Move ’em out! Historic Old Tucson film studio has reopened after two years

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By Paloma Garcia
Cronkite News

TUCSON – It’s time again to step back into the Old West of Hollywood, with cowpokes and desperadoes, livery stables and a dirt main street lined with burnt adobe buildings. Historic Old Tucson, which was shut down by COVID-19 in 2020, reopened in October under new management.

In April, American Heritage Railways won the bid to take over the studio and immediately began planning events that would bring people to the southern Arizona landmark. That included a revival of the Halloween event Nightfall, a Christmas event called Yuletide, and Old Town Days. Continue reading “Move ’em out! Historic Old Tucson film studio has reopened after two years”

‘Smooth’ ASU receiver Andre Johnson strikes right notes on football field and in rap music studio

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By Gannon Hanevold
Cronkite News

TEMPE – Andre Johnson doesn’t think “passion” is the right word to describe his relationship with music, but it’s certainly close.

The junior receiver at Arizona State has been producing and releasing rap beats on YouTube for almost a year now under the alias Dreddayy.

“I’ve always liked music a lot,” Johnson said. “I never was following music around, but I feel like I’ve always just had a knack for finding a beat, noticing melodies and everything.”

The first beat he ever produced took just a few minutes, and it happened while casually messing around on GarageBand with some friends, who immediately agreed that he had the skills for it.

Now, Johnson’s production process is a lot more elaborate. He’s invested in using FL Studio, a professional beat-making software, and has his own signature producer tag, which announces “Guess what day it is?” at the start of each track.

Johnson is studying music production and business at ASU, and he’s set a personal goal of releasing two albums within the next five years. However, his listeners shouldn’t expect anything to happen during football season.

“I’ve been too locked into the season and everything, (so) I haven’t really made anything for the last couple of months,” said Johnson, adding that he turned down potential collaborators this summer because they wanted to make music too close to the start of fall camp.

“During the offseason, I was making a lot in the studio – in my room, that’s what I call the studio,” he said.

Johnson is hitting the right notes on the gridiron, too. He had the best Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade out of all receivers in the FBS last year for ASU.

Heading into Friday’s Territorial Cup showdown against Arizona, he has 14 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown this season. Johnson is known for being a deep threat, but he also caught a critical 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter of ASU’s Nov. 5 comeback attempt against UCLA.

His teammates appreciate his talent for both catching passes and producing music. Arizona State junior receiver Giovanni Sanders said teammates in the locker room will occasionally freestyle over Johnson’s “smooth” beats.

Johnson draws inspiration from rap producers like London On Da Track, Zaytoven and Metro Boomin, the latter who he described as the “greatest producer in the game right now.”

While being a receiver and a rap producer are obviously different pursuits, Johnson said the biggest similarity between football and music is intricacy.

“The attention to detail is really apparent in both, as far as getting to your route depth, the way you catch the ball, even with your hand placement – all that stuff you have to do as a receiver,” he said. “When it comes to tuning 808s and placing hi-hats right into a spot, it has to be on beat.”

Johnson joins a long list of athletes who have pursued music and sports simultaneously. Hall of Famers like Deion Sanders and Kobe Bryant did it in the prime of their careers, and Shaquille O’Neal, more than a decade after retiring, still takes gigs under the name DJ Diesel.

Johnson isn’t the first ASU football player to do it, either.

Gus Farwell, an ASU backup quarterback in 1996, has performed internationally as an opera singer, and performed on Nov. 4 at ASU Gammage with former teammate and college roommate Jake Plummer in attendance.

Like Johnson, Farwell knows what it takes to pursue music and football simultaneously. His first time singing opera in public came at a Universal Studios talent show while in California for Arizona State’s Rose Bowl appearance in 1997.

And in March of 2020, while living in Barcelona, Spain, Farwell’s voice caught the world’s attention when he sang from a balcony as residents of the city applauded medical workers during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. A video his daughter took went viral, and Farwell ended up singing for 65 consecutive nights.

“The performance side, the football side; it’s great to be able to sort of live in both worlds,” Farwell said.

More recently, former ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins, who threw for more than 3,000 yards in 2017 and 2018 for the Sun Devils, also found a niche as a rap artist, producing music under the name 5IVE.

After a short stint with the Green Bay Packers, Wilkins made performing rap his priority, although he hasn’t given up entirely on his football future.

“My mindset has been very focused on music, to get great at this, and to hone in on it,” Wilkins told Green Bay’s WFRV in 2020. “But I do know that, if my phone rings, to go play football. That’s what I do.”

Wilkins’ music career blossomed thanks to a friendship he has with Canadian rapper and producer PARTYNEXTDOOR, who is signed to Drake’s OVO record label.

Meanwhile, Johnson, who was raised in Arizona and graduated from Tolleson Union High School, is focusing on building his rap pedigree with other Phoenix artists.

Major cities such as Houston, Atlanta and Los Angeles have established rap subcultures and sounds that are unique to each.

Johnson hopes to help develop a signature hip-hop sound in Phoenix.

“I kind of want to be one of the guys that comes out and puts Arizona, at least on the map, for more artists to come out and show what they can do,” he said.

For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org.

Heading into Friday’s Territorial Cup showdown against Arizona, Andre Johnson has 14 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown this season. (Photo by Brooklyn Hall/Cronkite News)

High school students learn about artificial intelligence and related career paths

By Justin Spangenthal
Cronkite News

TEMPE – The robots are taking our jobs!

That human fear of artificial intelligence has long been a polarizing topic in U.S. pop and tech culture, politics and even in some academic circles, and it’s growing as AI technology is becoming more prevalent.

AI technology has advanced significantly since its inception in the 1950s. One Arizona company is doing its part to debunk common AI misconceptions by teaching the future generation of AI engineers. Continue reading “High school students learn about artificial intelligence and related career paths”

Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series brings social justice issues, HBCUs to the forefront

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By Brendan Mau and Nicholas Hodell
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The Arizona State women’s basketball team was set to play against Grambling State in 2020 before travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic forced the game to be canceled, according to GSU coach Freddie Murray.

Two years later, an opportunity appeared for the schools to play each other. This time, though, it came from a unique partnership between the Pac-12 Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, a league of historically Black colleges and universities, built on educational experiences for athletes.

The collaboration resulted in the formation of the Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series. The series, announced in September 2021, aims to provide athletes with education surrounding social justice issues in addition to creating a platform for competition between the two conferences. Continue reading “Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series brings social justice issues, HBCUs to the forefront”

Heat the turkey, not the conversation: Surviving a post-election holiday

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By Emilee Miranda
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – With elections barely in the rearview mirror, you can expect your Thanksgiving turkey to come with a side of your favorite controversial topics: Election security, abortion and the economy.

While Americans might be tempted to discuss politics while passing the gravy this Thanksgiving, experts remind them that food is the only thing that should be heated at the holiday dinner table. Continue reading “Heat the turkey, not the conversation: Surviving a post-election holiday”

Turkeys gobble, but they don’t go cheap: Thanksgiving meal costs skyrocket

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By Haley Smilow
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Consumers will face “historically high” prices for their Thanksgiving meal ingredients this year, with experts urging them to plan ahead, look for deals and be ready to substitute traditional foods for something cheaper.

The Arizona Farm Bureau’s annual market basket survey of the typical fixings for Thanksgiving estimates that a traditional meal for 10, with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and more, will cost $71.88 this year, a stunning 45% increase from last year’s total bill of $49.62. Continue reading “Turkeys gobble, but they don’t go cheap: Thanksgiving meal costs skyrocket”

ASU legends reflect on 1983 Fiesta Bowl victory, voice concerns about today’s football program

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By Remy Masty
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Back in 1982, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album was atop the music charts, Rocky III was playing in theaters and Arizona State’s football program appeared to be on the verge of becoming a national powerhouse.

The 1982 Sun Devils, coached by Darryl Rogers and featuring future NFL players such as running backs Darryl Clack and Alvin Moore, cornerback Mike Richardson, defensive end Jim Jeffcoat, kicker Luis Zendejas and wide receiver Ron Brown, won their first nine games and rose to as high as No. 3 in the Associated Press rankings.

That squad lost its final two regular-season games against Washington and Arizona, letting a Rose Bowl berth slip away, but bounced back to beat Oklahoma in the 1983 Fiesta Bowl. Continue reading “ASU legends reflect on 1983 Fiesta Bowl victory, voice concerns about today’s football program”

Phoenix Suns’ injury woes taking a heavy toll, halt hot start

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By Tom Aizenberg
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Entering the 2022 NBA All-Star break, the Phoenix Suns had a 6 1/2 game lead over the Golden State Warriors for the top seed in the Western Conference. In a flash, both Chris Paul and Cam Johnson went down with injuries, and the No. 1 seed was in jeopardy.

However, the Suns figured out how to compensate for those injuries and won 14 of their next 18 games to secure home-court advantage and the best regular-season record in franchise history.

Nine months later, the Suns find themselves in a similar situation, missing the same two players. This time, the injuries are taking a toll. Continue reading “Phoenix Suns’ injury woes taking a heavy toll, halt hot start”

Asian District Night Market in Mesa showcases small businesses, draws 10,000 people

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By Drake Presto
Cronkite News

MESA – The Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce hosted the first Asian District Night Market in the city’s newly labeled Asian District two years ago, but COVID-19 put the event on hiatus for 2021.

The celebration of culture, community and commerce returned this year, with nights in January and October. More than 10,000 people attended the two-night Kamayan market in October, which honored Filipino contributions to the state. Continue reading “Asian District Night Market in Mesa showcases small businesses, draws 10,000 people”

Food banks get lesson in economics: More demand, less supply, higher prices

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By Emilee Miranda
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Arizona food banks head into the holiday season having to buy more food, at higher prices, for more clients, with fewer donations to help them pay for it.

When they can get food at all.

“We have had to purchase more food to be able to keep up with demand and of course we’re not able to purchase all of that food at the prices that we need as well,” said Angie Rodgers, Arizona Food Bank president. Continue reading “Food banks get lesson in economics: More demand, less supply, higher prices”

Arizona pet-toy maker in the doghouse with Jack Daniel’s over parody product

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By Tristan Richards
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider whether an Arizona manufacturer of pet toys infringed on Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 trademark with its Bad Spaniels Old No. 2 squeaky toy for dogs.

An attorney for VIP Products said no one would mistake their parody product, laced with dog poop humor, with the whiskey distillers products. Continue reading “Arizona pet-toy maker in the doghouse with Jack Daniel’s over parody product”

Arizona votes are now counted, but election drama will go on

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By Fernanda Galan Martinez
Cronkite News

With Maricopa County saying that it had finished its vote count, it appeared Monday that Arizona’s midterm had reached a milestone – no votes left to count – but the ordeal is far from over.

The races for Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, attorney general and state representative for district 13 are headed for automatic recounts.

And some county election results won’t be certified immediately. Cochise County and Mohave County have delayed certification. The state’s 15 counties have until Nov. 28 to send their results to the Secretary of State’s Office. The results are considered unofficial until Dec 5. Continue reading “Arizona votes are now counted, but election drama will go on”

Close to return, Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown expected to drive ‘hard bargain’ for new deal with Arizona Cardinals

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By Cole Topham
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Marquise Brown slanted inside during a pass play in the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles, finding a brief pocket of separation to elevate for a catch over the middle.

Brown hopscotched around the midfield defender, set his feet to stabilize his balance, then sunk his hip back in the opposite direction to shake through another tackle. The boulevard to the end zone that developed during the play began to close quickly. Brown shifted gears and blurred upfield through the hashes to score his team’s first points of the game, which ended in a 20-17 loss on Oct. 9.

The 25-yard house call, among other highlights, has already validated Brown as a worthwhile addition even though he has been sidelined on injured reserve since Week 7 with a broken foot. The Cardinals designated Brown to return from injured reserve Wednesday, giving him a chance to play in Mexico City against the San Francisco 49ers for this week’s Monday Night Football matchup. Continue reading “Close to return, Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown expected to drive ‘hard bargain’ for new deal with Arizona Cardinals”

‘We see value in you’: Arizona organization helps bridge gaps between foster kids and families

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By Chase W. Drumgoole
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – An estimated 80% of the more than 400,000 children in foster care across the U.S. struggle with significant mental health issues because of trauma related to neglect, abuse, parental substance use, the death of mom or dad, and more.

In Arizona, the nonprofit Aid to Adoption of Special Kids is working to help children persevere during their time in the system – through training, mentoring and additional services for foster youth and parents alike.

“The most value that we can add to the foster care system is by providing relationships to kids that say, ‘No matter how you identify, no matter what race you come from, no matter what happened at your home or who your parents are or what they did – we see value in you, and we’re here for you,’” said Russ Funk, director of community engagement for the Phoenix nonprofit, known as AASK.

Continue reading “‘We see value in you’: Arizona organization helps bridge gaps between foster kids and families”

From foodie to gamer, Hamilton’s Beach defined by more than volleyball

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By Alexis Davis
Special to Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Neomi Beach loves the taste of winning, but not more than trying a new recipe or getting a new high score in “Call of Duty.”

In her free time, Beach tries different foods all over Arizona and comes home to try and recreate them. As her mother calls her a “mini chef,” she takes pride in not only how the food tastes but the aesthetics, too.

“I am a foodie,” Beach said. “Let me tell you, I am a foodie. I eat so much food. I made an Instagram for all the food I try, and all of my friends know me for eating food.” Continue reading “From foodie to gamer, Hamilton’s Beach defined by more than volleyball”

Changing of the guard: ASU men’s basketball transfer Frankie Collins emerges as team’s leader

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By Brendan Mau
Cronkite News

TEMPE – The short career of ASU men’s basketball starting point guard Frankie Collins came full circle Thursday night, when the Sun Devils took on his former team, No. 20 Michigan, in the Legends Classic championship at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

After transferring from the Wolverines in the offseason, the sophomore Collins entered the contest averaging team-highs in minutes played (34), points (16) assists (4.8) and steals (2.3) over four games for the Sun Devils, one season after averaging only 2.8 points, 1.4 assists, 0.4 steals in 11 minutes per game in the 31 games he played for Michigan.

Collins was plagued by foul trouble in Thursday’s matchup and finished with only four points, five assists, two steals and three rebounds. However, the team that he has shouldered the weight for so many times this season returned the favor big time in the Big Apple, as the Sun Devils (4-1) pulled off a huge 87-62 upset over the Wolverines (3-1), ASU’s largest margin of victory ever over a ranked opponent. Continue reading “Changing of the guard: ASU men’s basketball transfer Frankie Collins emerges as team’s leader”

30 years and counting: Veterans, 9/11 responders reconnect at ASU football game

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By Dominic Hernandez
Cronkite News

TEMPE – The first game is a blur, the details from 30 years ago not important. Bruce Snyder was Arizona State’s rookie coach, the conference was called the Pac-10 and the Sun Devils were trudging through a mediocre season.

What matters, what sticks as if it were yesterday, is that a group with a number of American veterans came together and created a tradition that is still going strong three decades later. Two weeks ago, on a warm night in the desert, the group made a cross country trip to Tempe to watch the Sun Devils play Pac-12 rival UCLA on Nov. 5.

The group included Al Fuentes, 71, a New York City Fire Department Captain during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Buried in rubble after the North Tower collapsed, he was rescued by firefighters hours later and survived. Continue reading “30 years and counting: Veterans, 9/11 responders reconnect at ASU football game”

At 17, Kylan Boswell already turning heads for the Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team

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By Brendan Mau
Cronkite News

TUCSON – After finishing his high school career at AZ Compass Prep, Kylan Boswell stepped onto the University of Arizona campus in late summer, just another 17-year-old freshman about to start college.

Except Boswell isn’t like the other freshmen. He’s a five-star recruit who reclassified to enter college early and join the Wildcats men’s basketball team this season and is quickly turning heads.

“Well, Kylan came (to Arizona), and he said he was 17, I almost s— my pants,” said starting Wildcat point guard Kerr Kriisa after then-No. 17 Arizona defeated Southern University, 95-78, to start the season 2-0. Continue reading “At 17, Kylan Boswell already turning heads for the Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team”

Price is right: Arizona Cardinals deliver most affordable fan experience, study says

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By Derrian Carter
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Home bittersweet home.

Although State Farm Stadium has not been kind to the Arizona Cardinals, who have won once in their last 10 home games, it apparently treats its fans well.

Research by Sidelines sports technology and digital media company lists the Cardinals first in the NFL for offered the most affordable fan experience. Calculations incudes the price of an average wholesale ticket, parking, a 16-ounce beer and a hot dog at stadiums for preseason and regular season games. Continue reading “Price is right: Arizona Cardinals deliver most affordable fan experience, study says”

Coyotes break the ice on growing youth hockey with 1st Stride event

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By Collin Mitchell
Cronkite News

SCOTTSDALE – In the Valley of the Sun, hockey isn’t the most popular sport on the block.

The Arizona Coyotes have made an attempt to change this, implementing a youth roller hockey program called “1st Stride Roller” in the Valley.

Starting Oct. 11 in collaboration with the National Hockey League, Coyotes Hockey Development Hockey, USA Hockey and Behind the Mask and wrapping up last Saturday, the month-long instructional camp was built to offer an introduction to the sport of roller hockey to youth kids ages 5-9 in the area. Continue reading “Coyotes break the ice on growing youth hockey with 1st Stride event”