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Amy Meiers is cooking up quite the atypical summer trip to South Dakota. And the Weber barbecue people will pick up the bill.

Amy is a Santa Rosa escrow assistant whose surname was Garcia when she graduated from Elsie Allen High in 2000. She travels to Sturgis this week as one of three finalists in a national hamburger competition.

The grill-off next Sunday will be a major amusement of the 74th annual Harley-Davidson rally that will draw legions of motorcycle riders to the town.

“I can’t believe they picked me,” said Amy, 31. Here she’s a home cook and the other two finalists in the Weber’s Big Burger Battle Championship are a New Yorker who trained at Culinary Institute of America and works for a restaurant chain, and a Southern California graduate of Le Cordon Bleu who’s becoming a caterer.

Go Elsie Allen!

Given that Amy hails from Sonoma County, I expected that her entry might be something like a Bodega lamb patty finished with organic arugula and paper-thin golden beet, a dusting of roasted quinoa, spritz of truffle oil and dollop of chevre aioli, presented open-face on artisanal ciabatta.

Hardly. As she refined her burger recipe, Amy was mindful that were it to do well it would premiere in a national championship at the dusty, South Dakota confab of some hundreds of thousands of Hog riders.

So she went bold. Her beef patty recipe, available at weber.com/promotions/big-burger-battle, boasts jalapeños, chipotle sauce, tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, refried beans and guacamole.

She calls it ... Wait for it ...

“Nacho Average Burger.”

Her success in making it to the championship in Sturgis has been good news for her husband, Aivars Meiers, and the hardy crew with whom he works at the Dry Creek Rancheria Fire Department. Amy recruited them to taste-test her burger and help assure that she gets it assembled, grilled, garnished and served within the time alloted by Weber.

The firefighters are thumbs-up about her peppered creation. As with Sturgis riders, they like it hot.

MARK SPAULDING LOVED to fish, and he relished helping people-serving nonprofits to thrive.

This is why the celebration of his life will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday at an enchanting water feature of the new Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, next door to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa.

To honor Spaulding, who succumbed to cancer in April at 64, his family has helped to complete the outdoor, quite elaborate Russian River attraction. Kids toss tiny models of salmon into the running water, then stand on a new, wooden bridge made possible by Spaulding’s loved ones and use a net to scoop the fish from a river pool.

“It’s probably the favorite thing that kids do at the museum,” said Collette Michaud, founder/director of the evolving, scientific wonderland and someone eternally grateful to Mark Spaulding for helping to make it a reality.

IT’S NOT FAITH that drives the Rincon Valley teen who seeks to be allowed to maintain the hillside cross of whitewashed stones created 30-plus years ago by a Christian combat veteran now banned from the property.

“I’m not religious,” said Maria Carrillo sophomore Cameron Whiteside, 15. “I’m agnostic right now.”

Cameron says he launched a petition to urge the owner of the property above SkyHawk/ St. Francis Acres to permit resumed maintenance of the cross because its creator, Arvo Kannisto, built it to honor fallen soldiers.

Again, Cameron’s quest is honorable. But Arvo kept that cross as a personal gesture on someone else’s land for many years, and now it’s time he and Cameron let nature reclaim the slope.

CHRIS & WINSTON: The fantastic benefit stage performance that guests of the Bohemian Grove put on Thursday in Monte Rio for the 103rd year is called a variety show for good reason.

About the time Chris “Hardball” Matthews steps out to enact a lifetime fantasy to interview Winston Churchill, you realize this historic west Sonoma County show-biz tradition isn’t all songs and yucks.

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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