Schweiss said the plane came down fast.

“They basically just dropped us into Flagstaff,” Schweiss said. “We were up in the air and next thing we were on the ground.”

Patrick Schweiss also described an abrupt end to what Kevin Schweiss called a scary experience.
“I’ve never seen a plane stop so fast in my entire life,” Patrick Schweiss said.

After the plane landed, the flight crew immediately began calling, “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate,” which signaled to passengers to get off as quickly as possible and leave their belongings behind.

Passengers slid down the emergency slide and some, including the Schweisses, jumped from the airplane wing.

From there, passengers ran to a nearby open field.

“We didn’t know if the plane was going to explode,” Patrick Schweiss said. He and his son were near the end of the line inside the airplane and could see passengers take off running once they reached the ground.

After the leaders gathered the Boy Scouts in the field, Spokes said they were approached by the flight crew. The boys were in uniform signaling to the flight crew they were trained to help in emergency situations.

“It was really kind of amazing to see them all working without being told what to do,” Spokes said. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do without panicking.”

They had a mission and didn’t get too excited in an extremely stressful situation, he said.

The Boy Scouts took first-aid kits provided by the flight crew and bandaged anyone who had injured themselves during evacuation or while running to the field.

Spokes said his 17-year-old son, Walter Spokes, carried an elderly lady across the runway to the field because she couldn’t make it on her own.

“They are really heroes today,” Patrick Schweiss said. “I’ve never been so proud of a group of boys in my entire life.”

After everyone was safe, Schweiss said he broke down in tears because he realized what had just happened.
“I was trying to be a dad and trying to be strong,” Schweiss said. He kept hugging his son and saying, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”

A community newspaper could tell hundreds of different stories in every issue. The managing editor fills the often difficult role of deciding which stories to cover and when, then placing those finished stories on each page in each issue.

Local politics, feature profiles, updates about infrastructure projects, upcoming events, police activity, firefighting rescues, community sports, analysis of the economy and new artistic endeavors all deserve a space.

Larson Newspapers Managing Editor Trista SteersA good editor must maintain a fine balance between unbiased hard news coverage and lighter feature stories that foster a sense of community involvement. She also must decide how the newspaper will act as a check on government, holding elected officials accountable for their actions.

Trista Steers is Larson Newspapers’ managing editor, directing all the coverage of the Sedona Red Rock News and its sister papers, The Camp Verde Journal and the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Having moved up the ranks from reporter to the captain at the helm of all three papers, Steers is a veteran of Sedona’s political controversies and its community successes.

Steers was born to Gary and Kay Steers in Lander, Wyo., population 7,000. The Steers family has lived in Wyoming since the mid-1800s and her grandfather’s ranch was founded in 1886. Both her parents were raised in Lander and most of her extended family still lives in Wyoming.

Managing editor Trista Steers and her fiancé, Henry MacVittie, enjoy a cool monsoon evening on a trail near their home. Steers moved to Arizona four years ago to take a job with the Sedona Red Rock News.Steers is 15 years younger than her late brother Robert, seven years younger than her sister Mista, and three years older than her sister Kindal.

Steers was born to be a journalist. As a child, she said she used to spy on her sisters, “observe quietly” and write down her observations in a notebook, like a reporter. Her mother would staple construction paper to the outside creating homemade books for her.

As a student athlete at Lander Valley High School, Steers played volleyball, basketball and softball but was most passionate about soccer, which she played all four years. She would later continue her passion for soccer after moving to Arizona by coaching the Verde Valley School girls soccer team and an Under-12 soccer team in the Village of Oak Creek.

After graduating from LVHS as valedictorian, Steers attended the University of Montana in Missoula, first majoring in psychology. She was doing well, but she missed writing.

Steers had worked on her high school newspaper for three years and served as its editor for two. She also worked for her hometown biweekly newspaper, the Lander Journal. After her first year in college, she changed her major and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in psychology.

Steers said one of her journalism professors summed up the two types of students who entered the field.

“He said people enter journalism for one of two reasons: They want to make it to the top and work for The New York Times, or they want to live wherever they want,” Steers said. “No matter where you live, there’s a newspaper nearby or some media outlet.”

Steers said that with 100,000 people, Missoula was far too big for her.

“I’m a small-town girl,” she said. “I enjoy community journalism — writing about the good things going on in a community.”

Larson Newspapers hired Steers as city reporter in July 2006, only a few weeks after the Brins Fire had threatened Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon.

Steers covered Sedona City Council and Sedona Fire District meetings, the beginning of the State Route 179 Improvement Project, police reports and stories about Sedona’s economy.

Steers said her best story was about a little girl who was seriously injured in a rollover accident. The girl recovered right around Christmas, just in time to go home, which was her Christmas wish. Steers wrote a follow-up story and was invited to the girl’s home to welcome her back from the hospital.

After a year as the city reporter, Steers was promoted to assistant managing editor in August, 2007. She met her future fiance, Henry MacVittie, a local business owner, around the same time.

Growing up in the “little mountain town” of Lander had a profound influence on Steers. She said she learned to love the outdoors and grew up hiking, backpacking and mountain biking.

Living in the Verde Valley has afforded Steers the environment to continue her love of the outdoors. She and MacVittie camp, hike and mountain bike together along many of the trails from Mingus Mountain to Oak Creek Canyon. The couple also attends local events on behalf of Larson Newspapers.

Steers was promoted to news editor in October 2009 then managing editor in April.

Steers said she enjoys being a journalist because she likes being informed and serving as “an information booth” for the community. She also enjoys learning new things to better tell those stories.

“City codes, E. coli at Oak Creek, science, theater, gardening. You have to learn about all these things,” Steers said.

Balancing all the various opinions of a community through the medium of a newspaper can be difficult.
“You have people from both sides of every issue,” Steers said. “You have a small staff trying to do the best job they can.”

It’s just a card game to some, but to aficionados bridge is a game of skill, strategy and competition.

Sedona resident Barbara Ballard plays a card during a bridge game July 16 at the Sedona Elks Lodge. Ballard is just one of the 160-plus members of the Sedona-Oak Creek Duplicate Bridge Club. Just ask any of the 160-plus members of the Sedona-Oak Creek Duplicate Bridge Club. Most of the members play six times a week at the Sedona Elks Lodge. Thursday is for beginners. The group started around 1971 and is still going strong.

On July 16, nearly 60 people sat around tables of four, taking the position of north, south, east or west, the names given to positions.

North and south are partners and east and west are partners. It was a quiet game as players arranged the cards in their hand, bid and played the cards for points.

Directional boards, playing cards and bidding boxes make up the game of bridge.“We play for national points because almost all of us belong to the American Contract Bridge League,” said Joy MacIlraith, who, along with her husband Don, are the longest standing members of the club. They joined in 1982.

“The game helps us keep our minds active. It’s great for the memory, and it’s very social,” MacIlraith said.

The Sedona group plays duplicate bridge, which means the same bridge hand is duplicated at each of the other tables to allow fair comparison of playing skill. The scoring is the difference, longtime club member Pete Stedman said.

“We play with a full deck — both ways,” he said.

The history of bridge goes back to the 18th-century English game of whist, a trick-taking card game. A trick is the four cards played in one round.

Eventually, bridge reached the United States and became popular in the 1930s. Its popularity continues, Linda Besnette said just before beginning the game.

“Our game here is competitive but friendly. It’s a happy group,” Besnette said. She also plays bridge online.

Wilma Wilson studies the board during the Sedona-Oak Creek Duplicate Bridge Club game at the Sedona Elks Lodge in Sedona on July 16. The club has more than 160 members with some playing up to six times a week.Don MacIlraith said the Sedona group is just a tiny part of the bridge movement around the world. The MacIlraiths teach bridge on cruise ships occasionally.

“Millions of people play bridge. They recently had a tournament in Las Vegas with several thousand people playing,” Don MacIlraith said.

Besnette started playing bridge in college in the 1960s, and she likes the competitive nature and strategy offered by the game.

“You never ever learn it all. There’s always something new — a new challenge. It’s a lot of fun,” Besnette said. “It’s up and down too. You feel so good when you play something well, and that lasts you until the next game when you feel like an idiot, but you keep coming back.”

Last fall, the officers of the club saw their numbers had dwindled. So they decided to offer lessons. Nearly 100 people showed up, and about 60 completed the classes. A new series is being planned for the fall for people who want to learn the game, Besnette said. Marsha Helton is the club’s board president and teaches the lessons.

One of the new members who learned last fall, Barbara Ballard, said Helton’s lessons were very helpful, and she feels confident to join in the game.

“I like the challenge and these guys have been very helpful. They’ve gone out of their way to guide me along. The first time Don [MacIlraith] asked me to play with him, I felt like the captain of the football team asked me to the prom,” Ballard said, adding she considers MacIlraith an expert.

Joy MacIlraith said she would be lost without bridge. It is a large part of her life.

“Many of us have become close friends — and we have wonderful potlucks,” MacIlraith said. “We even have at least one case of a club romance, and they got married recently.”

Besnette said there has been some concern in the bridge community about the aging population of players.

“Bill Gates has been working with others to promote teaching bridge in schools. We’d love to go to our schools and teach the kids,” Besnette said.

Besnette said visitors to Sedona can come and join the game.

For more information about the Sedona-Oak Creek Duplicate Bridge Club, call 282-5092.

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