What’s your Sacramento?

Locals tell us all about their diverse communities.

Beatboxer Leejay Abucayan talks about the Filipino community of Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential public figure in Sac’s Filipino community?

It’s hard to pick one. We have a lot unsung of heroes. Glenda Macatangay and Greg Garcia of the Filipino Youth Coalition. They really taught us a lot about Filipino culture.

What’s your favorite place to perform in Sac?

I like performing at places where people aren’t exposed to beat-boxing. It allows me to expose them to hip-hop culture.

What do you think is the best community organization?

I don’t like playing favorites. Each organization has its role and each caters to a different part of the community. I’ve been involved with Sinag-tala youth theater group [www.sftpaa.org], and the Filipino Youth Coalition and Bridge, an outreach and retention program.

The best thing about the local Filipino community?

I’d say, despite a few disagreements within the community in the past, the Filipino community in Sac is pretty close. Everyone knows everyone. … We’re just trying to keep it positive.

Queen Sheba restaurant owner Zion Taddese talks about the Ethiopian community of Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential public figure in your community?

I’m not trying to put myself up, but I’m probably someone who the local community can come to for advice. Let’s say someone comes from Ethiopia and wants information for how to get a job, get a place. I know a lot of Ethiopians here, so I ask around. I’m their information center in Sacramento.

What’s the rowdiest event your community puts on?

Probably the Ethiopian New Year. It’s big. It’s in September. Oakland and San Jose always have a lot of functions going on so most people go from Sacramento to the Bay Area. Ethiopian New Year is different because our calendar is different from other African countries. Ethiopia was never colonized so we kept our calendar, the history.

What’s your biggest contribution to local sports?

Ethiopians love soccer. They get together and play. In every state there are established soccer teams, so every year, at the beginning of July, all the teams get together and play.

Where’s the best place to buy Ethiopian stuff?

Here at Queen Sheba [1704 Broadway, (916) 446-1223] during the Second Saturday art walk people can buy the art and the clothes.

What’s the best traditional way to unwind after a hard day?

Probably a coffee ceremony. Ethiopians roast green coffee beans in a pan. We dedicate time to coffee, lunchtime, an hour, two hours. It’s more of a social thing. Or we unwind with a glass of honey wine.

Student Jennifer Thao talks about the Hmong-American community of Sacramento:

Who’s the most courageous, influential, heroic public figure in the Hmong community?

General Vang Pao.

What’s your community’s rowdiest event?

This year’s biggest, rowdiest event was our community’s peace rally [against the abuse of Hmong people in Laos and to show support of General Vang Pao] at the state Capitol in June.

The best Hmong restaurant?

Kee’s Express [4720 Mack Road, Suite 4; (916) 424-8184].

The hottest local Hmong public figure?

Among the younger crowd, it’s fashion designer, makeup artist and model Paginia Lo. The best Hmong Band is Whyteshadows.

The best local community organization?

Hmong University Student Association [www.csus.edu/org/hmong] is a not-for-profit student organization at CSU Sacramento. HUSA’s goals are to promote higher education to the Hmong community, and cultural awareness to CSUS students and the larger communities in the Sacramento region.

A Sacramento resident for 48 years, Trentino native Franca Brida Lingren talks about the Italian community in Sacramento:

What’s the rowdiest Italian community event?

It has to be the annual Festa Italiana, sponsored by the Italian Cultural Society [www.italiancenter.net], held the first weekend in August. … You can have a little espresso, a glass of wine and wonderful food, and listen to music. … You see two or three generations of family together, or older couples strolling arm in arm. You feel the passion of the Italians when you are there.

The most influential local Italian public figure?

Biba Caggiano, because of the exquisite cuisine she introduced to Sacramento, and Darrell Corti, who brought olive oil and other products that people didn’t know about from Italy to Sacramento. Also Anne Rudin, former mayor of Sacramento, is a second-generation Italian that we all look up to.

The best place to learn about Italian culture?

The Italian Cultural Center offers language classes, shows movies and has events like olive oil tastings. There are frequent photo, art and dance exhibits.

The best Italian restaurant?

For buying food to prepare at home, Corti Bros. [5810 Folsom Boulevard, (916) 736-3800] and the Italian Importing Company [1827 J Street, (916) 442 6678] have everything you need. There is a new bakery in Fair Oaks Village called Dianda’s [10131 Fair Oaks Boulevard, (916) 966-3757]. It is owned by a guy from Lucca [in Italy] who used to operate it in San Francisco’s Mission District. They sell a wonderful almond torte.

The best place to buy Italian home décor?

William Glen [2651 El Paseo Lane, (916) 485-3000] in Town and Country Village. … If I want something Italian, I can find it there.

Student Zaki Syed talks about the Pakistani community of Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential public figure in the local Pakistani community?

My Mom. She won a hero award from the Salam Weekend School [www.salamcenter.org]. After 9/11, all the kids from the school signed a book designed around the American flag and we sent it over to New York. But for me to pick just one person would be unfair, so anyone who works hard to change media perceptions of Muslims and also kids.

What is the rowdiest event your community puts on?

Pakistan Day. It is traditionally celebrated on August 14. Events have been held at the Mondavi Center and the Sierra Center. Guys come to the front and begin to dance, and it feels like a concert. It is kind of amazing. The funny thing about these concerts is the cultural blend of all the people. Kids come wearing hip-hop culture, but they are representing Pakistan because they are wearing green and white hats and shirts. It’s a real blending of cultures.

What’s the least authentic place associated with your community?

Places where people are belly dancing or any Aladdin type of things. Or cartoon images of Muslims. Lots of people think that Muslim culture is the same throughout the world, but what many don’t know is that there a lot of different of ethnicities. Muslims come from all over and their cultures are different.

Best community organization or cause?

Interfaith [www.isbsacramento.org]. The reason I say that is it is not focused on one community. I like the idea of spreading peace among all, not just one group. I would also say firefighters because they work for safety within all communities.

Sergey Ivannikov and Vladimir Vecherkovskiy, founders of Vesti, LLC, and publishers of the Russian Yellow Pages, discuss the Russian community of Sacramento:

What are differences between doing business in America and Russia?

No difference, if you compare Russian-style business environment now and the American-style maybe 100 years ago. In other words, now in the former Soviet Republics, it is like a “Wild West.” My experience here is that American businesses function on the basis of clarity, predictability and trust. That’s not the situation in my former country, Russia or the Ukraine, as well as so many other of the former Soviet Republics.

What are some of the cultural advantages about living in America?

In this country, everyone eventually gets what he deserves. The sky is the limit. If you have the right attitude, America is a fantastic country. America is a wonderful place in which to have family and raise kids. Here everyone has plenty of opportunities for a healthy lifestyle, education and self development. In America, it’s more about your own choice and ability to follow through on your decisions in life.

What are Vesti’s long-term goals?

Our first and main goal is to serve God and people. With God’s help we are publishing Vesti’s Russian Yellow Pages [www.rypweb.com], which is our bilingual, Russian-English telephone directory; a Slavic community newspaper called The Anons [www.theanons.com], meaning “breaking news"; and a Christian-focused newspaper called Blagovest [www.blagovest.org], meaning “good news.” Next, if God will bless and increase our days, we will publish these and distribute them in many other large cities of America.

Tyehimba Kokayi, a CSUS West African Drum and Dance Club instructor, talks about the West African community in Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential local West African public figure?

Youssouph Bodran, a master West African drummer. His music, his knowledge of culture, his sense of community—he’s helped unify the different groups within the West African community.

What’s your rowdiest community event?

Juneteenth [www.discovergold.org/juneteenth] is the celebration of slaves being freed. We don’t know what date, so we say Juneteenth. In winter, we have Kwanzaa. It’s more pan-African. It came from Maulana Karenga, who wanted to unify the African community as an alternative to the Euro-centric Christmas idea. Some of us got tired of Santa Claus.

The best place to get West African food?

Majestic Lounge [2355 Arden Way, (916) 486-1933].

The best community organization?

Lion’s Den Entertainment Inc. They have a real commitment to being keepers of the West African culture. LDE is an Afro-centric nonprofit that performs everything from West African drum and dance to circus acrobatics. There will be a master drum and dance workshop on October 4, 5 and 6 for $15. E-mail alionking1st@hotmail.com to find out more.

Oahu native Tiffany Basque talks about the Hawaiian community in Sacramento:

What’s the rowdiest Hawaiian community event?

Every year Hui O’ Hawaii of Sacramento [www.huiohawaiisacramento.org], an organization devoted to preserving Hawaiian culture, has a luau at the Placer County Fairgrounds. All of the proceeds go toward scholarships for our members. We have traditional Hawaiian food, like lau-lau [shredded pork] and coconut pudding. … Ho’omana, a Hawaiian band from San Francisco, performs every year. … In between numbers, we teach the audience to dance to the Hukilau.

The least authentic Hawaiian establishment in Sacramento?

It’s really cheesy when people put pineapple on pizza and call it “Hawaiian.” We don’t eat pineapple on pizza in Hawaii.

The best Hawaiian restaurant?

L & L Hawaiian Barbecue [www.hawaiianbarbecue.com] is the best. I go there at least once a week. You feel like family when you go there. They greet you by name. They always have Hawaiian music and decorations. It makes you feel like you are at home. You have to try it!

The best traditional way that Hawaiians unwind?

To us doing the hula is great relaxation. Hula to us is life—telling a story through dance makes you feel really good.

Abdul-Massis Maalouf, owner and head chef of Maalouf’s Taste of Lebanon, talks about the Lebanese community of Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential public figure in your community?

I think it’s enough to tell you that the Sacramento Kings’ owners belong to my same village. What’s good about the Lebanese people is that, wherever we go, we give to the country from the bottom of our hearts, the same as if it was our motherland.

The Phoenecians were influential. We were the first nation to begin sailing, coloring clothing, creating medicine; the first nation to create a written language. The most important thing that is ours is that we were the first democratic nation on Earth where every city has its own congress elected by the people.

What’s the best traditional way to unwind after a hard day?

The Lebanese way of rest after a hard day is to take a shower, dress good, go find some friends, play cards, drink some wine, sing a little, dance a little, and go to bed so you have at least two hours of sleep to start your day.

The best Lebanese community organization?

To me, the best organization is nature. I look to every human being as if he were my brother or cousin or son. We are all born the same way, same as we leave. The only thing that can make a difference is how much good I find in a person and how much bad.

Uptown Studios production director Jade Baranski talks about the LGBTQI community of Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential public figure in the LGBTQI community?

Marghe Covino, for her amazing work on the “Slavic” issues facing the queer community. Her leadership has brought us to a place that’s educated and holds each person responsible for their community.

What’s the rowdiest event your community puts on?

Rainbow Festival [www.rainbowfestival.com]—the nightlife rivals S.F.

Where do you like to party?

Party? I seem to have forgotten what that means. … I have a girlfriend—once we have partners we don’t party.

What’s the least authentic place associated with your community?

Faces, for sure—it has turned into an expensive straight bar.

The best place to get LGBTQI swag?

I’m going to have to go with Grind & Groove [2226 K Street, (916) 447-4200] on that one.

The hottest public figure in your community?

Arnold Schwarzenegger, for sure.

The best community organization?

Tough one. CARES [www.caresclinic.org] wins my vote.

Best traditional way to unwind after a hard day?

At the Mercantile [9128 L Street, (916) 447-0792]—no women. Ever.

Student Pawanpreet Singh talks about the Punjabi community of Sacramento and beyond:

What’s the rowdiest Punjabi community event?

The biggest event that the Punjabi Sikh community puts on is the Nagar Kirtan, which is a religious event in Yuba City [www.yubacitynagarkirtan.com]. The rowdiest event is a toss between the Bhangra competitions, which are dance competitions between local universities, and the Yuba City Mela or fair [www.punjabiamericanheritagesociety.com]. During the Mela a famous singer always comes and performs so there is a lot of hype.

Where do you like to party Punjabi-style?

I’m not much of a partyer, but Desi Intervention, a locally-based deejay company, throws Indian parties at the Hard Rock Café and every month at Club Empire, so I go out and show my support.

Who’s the most influential public figure in your community?

I think that in the Sikh community, we consider all 10 of our gurus [religious teachers] the most courageous, influential and heroic because they dedicated their lives to our religion and some were even martyrs. In modern times, and not religious speaking, I think besides the Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is looked as the most influential.

What’s the least authentic place associated with your community?

Indian restaurants. The food is usually nasty!

Where’s the best place to buy Indian stuff?

Berkeley is the best place to get ethnic food, clothing and music.

Geanina Watts, photographer and managing principal at W Gallery and Studios, talks about the Romanian community of Sacramento:

What’s it like to be a Romanian living here?

In Romania, in the city, downtown in the evening is full of life. You could find young people out everywhere. Here, if you go downtown, especially at night, it’s like a ghost town. I think it’s because of the malls in the suburbs.

Are there a lot of Romanians in Sacramento?

If you start looking, you’ll find them everywhere. And listen: If a Romanian invites you to have dinner or lunch, go. They will make your day. … They take hours on cooking.

OK, but what’s Sacramento’s Romanian community really like?

Many of the Romanians that are here are very competitive. … There’s a focus on the amount you spend. But we’ve come from a communist country, where you couldn’t have too much. Where, actually, nothing you have is yours. I think some people try to compensate. But they are also very successful business people.

Best place to get Romanian food?

Arat European Market [7307 Fair Oaks Boulevard, (916) 972-9582]. They have Romanian cakes. I love them.

Caterer and private chef Toru “Tommy T” Takehara talks about the Japanese community of Sacramento:

What’s the rowdiest Japanese community event?

I would say the Japanese Food and Cultural Bazaar in August at the Buddhist Church of Sacramento [2401 Riverside Boulevard, (916) 446-0121, www.buddhistchurch.com]. People don’t get rowdy, though—unless they serve sake or something, but I doubt it.

Where’s the best place to buy Japanese stuff?

I like Oto’s Market [4990 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 424-2398, www.otosmarketplace.com]. They have just about anything I need to make my kind of food.

Hottest local Japanese public figure?

I’d say Taka Watanabe, a partner in Taka’s Sushi [11773 Fair Oaks Boulevard, (916) 961-2118]; and Kru [2516 J Street, (916) 551-1557]. He has a lot of projects. He has at least two more hot restaurants in the works. I must commend his ideas and efforts. He is innovative yet traditional, as well.

What’s the best Japanese community organization in Sac?

I don’t belong to any of the organizations, but there are a few to name, like the Japanese American Citizens League [www.jacl.org] and Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce [www.sacasiancc.org].

What’s the best traditional way to unwind after a hard day?

Hot bath, hot sake, hot &*%!

Make-up artist Stacey Pantages talks about the Greek community of Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential Greek public figure in Sac?

There are so many people in our community that make a difference in Sacramento, including my family and friends. But to me it would have to be His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America.

What’s the rowdiest event your community puts on?

We put on a lot of parties … but the biggest one of the year would be FDF, short for Folk Dance Festival [www.gofdf.org]. It is mainly a West Coast event, located in a different city every February. It’s dedicated to encouraging and perpetuating Greek heritage and culture among families and communities expressed in folk dance. But the real party goes on after hours in the main hotel where there are “Greek nights” and themed parties in numerous hotel rooms.

What’s the least authentic place associated with your community?

Daphne’s Greek Café.

Where’s the best place to get cool Greek stuff?

For authentic Greek food, I’d have to say Symposium Restaurant and Pizza in Davis [1620 East Eighth Street, (530) 756-3850]. Not only is the food good, but I really like the atmosphere. My Papou (grandpa) takes the whole family there at least twice a year. I love it. As for jewelry, clothing and of course my favorite, Greek music, our annual Greek Food Festival, held at the community center every labor day weekend, will for sure have some great stuff to offer. I always love getting my accessories from there—very unique and traditional.

Best Greek community organization or cause?

With the recent fires in Greece, two members of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation Sacramento, will be putting on Greek Fires Relief Fund-raiser on Friday, September 28, at 7 p.m., to help support Greece overcome this horrible tragedy.

Best traditional way to unwind after a hard day?

Well, I think I can speak for a majority of the community when I say a frappe and tsigara, also known as coffee and a cigarette.

Web Extras

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about the Austrian community of Sacramento. Sort of.

(OK, fine, not at all. Obviously, Der Gov is too busy to for a lowly SN&R writer to bother him with silly questions, but through sheer mental force—and a few generously poured drinks—we were able to channel our beloved Commando-in-chief. Some might call these answers fabrication. We prefer “true lies.")

Who’s the most influential public figure in the local Austrian community?

(Thumbs pointed at chest) You are looking at him, baaa-by.

What is the rowdiest event your community puts on?

Not counting my post-Anschluss celebration back in 2003?

Where do you like to party Austrian-style?

Wherever I go in Califohnia, d’ere is a party, but I try to avoid de restaurants where you can get a cocktail for less than $15.

What’s your best contribution to local sports?

Extreme alpine skiing and the crashing of the motorcycles. It’s not Austrian, but I enjoy a set of curls whenever I come across dumb-bells. You know, you are out for a walk and you see dumb-bells lying on de ground, perhaps they are blackened by fire, and you just have to start pumping d’en and d’ere.

Hottest public figure in your community?

D’ere are no Austrians in de Sacramento area d’at are hotter than yours truly.

Has being Austrian influenced the way approach politics here in California?

There is an old Austrian saying, “What is best in life? Crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”

Isn’t that from Conan the Barbarian?

To hell with you.

Sorry. Last question: what’s the best traditional way to unwind after a hard day?

Personally, I like to end a hard day of legislating all over people with a smoke und a grope.

Drag King and graphic designer Tina Reynolds talks about the LGBTQI community of Sacramento:

Who’s the most courageous/influential/heroic public figure in your community?

Dennis Mangers is always available with his political influence and financial support if there are any issues to be dealt with. He is a trail blazer for LGBTQI rights and has a passion for fair and equal treatment of all people. Dennis has served on more Boards than I could even mention. He is a friend and confidant, he is kind and loving, and he is a hero for all the LGBTQI issues today and for so many years in the past.

Marghe Covino is a standard LGBTQI activist and has been her entire life. Marghe is there with the wisdom collected from her involvement in events from our past and she brings this history to the current table of issues. Marghe is so well versed on the issues we face today we move forward at a steady pace with her influence and involvement.

What’s your best contribution to local sports?

The Monarchs (www.wnba.com/monarchs/), Rollerball, and The Sacramento Sirens (www.sacramentosirens.net).

What’s the least authentic place associated with your community?

The Gay and Lesbian Center, formerly known as the Lambda Center.

Hottest public figure in your community?

Assemblyman Mark Leno and Activist and Consultant Gretchen Bender

Best community organization/cause?

Satendar Justice Coalition (Satendar.org), a newly formed community group to fight the hate crimes that have been escalating over the past two years. This group is formed from Asian/Pacific Islanders groups, Muslim, Jewish, African American, Latino and LGBTQI leaders.

Developer Sotiris Kolokotronis talks about the Greek-American community in Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential public figure in Sac’s Greek community?

Angelo Tsakopoulos, founder and owner of AKT Development Corporation.

Your community’s biggest, rowdiest event?

The Greek Food Festival; every year during Labor Day weekend at the Convention Center.

What’s the best Greek contribution to local sports?

My wife. Matina has been legal counsel with the Kings organization since 1977.

The least authentic Greek establishment in Sac?

Belly-dancing establishments.

The best Greek restaurant?

Greek Village Inn (65 University Avenue, (916) 922-6334).

The hottest local Greek public figure?

Phil Angelides, former California State Treasurer.

Sacramento Amazons Rugby Coach Sefesi Green talks about the Tongan community of Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential public figure in your community?

Tongans are still relatively new to this society and we’re still waiting for someone to emerge as a true leader of our community. But, today, I would say religious leaders from the Catholic, Protestant and Mormon churches play the most influential role in our community, as Tongans are very religious and family oriented.

What’s your best contribution to local sports?

Rugby. Specifically, women’s rugby. I’ve been coaching high-school girls and women’s rugby for the past seven years and it has been a blast.

Where’s the best place to get authentic Tongan stuff?


The best Tongan community organization?

The Sacramento Amazons Rugby Club [www.myspace.com/amazonrugby].

The best traditional way to unwind after a hard day?

Kava. It’s an herbal root that originates from Tonga but is widely used throughout the South Pacific. People take the roots of the kava plant and grind it down to a fine powder. The powder is then strained through water several times. The end result is a brown murky water that looks like coffee and cream. When you drink it, it makes your mouth numb and enough of it makes you real “high.”

German teacher and translator Ingeborg Carpenter talks about the German community of Sacramento:

What’s the rowdiest event your community puts on?

Oktoberfest. This year it’s on the fifth and sixth of October.

Where’s the best place to buy German stuff?

Morant’s Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen (5001 Franklin Boulevard, (916) 731-4377). That’s a real German butcher shop here in town where you can order from the butcher in German and get all the German goodies.

The best German community organization?

Sacramento Turn Verein (www.sacramentoturnverein.com). It’s only two-years younger than the city of Sacramento itself. Friendly, authentic people. They strive to be an asset to Sacramento.

The community’s best contribution to local sports?

Lots of soccer. Sacramento Turn Verein has seven teams. One of the groups belongs to the Central California Soccer League.

The best traditional German way to unwind?

They meet with their buddies at what’s called a stammtisch. It’s a table for regulars at the local pub. Usually the pub owner will reserve a table and there will be a sign on the table that says so. There is a German Stammtisch group who meet at 4:30 p.m. every Friday at Hoppy Brewery (6300 Folsom Boulevard, (916) 451-4667).

Student, Gemologist and Lavender Heights resident Nathan Feldman talks about the LGBTQI community in Sacramento:

Who’s the most influential public figure in the LGBT community?

Marghe Covino. The title everyone gives her is “Godmother to the community.” That’s not just the LGBT community. It’s the Pacific Islander community, as well.

The best and most supportive political figure in Sacramento is Darrell Steinberg. The best pain in our ass politically would be Arnold.

What’s the rowdiest event your community puts on?

I’d say the “After Pride” parties thrown by the bars at 20th and K streets. Other than that, Sacramento is a sleepy little place.

Where do you like to go out?

For a night out, we usually go play at 20th and K streets, bouncing between Faces and Badlands.

What’s your best contribution to local sports?

That’s a joke. Our best contribution is not participating, with the exception of buying tickets to keep the teams in business.

Hottest public figure in your community?

Everyone seems to think Steve Hansen is pretty, and he is within our local community. If we could adopt anyone, it would be Jake Gyllenhaal.

Best community organization/cause?

CARES (www.caresclinic.org).

How does your community traditionally unwind after a hard day?

Two options: lots of eating out, drinking and spending money; or cooking a nice dinner and watching TV with a special someone, the kids and the pets.

Student Nick Hunte talks about the Chinese-American community in Sacramento:

Who’s the most courageous/influential/heroic public figure in your community?

Doris Matsui, she is the most well-known and popular politician in our district and she owns a house a couple blocks down from me.

What is the biggest, rowdiest event your community puts on?

The Chinese Community Church puts together an annual bazaar that is really popular and draws a lot of people in.

Where’s the best place to get Chinese food?

There a lot of Chinese Restaurants along Freeport Boulevard. They include Hong Kong Wok, Jade Fountain Cafe, Jumbo Seafood and Far East just to name a few. Broadway also has a lot of Asian restaurants.

Shahla Helalian talks about the Iranian community of Sacramento:

What is the biggest event your community puts on?

The Chahar Shanbeh Suri is done on the new year’s eve. It’s part of the Eid Norooz celebration. The Iranian calendar is different, so the first day of the new year is the first day of spring on the Roman calendar. We build a big bonfire and you jump over one side of the fire to the other side and there is a traditional saying that welcomes in the prosperity of a new year. The meaning behind it is sort of like the New Year’s song that people sing in America.

Where do you like to party?

Our parties are centered around the family unit, but the family unit extends beyond just brothers and sisters. It extends to cousins, second cousins, great aunts, everyone. Everyone cooks a lot of food and tells a lot of stories.

What’s the least authentic representation of your community?

Aladdin. Every Middle Eastern doesn’t belly dance and wear a turban. There is a general misrepresentation that leads people to believe that the Middle East is a very one-faceted place.

Where’s the best place to get Persian food?

There are a lot of good restaurants, Famous Kabob is really good. They give you the basics: kabob, naan, and berenj. There is a lot of culinary variety based on the region you’re from. But my favorite place is my mom’s kitchen.

Hottest public figure in your community?

Sam Ershadi.

Best traditional way to unwind after a hard day?

There are some really good card games. Backgammon with a cup of chai.

What is something that makes you really proud to be an Iranian American?

There are lots of things, but I don’t think they’re unique to being Iranian. Every culture is proud of their history, art, music, food, and philosophy. I’m not nationalistic in that way, really I just like being unique. That’s personal, it doesn’t have to do with Iran, except that Iran is unique. Nobody every bats an eye at my Welsh and English heritage.

Singer and flutist Mary Youngblood talks about the American Indian community of Sacramento:

I see from your website you were classically trained…

My family moved to Arizona so my father could get his PhD. We moved mid year, I was in the fourth grade and I wanted to join the public-school band. But because it was mid year, there were no instruments left except the classical flute. It looks hard to play and it is hard to play, but I was adamant that I wanted to be in the band; I didn’t care which instrument I played. In their attempts to get me caught up to speed with the rest of the band, they had a masters student at the university in Tuscon give me private lessons, and I continued with these all through elementary, junior high and high school—with master students at the university level.

You played other instruments as well?

I dabbled with violin. I was real furious with a guitar. My greatest passion in terms of a musical instrument started with piano at the age of 6. I actually started picking out tunes at age 4, and friends of my parents said I should get piano lessons. My first recital was at 6.

Do you come from a musical family?

Nobody was into music. I was adopted and raised in a non-Indian family. They were white teachers. No one played music. I found my birth mother in 1986 and she said no one on either side was really interested in music except as listeners. … I really can’t explain it. I think music just became my outlet. I was different being brown in a white world. Music was my escape, my release. I had a relatively challenging childhood at times, so with the arts I delved in whole heartedly. I knew I’d be involved in the arts at a very early age. I wanted to go to college to be an art therapist.

Were you explosed to Native American music early?

No, it wasn’t until I was in my 30s. I’d been exposed to everything from Mozart to Simon and Garfunkel to Buffy St. Marie, but it was mostly classical. That is my favorite genre.

So how did the whole Native American music thing come about?

It happened somewhere around the time I was searching for my birth mother. I was 26. I went to this Native American women’s conference at some hotel. I’d read about it in the Bee. I knew I was a native even as an adoptee, so here was a chance to meet native women and see what it was all about. And I was sucked into this wonderful, wonderful group. I started volunteering at the Indian center that is now the Sacramento Native American Health Center right across from Sacramento News & Review. I was involved with the women’s group, and they made me feel so at home. I eventually got on the board and started working on health projects and Native American issues, while also building a music career and working as a part-time licensed day-care provider and raising four kids as a single mom.


I’d been working for over four years at the Gallery of the American West in Old Sacramento. I got to know the other merchants, and one that was right across from us carried Native American flutes. The owner let me put one on consignment because I couldn’t afford the $150 it cost. I was playing in the gallery one day and some native students from Sac City College came in, heard me play and said they were organizing the first Indigenous Peoples Day—this was 15 years ago when it first started—and a drum group had just cancelled. So they wanted me to play on the quad. I told them I was just making things up on the flute, but they said it sounded really good. That was my first paid performance on a Native American flute I’d bought 30 days before. I just played from the heart. It was a very innate, very simple instrument. From there I played on a PBS special and was able to make a cassette tape from that which I sent to a colleague, [indigenous Indian musician/singer/songwriter] Joanne Shenandoah, who turned on a record label to it. And the rest is herstory.

It sounds then like everything fell together quite quickly.

Five different native labels bit on it because there were no women playing this instrument. It had traditionally only been played by men.

Did you ever think as you were playing the Indian flute in that college quad that you’d some day win Grammys?

I’d dreamt about that all my life. As a young musician, even when I was rock ‘n’ roll bands—I was in one that was pretty well known around here, American Trucking Company that played a lot of high school dances and the Holiday House in Grass Valley—I knew that, yes, I wanted to win a Grammy. I’d even written it in my journal at 14. I always had big dreams of being a professional musician.

And where has this career as a musician taken you?

All over the world. I’ve played in places like Estonia. I provided the music to a full-length animated film in Italy. I worked with the top Peruvian artists. And, gosh, where else? London was the first foreign place I played in. Winning two Grammy awards—that in itself was miraculous and a little surreal. I’m part of a very small genre in which its participants don’t buy houses in Malibu or get endorsement deals from Chanel, but it’s been a journey of the heart and soul…and blood, sweat and tears, brother. It’s still challenging because the arts are struggling in this nation. It’s been incredible; this music touches the heart and spirit. One flutemaker says the flute hits the alpha state; it is calming to people.

Has your mastery of the Native American flute caused you to become something of a scholar when it comes to that kind of music? Have you really dug deep to find traditional Native American music?

I approach it as a musician. Most Native American music is not played in pitch or on concert-tuned instruments. The music that is more traditional is more an extension of the human voice. As an adoptee, I wasn’t really exposed to that culture, so when I picked up the Native American flute, unbeknownst to me, I started playing melodies, as I’d grown up with Rodgers and Hammerstein and Bach and other very melodic tunes. I think I incorpated that which I learned as a young musician.

What I play is considered contemporary; I am not playing traditional music that was handed down from generation to generation. I more follow my heart. I don’t adhere to any genre or cultural styles.

So what’s up next for Mary Youngblood?

I’m trying to work on a new album. I’m getting ideas on a theme. Record labels like themes. My last one had the theme of the wind and its metaphors. I think the next one will be built around water. I’m an avid kayaker. I’m thinking of going with nature, the native way of thinking about it.

In the fall, I plan to be part of a presentation to the U.N. in New York on World Diabetes Day. Diabetes is a huge medical issue for Native Americans. This will be in conjunction with other entities like the ADA (American Diabetes Association) and groups involved in children’s diabetes. I working with some folks on bringing worldwide attention to the plight of diabetics, which is near and dear to my heart.

Other than that, I will be working real hard all year to move ahead to the next level, whatever that will be. And I’m also raising kids. My family is real important. I try to balance all things. That is always my day-to-day goal: living fully with my four children and new grandbaby.

I just performed at Fairytale Town. Sacramento has been really honoring me lately. It’s good to be a home girl. I’ve lived here for 35 years, and I love this community. I’m working on a project with Michael Bayard [percussionist of Sacramento Symphony Orchestra fame] on a community-based project that includes the mayor, a cool recording, and some very cool venues that are well known in Sacramento. I can’t say any more than that except we are trying to bring attention to the arts and what Sacramento has to offer.

Wow, I think we have a story.

Vesti, LLC, Russian Yellow Pages founders Sergey Ivannikov and Vladimir Vecherkovskiy talk about the Russian community of Sacramento. (Extended version.)

Are there “Yellow Pages” in Russia?

Yes, large cities have them; Moscow for example has a very successful business directory.

After economic reforms in the early 1990’s, Russian-speaking peoples in many of the newly freed independent Republics had their first opportunity in 70 years to quickly adopt many Western Media and Advertising tools, such as Yellow Pages business directories. Obviously, not only Russia, but Ukraine and my home country of Uzbekistan in Central Asia are just a few examples. The break-up of the former Soviet Union freed over 15 Republics and other territories to begin entrepreneurship and individual initiatives, similar to here in the United States. But, without common experiences there and lack of examples or mentors, it is much more difficult than for us here. We recognize that we are very fortunate to have this opportunity here to publish Vesti’s “Russian Yellow Pages.”

My partner had personable skills and has been able to focus on “marketing". I’ve had organizational and operational skills, so I’ve been able to focus on “production". Together we’ve been able to survive several challenges and competition. Some other fine folks have not survived in this difficult but rewarding business. They had some strengths in one or the other areas, but not in the right combination.

Our partnership, too, is based upon trust. This trust is based upon a common faith in God watching over our endeavor. We trust God. We give all the Glory to God for our project.

I had been educated in mechanical engineering at the University level in my former county. Here in America, I was fortunate to become a “working” partner of an owner of a print shop. At the time I had barely arrived here. We printed hundreds of business cards for various new Russian-speaking business owners.

I actually realized that at our print shop we held in our hands an extensive database, a sort of “who’s who” of our Russian-speaking community. About the same time, we had been frequently approached by American and Slavic business people with requests to provide information about specific services or products available in our community.

Clearly, people were ready and willing to accept our new product—a new business directory. This was how our Vesti’s “Russian Yellow Pages” was born. We pray that God will guide us to new horizons to serve in America.

What are economic differences between American and Russian-style business?

No difference, if you compare Russian-style business environment now and the American-style maybe 100 years ago. In other words, now in the former Soviet Republics it is like a “Wild West". In those countries now there are extremely attractive business opportunities. But, now also business risks are just extreme. My experience here is that American businesses function on the basis of clarity, predictability and trust. That’s not the situation in my former country, Russia or the Ukraine, as well as so many other of the former Soviet Republics.

For now, things are quite difficult for the economy in the former Soviet Republics. There at this time personal connections, ability to bribe authorities and use bold force are the rules of the game. Yet, there business has gotten somewhat better now than compared to five or ten years ago. Now, businesses can find increased stability, due in large part to infusion of oil dollars in those economies. But also, there is a strong administration by Putin’s regime in Russia and his influence on other former Soviet Republics is felt still.

What are cultural differences between American and Russian lifestyles?

There are some very major differences. We, of course, have to consider these differences when doing our business here. Here, I miss true “genuineness” in people. It is obvious to me, by comparison, that there is lacking here a strong passion and zest for life. In my former country, many people there naturally possess a true love and feeling for everyday as a blessing. There people relative less on the basis of “practicality"; instead, there is more spontaneity in friendships. Relatives can be counted on, nearly without question to take-in and help a family member who’s in trouble. Family is most important in life.

What are some of the cultural advantages about living in America?

In this country, everyone eventually gets what he deserves. The sky is the limit. If you have the right attitude, America is a fantastic country. America is a wonderful place in which to have family and raise kids. Here everyone has plenty of opportunities for a healthy life style, education and self development. In America, it’s more about your own choice and ability to follow through on your decisions in life.

Which organizations have helped the most?

The Slavic Community Center of Sacramento has been rendering various services to immigrants for number of years. They’ve been consistent, reliable and helpful to thousands of people. It is located on Fulton Avenue, near the corner of Marconi Avenue, Town & Country West Center, which we affectionately call “Russian Plaza". We also recognize the major contributions of Jewish Family Service at 2862 Arden Way. And we appreciate very much the long record of World Relief for helping our community, especially and dearly with learning English as Second Language. (4727 Engle Road, Carmichael.) But foremost, we recognize the work of our churches, and dear pastors.

We are also fortunate to have made several key contacts with agreeable and mentoring American organizations. H&R Block Premium Services, especially Marge Connor at the Watt Avenue and Butano Way office, (916) 483-4096. US Bank at the El Camino and Watt Avenue Branch. David Henderson Law Office, our legal confidant. And also last, but not least, our terrific mentor Barry Goggin, President, Better Business Bureau.

What are the hardest things to adapt to in America?

Language barrier still is, and will be, the hardest thing for immigrants to overcome. Unfortunately, manyAmericans pay too much attention to some relatively minor language difficulties of new immigrants. These few Americans then are disregarding some professional and personal abilities of these same immigrants. As a result many immigrants who are really true gems, with amazing background and education, can not find an appropriate level job. These otherwise highly qualified immigrants have a great challenge to find their place in America. Sadly, this is a huge waste for the American economy. When a PhD has to paint houses just to feed his family, solely because he doesn’t speak perfect English, then this hurts everyone. I trust that in the future there will come a time when employers will be more accommodating to immigrants.

What are Vesti’s long term goals in America?

Our first and main goal is to serve God and people. With God’s help we are publishing Vesti’s “Russian Yellow Pages” which is our bilingual (Russian-English) telephone directory, a Slavic Community Newspaper “The ANONS” (meaning “Breaking News"), a Christian focused Newspaper “BLAGOVEST” (meaning “Good News"). Next, if God will bless and increase our days, then we will publish these and distribute them in many other large cities of America.

It will be our honor to serve both Americans and many Russian-speaking communities with this information. Our goal is to help American companies venture into this lucrative market with so many Russian-speaking consumers and new business owners ready to add to our country’s economy.

Who’s the most influential public figure in Sac’s Russian community?

It’s ironic, but that person is not Russian, but an American, Austrian-American to be exactly correct. Many Russians praise Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was their hero even twenty years ago. Then his movies became legend in Russia when that country was going through its own rapid “westernization".

Even today, Arnold continues to represent all that Russians love so much. He is an immigrant, a self-made man. He is a white knight, who became extremely successful in this country in his every endeavor—as an athlete, movie star, entrepreneur and politician.

Now, Arnold follows through on most of his promises and acts as a progressive and independent leader with a vision for the better future not for this State alone, but for the country and even for the World. God Bless his efforts.

It is hard to say, since Russian-speaking people love to party. We love to celebrate life. We work hard and we play hard. Our community holds a number of different events throughout the year. Probably the largest business oriented events are “The Best of The Best” community award and the Russian Fair. Russian-American Media, the organizers of the yearly community award, also hosts an annual “Kid’s Festival”, the New Year Celebration in a traditional Russian style, the Valentine’s Day concert, and many other community events. These offer American business people great opportunities to get their foot in the door with our Russian-speaking community and start doing more business.

Your free copy of the newspaper The Anons will guide you to many of these events.

What sports and athletes are most popular?

Soccer and tennis are probably the most popular sports in our Russian-speaking community. Sacramento has attracted some of the most prominent Russian athletes. Perhaps the most well known is boxer Oleg Maskaev who currently is a World Champion. Stanislav Holodkov is a World Champion and owner of Fudokan Karate-Do Academy in Sacramento. Oleg Ibyadulin is a Honored Master of Sports of the former USSR and now is owner of International Gymnastics Center, USA in Sacramento. Your free copy of Vesti’s “Russian Yellow Pages” can readily guide you to a sports destination.

What are some special restaurants? Where doVesti staff enjoy dining locally?

We can highly recommend World Buffet at 7893 Walerga Road Antelope (916) 722-3876. They cater Russian, European and Asian food with very high quality and with very reasonable prices. Also check-our Russian grocery stores to find variety of European and Russian fine foods. We guarantee that you will not find better fresh baked bread or diary in any other place than Russian stores-bakeries. We also suggest “Good Neighbor” for a special buffet treat, next to their market on Walerga Road in the Antelope area. A best kept secret for a romantic novo-cuisine brunch (Saturday or Sunday) or fine dinner (except Monday) is a special place, “PLAN B” in the Pocket area. Service is tops! Bon Appetite! For other culinary ideas, check a free copy of Vesti’s “Russian Yellow Pages"!

Where are places to hear Russian music? Who are musicians Vesti staff likes best?

Best place to watch Russian folk dances and hear folk music is at the Russian Community Fair in Sacramento. The annual Kid’s Festival is a great chance to hear our community children performing from the stage. Classical musicians, known world-wide, are violinists Irina and Bakyt Bekdzhanov who often give free concerts at our churches, and have also played at the Woodland Opera House. There are some truly phenomenal Russian rock bands, namely Mobius, which is based in San Francisco Also, listen to Red Elvises, based in Los Angeles. On the electronic-side of music, Project Parus is prominent and even world- acclaimed. You can hear them performing at San Francisco’s Loce Parade. Many feel fortunate to have a chance to hear the famous Valerio with his haunting classic Guitar and whispers and shadows of folk-Gypsy imagines; romantic beyond comparison, this accomplished and personable musician is readily booked from his base in Sacramento, (916) 718-2015. For a special evening, our community’s annual Valentine’s Day event is a perfect way to enjoy a romantic atmosphere while learning about our community too.

Perhaps you’ll want to join many of us who trek each year to Fort Ross. There our pilgrimage, usually on the last Saturday in July, takes us to our local Heritage Festival.

If you don’t want to travel so far, you may look for Russian canon at Sutter’s Fort also.

Which stores sell Russian goods, groceries, furnishings or luxuries?

For groceries, many Russian-speaking shoppers enjoy buying from Citrus Plaza Market for European foods (Citrus Heights 916-725-5445); Good Neighbor European Deli -Market (College Oak , 916-332-8572); or M’n’M European Food Market (Walerga Road, 916-339-3023). Many of these grocery stores have already been recognized leaders in our community for several years. Be sure to inquire especially about Moldavian chocolates and special adult “beverages” for your next special occasion. Caviar anyone?

Again, just check your free copy of Vesti’s “Russian Yellow Pages” for directions!

For furniture, Furnitalia is one of our exquisite European furniture stores in Sacramento. Also we enjoy shopping at AVETEX Furniture in San Francisco. For some time now, Russian-speaking consumers enjoy furniture shopping at ASHLEY Furniture (Roseville 916-784-3322) operated by a couple who is half Russian. Russian-speaking consumers are also buying jewelry from NY Diamonds, Sacramento (916) 599-1191 and from Diamond in San Francisco (415) 990-2538. European style clothing from Elite Clothing store (916) 967-6800 is always a favorite.

For cars and trucks, Russians are usually buying from Hanlees Toyota (in Davis 916-444-6776), Sacramento Autoplaza (on Fulton Avenue, Sacramento 1-866-231-0656) and Golden State Mitsubishi on Florin Road Sacramento (916) 549-8257. Planning a trip in that new car? Check-out Shoe Repair and Luggage Expert—Trofim Banar (at Arden & Howe for the Shoe & Luggage Repair)

Who are Artists in the community? Painters? Dancers?

Yuriy Philippov (Paint, Art & Plasters company in Sacramento), Igor Zacharchenko (JCI Creative Company in Sacramento) are famous painters. Also famous are members of the International Association of Artists Valeriy Kagounkin & Tamara Magdalina (www.valeriart.com), Artist Valeriy Kazak, painters Anna Khaurullina (www.khaart.com) and Anatoly Generalov (www.generalov.com). Want to dance with the stars yourself? Visit Spencer’s inMotion Institute in Fair Oaks (916) 729-6868. This and other talented businesses can be found awaiting you in our “Russian Yellow Pages".

What is the best kept secret in the Russian community?

The “secret” Day Spa at the Salon of Jay, on the 3600 block of Jay Street, downtown, by appointment will transport your body to another dimension. (916) 456-6458) Vera’s Salon in our Russian Plaza on Fulton Avenue is sure to have you coming back for more. Speak to Vera personally at (916) 802-7839. Life is Good. God Bless America. Be sure to have your free copy of Vesti’s “Russian Yellow Pages” by your telephone for quick reference, for this special business directory is truly the “Best Kept Secret” in Northern California.

For further information?

For further information about our Russian-speaking community, or to inquire about receiving our free publications, please call us at (916) 483-5454. Sergey Ivannikov and partner Vladimir Vercherkovskiy are the Founders and Publishers at Vesti, LLC. They and their talented staff await you to discuss both their special publications and to introduce you personally to this amazing and delightful Slavic Russian-speaking community. Welcome.