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CIVR Blog: Catalina Spring Fest

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Catalina Spring Fest

Catalina Spring Fest

Celebrating spring comes in many different forms. Warmer waters, green hillsides and emerging wildflowers are just a few of the ways Mother Nature celebrates spring. On Catalina, spring also means busier days, more visitors and more fun.  Avalon, Catalina Island’s only city, celebrates spring with a community-wide festival.

Organized by the City of Avalon’s Recreation Department, Catalina Spring Fest invites local organizations to set up along Crescent Avenue from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 23. Those organizations provide food and fun – while doing a bit of fund raising for their cause. Carnival-style games, live music and more will provide fun for the whole family.

Avalon’s picturesque waterfront and long twilight provide the perfect backdrop for Spring Fest, which brings together locals and visitors alike. The evening’s many food vendors will offer snacks, meals and desserts – or take a break from the fun at an Avalon restaurant. Strolling among the booths gives visitors an entertaining insight into many of the community organizations the support the town and its residents.

This year, Springfest will also include Earth Day celebrations and local environmental organizations will have information about how you can reduce your impact on the earth.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Conservancy Ball

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The Catalina Island Conservancy Ball will help support efforts to the protect the Catalina Island fox. Photo by Jack Baldelli, Courtesy Catalina Island Conservancy.

The Catalina Island Conservancy Ball will help support efforts to the protect the Catalina Island fox. Photo by Jack Baldelli, Courtesy Catalina Island Conservancy.

Catalina Island’s unspoiled natural beauty has intrigued generations – and thanks to the Catalina Conservancy, it will continue to offer a respite from the unbridled development on the mainland. Charged with preserving the island in its natural state in perpetuity, the Catalina Conservancy is responsible for nearly 90 percent of the island.

Supported by grants and donations, the non-profit Conservancy is also the beneficiary of the one of the most elegant events on the island. Each year, the Catalina Conservancy Ball fills the Casino Ballroom with tuxedoes and ball gowns for a gala event that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars. This year marks the 20th Catalina Conservancy Ball and organizers are celebrating with an emerald theme and a tagline of Leaping Lizards.

With more than $4.5 million raised over the last two decades, the Conservancy Ball is one of the organization’s most important events. The first ball was co-hosted by the Corsair Yacht Club, and this year the club will reprise its role. The evening will include dinner and dancing as well as a silent and live auction. The fun begins at 6 p.m. on April 11. Invitations may be requested here.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Marathon

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Catalina's terrain challenges runners

Catalina’s terrain challenges runners

Catalina Island has become a world-class destination for long-distance athletes. With rugged terrain and spectacular vistas, the island is a perfect alternative to city-based marathons across flat, asphalt –finished roads. Spanning the traditional marathon length of 26 miles, the Catalina Marathon begins in Two Harbors and traverses the island – taking athletes across dirt roads and along hiking trails; rewarding them with awe-inspiring views and bringing them face to face with compelling wildlife like American bison and bald eagles.

As part of Spectrum Sports Management’s array of athletic events, the Catalina Marathon benefits from the company’s broad base of race management experience. The race benefits the Catalina Island Conservancy, the non-profit organization responsible for preserving the island in perpetuity.

This year’s Catalina Island Marathon is scheduled for Saturday March 14. Marathoners will begin in Two Harbors and finish in Avalon. For those looking to cheer the runners through the streets as they finish, the first runners will complete the race less than three hours after the start. Athletes looking to take on the challenge of Catalina Island but who are perhaps not quite ready for the dramatic distance and challenging elevation changes of the Catalina Marathon; may want to take on the Catalina 10K and 5K, both held the same day in and around Avalon. Kids can also take on the Kids 5K.

CIVR Blog: Avalon Underwater Cleanup

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Photo courtesy Catalina Island Conservancy

Photo courtesy Catalina Island Conservancy

Each February for more than three decades, hundreds of scuba divers plunge beneath the surface of Avalon Harbor to collect trash, debris – and a few treasures. The Avalon Harbor Underwater Cleanup is the only time of the year that recreational scuba divers are allowed in Avalon Harbor. The day-long event clears tons of bottles, cans, plastic and more from Catalina Island’s waters.

In addition to raising funds and clearing trash, the Avalon Harbor Underwater Clean-up also offers divers and non-divers alike an entertaining  day of treasure seeking. Hundreds of pairs of sunglasses have been retrieved as have hundreds of cellphones. Clean-up divers have also discovered jewelry, clothing, dinnerware and much more. Each year, prizes are given for some of the unique items discovered in the bay.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Catalina Conservancy’s Robert E. Given Fund for Ocean Conservation and Educational Research and the USC Hyperbaric Chamber. This year’s event is scheduled for Feb. 21. Diving will begin at 9:30 a.m. and all divers must be out of the water no later than 11 a.m. Registration is $50 per diver. For more information call the Catalina Island Conservancy at 310-510-2595 or visit the event website.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Silent Film Benefit

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The Catalina Casino will host the Silent Film Benefit on May 16.

The Catalina Casino will host the Silent Film Benefit on May 16.

One of Catalina Island’s most enduring events has been enjoying renewed popularity. The Catalina Island Museum’s annual Silent Film Benefit combines the power of a live orchestra with the nostalgia of silent films.

Held for nearly 30 years, the Catalina Silent Film Benefit has spotlighted some of the most iconic films ever made and 2015 will see another icon brought to the Avalon Theatre. The Phantom of the Opera was considered ground-breaking when it was first filmed and the story’s popularity has continued to resonate, thanks to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. The 1925 film starred Lon Chaney as the title character and was remarkable for several innovations. For the Silent Film Benefit, the film’s dramatic score will be performed live by a 30-piece orchestra, accompanied by a soprano soloist.

The Silent Film Benefit tends to sell out early and with the popularity of Phantom of the Opera, museum staff recommends advance ticket sales. Tickets are $20 for museum members and $24 for non-members and can be purchased by calling the museum at (310) 510-2414 or visiting the museum website. The Silent Film Benefit will be held on Sunday, May 16, at 1 p.m.

CIVR Blog: New Year’s Eve Catalina Island

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The Catalina Casino hosts an annual New Year's Eve gala

The Catalina Casino hosts an annual New Year’s Eve gala

One of Catalina Island’s most iconic events happens each year in its most iconic building. New Year’s Eve in the Catalina Island Casino is an event worthy of the landmark building that hosts it. Built in 1929 at a then astronomical cost of one million dollars, the Casino has become one of the most famous buildings on the West Coast. Downstairs is a spectacular movie theater and upstairs is the Casino Ballroom, where every Dec. 31, the New Year is rung in Catalina style.

Catalina Island’s New Year’s Eve celebration includes a buffet dinner, dancing and live entertainment as well as one of the best views of Avalon available. This black-tie evening provides an epic party, complete with balloon drop, party favors and a 10-member band performing covers of five decades worth of top hits. Reservations are available at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and the party continues until 1 a.m. Parties from 3 to 10 will have their own table, while couples will be seated with an additional couple in order to maximize the amount of space on the dance floor. Tickets to the 42nd Annual New Year’s Eve Gala on Wednesday, Dec. 31, are $175 per person. For more information, call the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce at (310) 510-1520 or visit their website.

CIVR Blog: Catalina holiday concert

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Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

One of Catalina Island’s most popular holiday traditions is also one of its most recent. The Catalina Island Museum’s Holiday Symphony Concert fills the Avalon Theatre with the classic sounds of a world-class orchestra.

The Stanford Music Ensemble, which includes members of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and the Stanford Philharmonia Orchestra, includes the talents of Stanford students and community players and is considered one of the top ensembles in the country. For this year’s concert, Anna Wittstruck will once again conduct. Special guests include violinist Chen Zhao from the San Francisco Symphony and soprano Clancy Cox from Syracuse University. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s compositions will be showcased during the concert.

Scheduled for Friday, Dec. 12, the Holiday Symphony Concert is free for members, with a limit of two tickets per member. All children under 17 are also free.  Adult tickets are $5. Tickets are required for entry. The concert is sponsored by a number of local businesses and organizations, including Catalina Island Vacation Rentals and Catalina Island Real Estate.

Before the concert, from 4 to 7 p.m. the Catalina Island Museum will offer free admission as well as a storewide sale in its museum store.

CIVR Blog: Shop in Avalon

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Wrigley Stage Christmas Tree

Wrigley Stage Christmas Tree

On the mainland, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season is Black Friday, a notorious maelstrom of materialism that tends to dampen even the brightest of holiday spirits. Crowded malls, overflowing parking lots and teeming big box stores are just not the way to start the Christmas season.

Catalina Island provides the perfect antidote for those weary of mall madness — shop in Avalon. Scheduled this year for Dec. 6, Shop at Home night kicks off with a holiday tree lighting at 5 p.m. Avalon’s giant Christmas tree is located near Wrigley Stage, and after the tree is lit, Shop at Home Night begins with strolling carolers, holiday spirit – and discounts at many local retailers. With Avalon Harbor providing the perfect backdrop, shoppers stroll casually among Avalon shops, many of which offer wassail, cookies and other refreshments. Stores stay open until 9 p.m., offering plenty of time to find just the right gift for everyone on your list. Discount cards, which offer special deals at participating retailers, are available from the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event. St. Nick will even be making an appearance, with Santa Claus holding court at El Galleon restaurant from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

For more information about Shop at Home Night, call the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce at (310) 510-1520.

CIVR Blog: Avalon Preschool Auction

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PLAY Preschool serves some of Avalon's youngest residents

PLAY Preschool serves some of Avalon’s youngest residents

For decades, the PLAY Preschool craft auction has signified the start of the Avalon holiday shopping season. Hosted and organized by the parents whose children are enrolled in Avalon’s co-op preschool, the auction provides an evening of food, fun and shopping, while raising funds to improve the lives of many of Catalina Island’s youngest citizens.

Dozens of hand-crafted items, many created by local residents, are the focus of the evening. Art and jewelry, home décor and much more can be found during the live auction. The evening also includes a silent auction replete with Catalina getaways, Avalon dining and island adventures as well as gift baskets, spa experiences and mainland experiences.

In addition to the craft and silent auctions, a highlight of the evening has always been the two raffles. Each year the preschool parents collect dozens of local items ranging from newspaper subscriptions to dinners at Avalon restaurants. These items are raffled off throughout the evening, generating enthusiasm and excitement as the evening progresses.

This year’s PLAY Preschool Auction is scheduled for Nov. 14 at the Bluewater Avalon beginning at 5 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Fall Festival

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Catalina Fall Festival

Catalina Fall Festival

Like other communities around the country, Catalina Island comes together for holidays and special events. For the most part, the similarities between Catalina’s celebrations outweigh the differences, but in a few areas, those differences come into sharp contrast.

Catalina’s Fall Festival is one celebration that includes a few things found only on an island. Rather than a farmer’s field or a corner lot, island residents pick their pumpkins from a pumpkin patch on the beach. Dozens of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes scattered around Avalon’s beach are just one of the many features of the Fall Festival. This five-year-old event is open to residents and visitors and includes a cornucopia of tempting foods, delicious sweets and warm drinks. Hay rides and live music will both be available, as well as several family friendly games.

Two competitions are part of the fun at the Fall Festival. Prizes and bragging rights alike will be awarded to the winners of the Fried Chicken Competition and the Apple Pie Bake-Off Contest.

Scheduled for Oct. 16 from 5 to 9 p.m., the Catalina Fall Festival will be held on Crescent Avenue, which is also known as Front Street. It is hosted by the City of Avalon and benefits a number of Catalina Island charities. For more information, call the City of Avalon at (310) 510-0220.