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by Jonathan Volzke

The date August 22, 2002 was a long time ago. A lot has changed. George W. Bush was President. Facebook didn’t exist. Monsignor Paul Martin was in the Mission. Sarducci’s was by the railroad tracks. The Mission Inn motel was open next to Walnut Grove. No matter who was on city council, Tony Forster was the unofficial mayor.

That was a long time ago. Today’s San Juan Capistrano is led by new people. New places. Not necessarily worse, not necessarily better.

The date August 22, 2002 also marked the first edition of The Capistrano Dispatch. It was distributed on that Thursday, but friends and I passed out the first edition at a Concert in the Park the evening before. It was then, as it is now, entirely focused on San Juan Capistrano with the slogan “Our Community, Our Voice.” The first cover photo featured an artist painting at the Mission, the headline promising “A New Perspective.”

I believe The Dispatch has kept that promise, from the time I launched it until 2007, when the reins were passed to Norb Garrett and the team at Picket Fence Media, and since 2012, when I left the paper for a new career.

At one point, the Los Angeles Times had a bureau in San Juan Capistrano, battling the Register for dominance. A group of local businesses launched another community paper to take out The Dispatch. Yet another group created another political paper. The Dispatch remains. Partially because of that promise of a new perspective, part because of the team behind the paper, but mostly because of you, the residents who recognize Capistrano is a special place. The Dispatch helps keep us united, whether you were drawn here for the equestrian community, the Historical Society, the Native American community, one of our great schools or trails and open space.

I started The Dispatch with the support of the community. Local businesses advertised, but many residents did, too, sending checks with supportive notes and well wishes. No matter how much time has passed, I still have those notes. Thank you, all.

We can all help again. Norb and the team at Picket Fence, which also publishes the San Clemente Times and Dana Point Times, has done an amazing job keeping afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, even as other newspapers dropped as the Internet rose. Picket Fence has launched an “Insider” program—those of us who make a donation, as little as $5 a month—get special discounts at local restaurants and businesses. Get more information at

Yes, a lot has changed since 2002, but one thing has remained the same: we can count on The Dispatch to keep us informed about what’s going on around us, how we can get involved in those decisions and, first and foremost, that we live in a special place, a true small-town community.

Jonathan Volzke is the founder of The Capistrano Dispatch. He lives in San Juan Capistrano with his wife Trish.

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