In just under two weeks, Halloween time will officially begin at the Disneyland Resort. Pumpkins and adorable decorations will be found throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, Oogie Boogie Bash will begin, and the Spookiest Time of Year will be in full swing. This year, in honor of Halloween, Disneyland is bringing a brand-new scavenger hunt to Downtown Disney that will be frighteningly fun for children of all ages!

Downtown Disney Halloween
Credit: Disney

Beginning September 9, all Guests visiting Downtown Disney will be able to participate in Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit. A bunch of fun information about the new event was shared by Disney Parks Blog:

Celebrate the Halloween season with your gourd-eous group by partaking in this very special pumpkin hunt from September 9 to October 31, 2021 or while supplies last.

Pluto Pumpkin Pursuit is subject to cancellation or change without notice including—without limitation—dates, surprises and prices. Game boards available while supplies last. Limit 5 game board purchases per Guest. One surprise per game board. Game board valid for redemption through November 7, 2021 or while surprise supplies last.

Please inquire about applicable discounts at the time of purchase.

Disneyland Halloween
Credit: Inside the Magic

Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit is available for all Guests and is incredibly easy to take part in. Here is what you need to do if you would like to join in Pluto’s Halloween scavenger hunt.

  1. Purchase a game board and stickers at select merchandise locations, including World of Disney, Disney’s Pin Traders, Disney Home, The Disney Dress Shop, and WonderGround Gallery.
  2. Have fun hunting for hidden decorative pumpkins themed to Disney characters and placing the corresponding stickers on your game board.
  3. Whether you choose to hunt for pumpkins or not, return your game board to a redemption location—World of Disney or Disney’s Pin Traders—for a spooky surprise.
World of Disney Disneyland
Credit: Disney

For Disneyland’s annual Easter Egg-stravaganza, the prizes for completing your Easter Egg hunt are small plastic eggs with a toy inside. However, Disney seems to have upped their game for Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit. Take a look at the wickedly adorable prizes below!

Pluto's Pumpkin Pursuit Prizes
Credit: Disney

At the time of publication, Disney has not said what the price will be for Guests to participate in Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit. However, since Disney does say to inquire about applicable discounts, it seems that Disney’s new Magic Key Holders may be able to use their Magic Keys to get a discount on whatever the price is.

Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort will run from September 3 through October 31 and Guests will be able to enjoy fun theming, Halloween Screams Fireworks at Disneyland Park, and more.

Will you be participating in Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit? Let us know in the comments!

CLICK HERE to book your Disneyland Resort vacation with our friends at Academy Travel – an EarMarked Diamond travel agency that can provide you with a free quote today!

Connecticut added 3,500 jobs in June, although private sector employment declined for the first time since last December.

The state has now recovered 65% of the historic 292,400 jobs lost to COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns in March and April last year.

June’s loss of 600 private sector jobs followed the sector’s strongest performance of the year in May, when employers added 8,900 positions.

“While we saw overall gains in June, the net loss of private sector jobs highlights the continued fragility of the state’s pandemic recovery,” CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said. “It clearly shows that we face a number of challenges.”

Connecticut’s COVID-19 jobs recovery is in line with much of the New England region, and a little slower than the U.S., which is at 70%.

Through the first six months of this year, employers added 22,100 jobs, or 1.4%—the slowest in New England and well behind the national average of 2.3%.


The state’s private sector gained 17,000 jobs since January, or 1.3%, and has recovered 65% of the 269,800 COVID-related job losses.

“We know that the demand is there, with employers across Connecticut reporting ongoing challenges finding and retaining workers,” DiPentima said.

“There are a number of factors impacting job growth, including the lack of widely available childcare, fears of contracting COVID-19, and the federal unemployment benefit supplement.

“The July 1 reinstatement of the work-search requirement for collecting Connecticut unemployment benefits should impact next month’s jobs numbers while the federal supplement will continue to be a factor until it expires in early September.

“There are collaborative efforts underway between businesses and non-profit groups to address the childcare issues—obviously, that industry is also impacted by the factors influencing job growth across the state.”

Connecticut’s unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a point in June to 7.9%, the highest in the region and two percentage points higher than the national average.

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is 2.9%, the lowest of the six New England states, followed by Vermont (3.1%), Maine (4.8%), Massachusetts (4.9%), Rhode Island (5.9%), and Connecticut.

Sectors, Labor Markets

Four of Connecticut’s 10 main industry sectors added jobs in June, led by government, where employment increased by 4,100 positions.

Other services added 2,400 jobs, followed by leisure and hospitality (1,600) and professional and business services (200).

Trade, transportation, and utilities led all losing sectors in June, with employment declining by 1,400 positions.

Construction and mining lost 1,000 jobs, followed by financial activities (-700), manufacturing (-700), education and health services (-600), and information (-400).

Several of Connecticut’s key economic sectors continue to face recovery challenges.

Employment in the financial activities and information sectors has continued to decline since last spring and manufacturers have recovered just

Celtic Indian Arvel Bird brings his “Animal Totems Concert” to the Sedona Arts Academy July 15, 7-9 p.m. (Courtesy)

Celtic Indian Arvel Bird brings his “Animal Totems Concert” to the Sedona Arts Academy July 15, 7-9 p.m. (Courtesy)

Celtic Indian Arvel Bird brings his “Animal Totems Concert” to the Sedona Arts Academy July 15, 7-9 p.m.

Of his 25 recorded CDs, Bird will pull music from his three Animal Totem CDs, Native, Contemporary and World Music genres.  His brand is a reflection of his mixed-blood American Indian and Celtic heritages.

With his violin, fiddle, Native flutes, and Irish whistles, Bird weaves a powerful tapestry of music and stories of animal’s spirit/totem powers.

Classically trained as a violinist, Arvel Bird’s Animal Totems’ concert, compositions and performances are a confluence of styles from Celtic, bluegrass and his original Native American folk and Celtic rock orchestrations.

As he worked to develop his own music style and a large following, Bird went wherever the music called him, which led him away from classical and toward Bluegrass, Appalachian, Folk and Celtic.

During his years in the Midwest, Bird won the Indiana State Fiddle Contest four times while still perfecting a variety of performance styles.

From 1986 to 2000, Bird toured with Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Tom T. Hall, Ray Price, Louise Mandell, and Clay Walker. During his 13 years in Nashville, he built a master recording studio to help him launch his own independent record label, Singing Wolf Records.

Initially the studio provided him with a haven to write and record his own music, and later recorded hundreds of songs and album projects for songwriters and independent artists.

One of Bird’s favorite aspects of touring is the worldwide travel to Scotland, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and in prestigious locations including the Sky Dôme in Toronto.

A prolific songwriter, Bird released his 24th and 25th CDs in 2016 adding to his two EPs and two DVDs. Five of his releases have earned him international music awards.

One of his most cherished is for his classical recording, Tribal Music Suite: Journey of a Paiute, a Celtic and Native American concerto for violin and Native American flute, that earned him Best Instrumental Album and Best Producer/Engineer (with Grammy-winning producer Tom Wasinger and Nashville engineer Chas Williams) at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.

Although once based in Nashville, Bird is now settled in Cottonwood still connecting with audiences the old-fashioned way … live. This is where Bird’s emotionally driven performances thrive, igniting concert venues, symphony halls, festivals and more, leaving his audiences inspired, transfixed, and transformed.

Tickets for the concert are $25 in advance or $35 at the door. Ticket Link:

The Sedona Arts Academy in The Collective Sedona is located at 7000 SR 179, Suite C-100 in the Village of Oak Creek. SAA will be following COVID-19 guidelines, for more information call (860)705-9711.

Americans are going back to work at a faster clip — and getting paid more to do so.

Driving the news: The U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 850,000 jobs in June. Average hourly earnings jumped 3.6% from a year ago, in a continuation of the trend seen over the past two months.

Why it matters: These numbers back up anecdotal evidence from employers across the country. Demand for workers is strong, forcing employers to raise the amount they’re offering to be able to compete.

The leisure and hospitality sector added a stunning 343,000 jobs — more than a third of June’s total job gains.

  • That’s a big deal, because industry employers have been the most vocal about their inability to find workers.

America’s wages have hit a new record high of $30.40 per hour, up from $29.35 a year ago and $28.51 pre-pandemic.

What they’re saying: “It turns out that you can find workers, you just have to pay a better wage than in the past, because wages of low-wage workers are going up,” economist Betsey Stevenson tweeted.

Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

But, but, but: The pickup in pay isn’t helping pull workers off the sidelines yet.

  • The proportion of the population that’s in the labor force — 61.6% — didn’t budge. That number is well below its 63.3% pre-pandemic level.

The big picture: The still-elevated unemployment rate, along with the still-low total number of workers in the economy, indicates that the Fed has a long way yet to go before it reaches its full employment mandate.

  • The millions of potential workers still on the sidelines will also reassure economists that a tight labor market isn’t likely to cause runaway inflation.

The bottom line: The job market is still 6.7 million jobs short of where it was before the pandemic hit.

Connecticut posted its best monthly jobs growth for the year in May, adding a net 7,800 positions with gains in several key industry sectors.

The state has now recovered 63% of the historic 292,400 jobs lost to COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns in March and April last year, with 18,300 jobs added in the first five months of this year.

CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said the strong monthly gains were a reflection of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout and growing confidence among workers and employers.

“That’s the largest jobs growth since last October,” DiPentima said in response to the state Department of Labor’s June 22 release of the May employment report.

“COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations have continued to decline since the lifting of restrictions on May 19 and Connecticut continues to be a leader among states in rolling out the vaccine.

“That’s driving greater confidence among residents and employers.”

Hiring Challenges

DiPentima said while employers continue to face challenges finding and recruiting workers, there are signs the labor market is recovering,

“Factors such as fears about contracting COVID, the lack of widely available childcare, and federal unemployment benefits, appear to be lessening their impact on job growth,” he said. “That needs to continue for Connecticut to unlock its economic potential.

“The vaccination campaign, this month’s reinstatement of the work-search requirement for unemployment claimants, and people embracing the lifting of restrictions give me plenty of optimism that we will continue to see growth in the coming months.

“Vaccinations, the reinstatement of the work-search requirement, and people embracing the lifting of restrictions give me plenty of optimism.”

CBIA’s Chris DiPentima

“Not to mention the just completed legislative session, which certainly boosted business confidence in the state.”

Connecticut’s unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a point in May to 7.7%, the highest in the region and almost two percentage points higher than the national average of 5.8%.

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is 2.5%, the lowest in the region, followed by Vermont (2.6%), Maine (4.7%), Rhode Island (5.8%), Massachusetts (6.1%), and Connecticut.

Industry Sectors

Private sector employers added 8,600 jobs (0.6%) last month, led by strong gains in educational and health services, which gained 5,300 positions (1.6%).

Professional and business services gained 2,200 jobs (1.1%), followed by leisure and hospitality (1,900; 1.5%), and manufacturing (700; 0.5%).

Six of the state’s 10 industry sectors saw losses last month, led by government (which includes local, state, federal governments and casino employment), which lost 800 jobs (-0.4%).

Construction and mining lost 600 positions (-1%), followed by financial activities (-400; -0.3%), other services (-300; -0.5%); information (-100; -0.4%), and trade, transportation, and utilities (-100; -0.03%).

Four of the state’s six major labor markets posted gains in May, led by New Haven, which gained 1,200 jobs (0.4%).

Danbury added 300 jobs (0.4%), as did Hartford (0.1%), while Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk gained 200 (0.1%).

Norwich–New London–Westerly was unchanged for the month while Waterbury lost 100 jobs (-0.2%).

When Mauricio Llambias started his soccer academy last July, he thought he would be creating a fun place for kids to go after school.

Now, he’s signing contracts with Levante Unión Deportiva, a professional soccer academy in Valencia, Spain.

Just short of a year after it was started, GOAL Indoor Soccer in Bluffton will now give players the opportunity to travel to Spain and be trained by professional coaches.

“Soccer is growing so fast in the U.S.,” Llambias said. “This will be the first time a professional soccer team will be in a small town like Bluffton.”

Unlike other soccer teams that are trying to gain a foothold in big cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, Llambias said, Levante chose Bluffton so that it could build itself up gradually.

“They want to be able to compete,” Llambias said. “We want to grow, and we want to grow together.”

The deal came about when Llambias’ friend, Daniel Garcia was visiting family members in the United States. Garcia had recently finished creating a similar program for youth players in Costa Rica, according to Llambias.

“My academy got the advantage, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take another kid from another academy and take them to Levante,” Llambias said. “I want to give the kids in the Lowcountry the same opportunity no matter where they play.”

When players go to Spain, Llambias said, they will be evaluated and can be asked by Levante’s coaches to stay longer. At the end of this extended stay, Llambias said, players could end up with a contract to play for a professional team.

Llambias played professional soccer in places like Uruguay, Argentina and the U.S before suffering an injury that ended his career in 2004. He always knew he would come back to soccer eventually by opening up his own academy, he said.

Soccer in a small town

The partnership is especially exciting, according to Veronica Llambias, Mauricio’s wife who runs the business with him, because it is a direct way for young players in the area to be exposed to training opportunities that they don’t have.

“We’re not Miami or New York, we’re little Bluffton,” she said.

Llambias will be taking his team of 14-year-olds to compete in a tournament against different academies in Valencia, Spain later on this year.

“This is so that the kids can see what level they really are,” Llambias said. “It will show them what they need to improve and what they need to work on.”

But, Llambias said, cost shouldn’t be something that hinders players from this opportunity.

“I want to make this possible for everyone, not only those who can pay,” Llambias said.

If a player cannot pay, Llambias said, then their entire team will funnel all of their efforts into finding a way so that they can go. Llambias said he has seen this happening already with his teams and has seen them bond over helping one another.

“If you want a team that wins on the

PORTLAND, Ore., June 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Nearly 500 travel and tourism professionals — ranging from tour guides and outfitters to regional destination marketing organizations, chambers of commerce, lodging establishments to wineries and microbreweries — will gather virtually tomorrow for Oregon’s annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism to reflect on the impacts of COVID-19 and wildfires, gain valuable insights and tools to amplify tourism businesses and destinations, and set the stage for a statewide economic recovery.

The pandemic and stay home orders impacted traditional tourism related businesses such as restaurants and lodging immediately during the spring and summer of 2020, which are prime travel months for many communities in Oregon. These communities felt the impact in other indirect spending from retail shops, coffee and grocery stores, outdoor guides and outfitters and wineries and small locally owned Oregon companies, which all make up the tourism economy. The most recent Dean Runyan Associates 2020 Economic Impact Report shows total direct travel spending in Oregon declined to $6.5 billion, the lowest since 2003.

This spring, in response to industry needs, Travel Oregon released a suite of investments totaling $4.5 million to provide direct economic recovery investments through grants and direct investments to each tourism region of the state.

The latest in this suite of economic recovery investments by Travel Oregon includes a statewide advertising campaign, Welcome to Oregon Again, designed to promote in-state travel, support local tourism businesses, and keep Oregonians traveling locally. Welcome to Oregon Again launched on June 1 and prioritizes safe travel, responsible recreation and local business support throughout the summer season.

“I am so proud of how each of us in Oregon’s travel and tourism industry, from every corner of the state have shown up, cared deeply and supported one another in these trying times,” said Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon. “We continue to actively listen to the needs of Oregonians, communities and businesses to be as responsive as possible. And I am excited to build on that information and lessons learned from this last year to chart our strategy going forward.”

To continue supporting economic recovery efforts as the state reopens to travel, Travel Oregon is first launching the agency’s Rebuild Strategic Plan on July 1, 2021. This plan includes current activities in support of the state’s economic recovery and places equity and inclusion at the forefront of its strategic vision.

The second, longer-term effort is the Transformational Plan. To further develop this plan, the agency will seek input and guidance from the people and communities at the heart of the tourism industry to develop a roadmap that will extend to 2025. The plan will serve Oregon’s entire travel and tourism industry based on the priorities set by these community stakeholders. Already, stakeholders have expressed a need for additional grants and funding resources, as well as marketing and promotion as priorities.

About Travel Oregon The Oregon Tourism Commission, dba Travel Oregon, works to enhance visitors’ experiences by providing information, resources and trip

In most American sports, college athletics are a gateway to the major leagues. In soccer, they are practically a dead end. A player’s best chances at a professional career are through “the academy.”

The arrival of Major League Soccer’s Charlotte FC and its academy provide a fresh look at how young athletes grow up in the world of professional soccer. Academy leadership and area youth coaches say it will shape Charlotte’s soccer scene in at least two ways.

In the future, beyond professional players, the city could host some of the most talented young athletes in the world, ranging in age from 11 to 18. And the best players already living in this region can now stay in Charlotte – if they’re competitive on a global level.

Professional soccer teams run academies to identify and train young athletes to become pros. The programs provide academic curriculums with teachers, and “home stay” boarding initiatives for players from far away – often, from other countries. They provide transportation to help athletes with financial challenges attend two- to three-week training sessions and matches. For admitted players, the programs are completely paid for by the soccer club.

FC Barcelona, one of the most valuable and best-known soccer teams in the world, runs academies in multiple countries, including an American program in Arizona. FC Barcelona even runs short-term camps in the Charlotte area.

Before the arrival of Charlotte FC, regional clubs focused on youth development within the Major League Soccer academy system. They include Charlotte Independence and the Charlotte Soccer Club. Beyond the clubs, UNC Charlotte, Davidson College, Queens University of Charlotte, and area high schools field soccer teams.

Many of these soccer organizations say they welcome losing talent to the Charlotte FC Academy because they believe the MLS team will improve their former players.

Matt Spear

Courtesy Charlotte Independence

Matt Spear, Charlotte Independence

“From my perspective, at least speaking to Charlotte Independence youth coaches and directors, they are thrilled that Charlotte FC is in town,” said Matt Spear, ambassador for Charlotte Independence and former men’s soccer coach for Davidson College. “And they are encouraging and allowing their top players to move into the Charlotte FC Academy system. For them, it’s a job well done. They don’t want to hold back their players from growth and development.”

Previously, coaches watched talented prospects leave Charlotte.

“It used to be if they were one or two of those players at the 15 or 16 age group that were getting looked at for the next level for an MLS team, they would be disappearing to Kansas City, to Atlanta, to Orlando, to DC (United). Now, they have the whole pathway in town,” said Jason Osborne, associate head men’s soccer coach and recruiting coordinator for UNCC.

Charlotte FC Academy’s Early Focus On The Carolinas

Devon Manifold, head of performance for the Charlotte FC Academy, said the MLS presence should drive and develop young soccer talent throughout the Carolinas.

“It’s great for the (Carolinas), Virginia and the neighboring states in terms

Elation marked the opening of a long-anticipated travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand

The idea of a bubble between Australia and New Zealand had been talked about for months but faced setbacks because of several small virus outbreaks in both countries, which were eventually stamped out.

To mark the occasion, Wellington International Airport painted an enormous welcome sign near its main runway and Air New Zealand ordered some 24,000 bottles of sparkling wine, offering a complimentary glass to adult passengers.

Air New Zealand’s Chief Operating Officer Carrie Hurihanganui said the carrier had previously been running just two or three flights a day between the two countries but that jumped to 30 flights on Monday carrying 5,200 passengers.

She said the day marked a turning point and people were excited.

“You can feel it at the airport and see it on people’s faces,” she said.

The leaders of both countries welcomed the bubble, saying it was a world-leading arrangement because it aimed to both open borders and keep the virus from spreading.

“Today’s milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies while keeping our people safe,” Australian Prime Scott Morrison said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country was welcoming new arrivals.

“The bubble marks a significant step in both countries’ reconnection with the world and it’s one we should all take a moment to be very proud of,” she said.

Travelers who lined up at Sydney and Melbourne airports early Monday said they were excited or relieved to finally fly to New Zealand after more than a year. Some were visiting family and friends, while others were attending funerals.

Both countries have managed to keep out the virus by putting up barriers to the outside world, including strict quarantine requirements for travelers returning from other countries where the virus is rampant.

Australia had previously allowed New Zealanders to arrive without going into quarantine but New Zealand had taken a more cautious approach, requiring travelers from Australia complete a quarantine.

The start of the bubble comes ahead of the New Zealand ski season and is welcome news for many tourist towns, including the ski resort of Queenstown.