Singer Jules Pollifrone performs at the fifth annual Leigh Weimers Emerging
Artists Awards, held Oct. 11, 2017, at the Rotary Summit Center in downtown
San Jose. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)


I was honored to have a role Wednesday in the fifth annual Leigh Weimers Emerging Artists Awards, which is one of my favorite events of the year. In honor of my predecessor in this space, the Rotary Club of San Jose awards unrestricted $5,000 grants to creative talents from Santa Clara County who have yet to hit it big.

The idea — launched by Steve BorkenhagenStewart Slater and Bob Rauh, with the blessing of Leigh’s wife, Geri Weimers — was to shine a spotlight on emerging artists the way Leigh did throughout his 40-year career as a columnist. And for some recipients, like jazz vocalist Jackie Gage, the award has been a launching pad for stellar careers in the arts.

I’ve got high hopes as well for this year’s winners, who were selected from a pool of more than 80 applicants. (While I chaired this year’s program and emceed Wednesday’s presentation at the San Jose Rotary Club, I’m not involved in the selection process.)

The awards were presented to Jules Pollifrone, a 19-year-old South Bay singer who is working on her second album. She’s releasing a single, “Eyes Shut,” next month and previewed it for the audience Wednesday; Kenneth Ronquillo, a San Jose artist who began a unique artistic collaboration with his grandmother, “Lola” in Tagalog, in 2014. She passed away last December, but he’s vowed to finish all the paintings they started together; and Sheila Townsend, a musical theater performer and vocal coach with strong comedic chops. She’s bringing a solo show to City Lights Theater Company next spring.

Recognizing and supporting our creative neighbors is a key ingredient to keeping the valley thriving, and I’m already looking forward to next year. You can find out more about the program at

BIRTHDAY PUSHED BACK: The celebration for San Jose’s 240th birthday is going to have to wait a month. Because of the poor air quality caused by the North Bay fires, History San Jose has decided to postpone the event, which was originally scheduled for Saturday. It’s now set for Nov. 18 — still at the Peralta Adobe and Fallon House at San Pedro Square — and that’s a bit closer to the actual founding date of Nov. 29.

PUMPKINS IN THE PARK GOES ON: Guadalupe River Park Conservancy Executive Director Leslee Hamilton says that Pumpkins in the Park celebration at Discovery Meadow is still on track to take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fall celebration will include a costume parade, carnival games, a children’s concert and fresh apple cider. Of course, there’ll also be a huge pumpkin patch at the meadow, right next to the Children’s Discovery Museum. Check out more details — and check for updates — at

BREAKING THE 49ERS CURSE?: While the 49ers’ 0-5 season may seem like it’s trapped in the Winchester Mystery House right now, team mascot Sourdough Sam will be at the actual San Jose landmark for its Friday the 13th celebration. Sam is the latest guest to ring the mansion’s tower bell 13 times at 1 p.m. — aka the 13th hour — on Friday the 13th. No doubt he’ll be trying to recruit Sarah Winchester’s spirit to the team’s side, but the diminutive heiress probably wouldn’t have been much of a cornerback.

BENEFIT BRUNCH: We’re starting to see some restaurant events to help aid North Bay fire victims, and we’re still finishing up some meant to help victims of the last round of natural disasters. On Sunday, Mezcal Restaurant in downtown San Jose will host Fuerza Oaxaca, a fundraising brunch to benefit victims of Mexico’s Oaxacan earthquake, with a menu featuring ribeye steak, ceviche, chilaquiles and more, plus sangria, micheladas and Mexican beer. A $70 donation is requested at the door.