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CIVR Blog: Rotary Club of Avalon

rotary

Rotary Club of Avalon

Catalina Island’s nearly 4,000 residents work and play year round on the island. Many of them also find time to give back through one of Avalon’s several service clubs.

One of the most active Santa Catalina Island service clubs also happens to be one of the most popular service clubs in the world. The Rotary Club of Avalon has dozens of members, all of which contribute to the organization’s local and international service projects, including scholarships and polio eradication.

On the island, Rotary sponsors and organizes the popular Two Harbors Summer Wine Festival held every June as well as various events throughout the year. Each Fourth of July, they also help fund the costs associated with bringing the University of Southern California marching band to take part in the Fourth of July Parade, which is always a highlight of the event.

Working with Interact, Rotary’s club for high school aged members, the club has also helped ship books to Romania from Catalina. Rotary steps in after Avalon Library’s semi-annual book sale, collecting unsold books, which are shipped to villages in Romania for educational purposes.

Avalon Rotary meets every Wednesday and visiting Rotarians are also welcome. Meetings are held at 12:15 p.m.  at the M Restaurant, 205 Crescent Avenue, and always include lunch and a guest speaker. For more information, contact Rotary Club of Avalon President Autumn Reifsnyder at (310) 510-1450.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island Women’s Forum

CIWF 2013 logoGiving Back on Catalina Island

One of the things that intrigues visitors to Santa Catalina Island is that it’s much more than just a top Southern California vacation destination. It’s also a community. People live here, work here and create their lives here. Living here means schools, churches and service clubs, places for residents to give, give back and make a difference.

One service club that is unique to the island is the Catalina Island Women’s Forum. Founded in 1995, CIWF is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of Avalon’s women. The forum has an active mentoring program that helps local high school girls face the challenges of everyday life as well as a scholarship program that assists local students  finance college on the mainland. A domestic violence program provides financial and emotional support for victims of domestic violence as well as community education.

Catalina Island Women’s Forum members support their organizations programs with two annual fundraisers. A trip raffle in the spring provides the opportunity to win a week-long getaway and in the early fall, the Catalina Island Wine Festival attracts hundreds of people to taste dozens of wines. Scheduled for Sept. 13, 2014, the wine festival is a must-do event for fans of the island who also enjoy wine.

CIVR Blog: Cruise Ships

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Cruise ships bring hundreds of thousands of passengers to Catalina Island

Catalina Island hosts more than a million visitors a year. Attracted by beautiful vistas, crystal clear waters and the small-town charm of Avalon, those visitors come from around the world to relax on Catalina’s beaches, explore the island’s interior and experience the many wonders of Santa Catalina.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors also experience Catalina Island as part of a cruise. Depending on the time of year, two to four ships a week stop in Avalon. Those ships are usually home-ported in Los Angeles or Long Beach and their stop in Avalon is an important one for the local economy.

Carnival Cruise Lines makes the most stops in Avalon, bringing two ships a week. Currently, Imagination and Inspiration stop on Monday and Tuesday respectively, as part of their four-day cruises from Long Beach. Both ships carry more than two thousand passengers. During the fall and spring months, additional ships from different cruise lines visit Avalon on seven-day Pacific Coastal cruises. Through the end of April, one of those ships will be the Celebrity Century, which stops in Avalon on Thursdays. Holland America, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines and even The World, a luxury ownership based cruise ship, have all made stops at Catalina Island, Calif.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Hummingbirds

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Catalina Island’s high-energy fliers

Two of Catalina Island’s most fascinating bird species are also its smallest. With wings that beat faster than our eyes can register, these winged acrobats are an endless source of fascination. Anna’s Hummingbird is the more common species, but Catalina is also home to Allen’s Hummingbird. Both species live on the island year round, although on the mainland, Allen’s Hummingbirds usually migrate in the winter.

Male Allen’s Hummingbirds have bronze and green back and head with a coppery red throat. Anna’s males on the other hand, have a scarlet throat and a more metallic green back. Females of both species, which don’t have the distinctive throat colors, can be very difficult to differentiate, especially for amateur birders.

Both species can frequently be found in Avalon, attracted to the many feeders and flowers in the quaint town. The territorial birds zip and dive, screeching challenges to interlopers. Particularly popular feeders may host dozens of hummingbirds, all eager for the nectar – natural or human provided – that sustains their high-energy lifestyle.

CIVR Blog: Lions Club of Avalon

Photo credit: Avalon Lions Club

Photo credit: Avalon Lions Club

Lions Club of Avalon an institution on Catalina Island

“Do you really live here?” is a comment that Catalina Island residents get on an almost daily basis. And yes, we really do. We live here, work here and volunteer here.

Like any community, Avalon, CA has plenty of clubs and organizations that give residents a chance to give back and better their community. Some of those clubs are unique to Santa Catalina Island, but many, such as Rotary and Lions, can be found in many communities around the globe.

Founded in 1947, the Lions Club of Avalon has been an island institution since shortly after the island returned to civilian control after World War II. Throughout more than half a century of its existence, the Lions Club of Avalon has donated millions of dollars to the Catalina Island community, sponsoring classrooms at Avalon Schools, funding improvements at the Catalina Island Medical Center and much more.

The men who make up the Lions Club of Avalon volunteer numerous hours to help the community. A recent project installed shade structures at Catalina Kid Ventures Preschool.  The club is an essential volunteer source for the many races and runs that are held on the island, with Lions Club aid stations a part of nearly every race held on the island. That tradition of sponsoring and hosting long-distance races goes back decades for the Lions, which started a Run for Sight in 1986 in support of the Lions Eye Mobile and the many other sight-related causes supported by Lions International.

Today the Avalon Lions meet twice a month for dinner on the second and fourth Wednesdays. Call (310) 422-1406 for more information.

CIVR Blog: State Bird on Catalina

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Catalina island is home to California’s state bird

Whether it’s bald eagles soaring over the island’s remote coastline or ravens frolicking in the skies over Avalon, bird life on Catalina Island is fascinating for both lifelong birders and amateur avian aficionados. One species that makes Catalina Island home is a signature species for the state. The California quail is California’s official state bird. There are seven subspecies of California quail, one of which makes its home on Catalina Island.

These ground-dwelling birds are grey and tan and have a distinctive top knot of feathers. They eat berries and seeds and prefer to run when startled, but can occasionally take to the air in a short, low-flying burst. Quail are social creatures, usually found in small groups known as coveys, which depending on time of year can expand to impressive numbers.

Quail are relatively common on the island, although they are considered a bird species of special concern by the California Department of Fish and Game. They seem to enjoy foraging along the roadsides and can often be spotted near the top of Avalon Canyon Road. If you have a chance for venture further afield, Middle Ranch Road is another favorite spot for quail spotting.

CIVR Blog: Wrigley Marine Science Center

Photo credit SCMI

Photo credit SCMI

Catalina Island’s marine environment attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Ocean kayakers, anglers and Catalina Island scuba divers explore above and below the surface, discovering a nearly pristine environment that teems with marine life.

That environment, like many in the world, is at risk from a number of threats. Students and faculty at the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies are on the front lines of assessing and perhaps even ending those threats. Located near Two Harbors, on Catalina Island’s remote West End, the Wrigley Institute features labs, housing and lecture halls designed for students to learn more about the marine environment and the threats it faces.

While the Wrigley Marine Science Center at Two Harbors is primarily focused on educating students and facilitating research, the facility is open to the public on a limited basis. Individuals can visit with an appointment set up by calling (310) 510-0811. During the summer, Saturdays at the Lab provide two hour tours every Saturday morning starting at 10 a.m. And new this year, USC Family Science Programs will provide fascinating scientific exploration for families with children ages five and up. Three weekend programs are available and three full day programs. Reservations are highly recommended.

CIVR Blog: Humpback Whales

Photo source: Wikipedia

Photo source: Wikipedia

Humpback whales make an appearance

As anyone who travels frequently between Catalina Island and the mainland knows, you never know what you’re going to see in those 26 miles. Giant schools of dolphin, bizarre sunfish and dramatic feeding frenzies are all sights that make the Catalina Island ferry ride much more interesting.

Recently a more infrequent visitor has been making dramatic appearances. Humpback whales, more often associated with their breeding grounds in Hawaii or their feeding grounds in Alaska, have been making a splash around the island. These distinctive giants are known for their haunting songs, which they sing each year – scientists speculate that the songs are probably to attract a mate.

Adult humpback whales are longer than a school bus and weigh an average of 40 tons. Humpbacks are black on their dorsal sides and white on their ventral side and have distinctive long, narrow pectoral fins. These whales are quite the acrobats, frequently bursting from the ocean in a spectacular leap known as a breach.

Humpbacks are not the only whales that thrill travelers to Catalina Island. Depending on the time of the year, visitors can also see fin, grey and blue whales traveling and feeding in the channel.

CIVR Blog: Avalon’s Library

Avalon Library

Avalon Library

Avalon’s Library offers great resources for visitors

A great book can change your life. And a good book can change your vacation.

Whether sprawled on the beach, floating in a boat or with your feet up on your ocean-view deck, thousands of our visitors find spending time with the written word an essential part of their Catalina Island vacation. Most of those visitors bring their own book, whether downloaded on their tablets or tucked in their luggage. If not, the Avalon Library provides a convenient alternative. One of many services offered on Catalina Island by Los Angeles County, the Avalon Library is located in the county complex at 215 Sumner Avenue. Currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Avalon Library continues to be an essential resource for visitors and locals alike.

Checking out a book or two is as easy as getting a library card, which is available to any resident of California with a valid identification. Books are available for both children and adults as are DVDs and CDs. Not sure you’ll be able to finish that wonderful novel you’ve started before your vacation is finished? Library materials can be returned to any Los Angeles County Library branch – and there are dozens of them scattered around Los Angeles County.

Books, movies and music aren’t the only thing you’ll find at the Avalon Library. The Los Angeles County Library system also offers an electronic lending system, allowing you to borrow books for your Kindle or your Nook. The local branch also has computers available to borrow for anyone, whether you’re a resident of the state or not. The library also offers a wi-fi hotspot – perfect for downloading a book to your tablet or checking email on your laptop.

The Avalon Library is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The library is closed on Sunday and Monday. For more information, visit the library website or call (310) 510-1050.

CIVR Blog: Avalon Theatre

Photo courtesy Santa Catalina Island Company

Avalon Theatre at the Catalina Casino
Santa Catalina Island Company

Don’t forget to see a movie on Catalina Island

Ask for a list of must-dos when you visit Catalina Island and that list will vary depending on the interests of the person who answers. One item that will frequently appear on many of those lists tends to surprise new visitors to this Southern California destination.

On the mainland, going to the movies means visiting a homogenous multi-plex, where there is little to identify the theater, let alone the city. At Avalon’s movie theater, however, you’ll be watching the latest flick in one of California’s most distinctive landmarks – the Catalina Casino Building.

Don’t feel self-conscious if you walk in and immediately gasp in wonder. Even those of us who’ve lived here for years still find ourselves in awe of the Avalon Theatre and you’ll often see half the audience staring about in wide-eyed wonder. Fantastic murals depict early California, Spanish explorers and whimsical creatures and exemplify the artistry of the early 20th century. Bas relief faces peer from the frames above doorways and lights twinkle in the massive ceiling, reminiscent of Catalina Island’s spectacular night sky. Over the stage, Venus rises from the sea, in a dramatic homage to Boticelli.

No matter what the movie, the drama on screen frequently pales in comparison to the architectural wonder of the Avalon Casino, making it a must-do part of any visit to Catalina Island.