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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.

CIVR Blog: Halloween on Catalina Island

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Rotary's Halloween Bash on Catalina Island will add some fun for adults.

Rotary’s Halloween Bash on Catalina Island will add some fun for adults.

Catalina Island has long been a popular destination for Halloween. Avalon’s school kids take part in a annual parade that attracts visitors and locals alike before scattering to fill their bags with Halloween loot. After dark, the town’s watering holes attract plenty of older party goers, eager to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve.

This year, a new party is coming to town. The Avalon Rotary will be hosting a Halloween Bash on Catalina Island, complete with adult costume contest, pumpkin carving competion and a live and silent auction. Music and magic will be the entertainment and appetizers and a no-host bar will be available. The Halloween Bash and Auction are a fundraiser for Avalon Rotary, which provides funds for locals needs, such as transportation for those needing medical care on the mainland, as well as Rotary International’s worldwide projects, including eradicating polio. Scheduled for Friday, Oct. 31, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the M Restaurant, the Halloween Bash is sure to be a spooktacular good time. Tickets are available at the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce office on the green Pleasure Pier or by calling (310) 510-1520.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Air Show

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Daredevil flyers will take to the skies during the Catalina Air Show.

Daredevil flyers will take to the skies during the Catalina Air Show.

Catalina Island’s connection to aviation stretches back more than a century to when the first amphibious landing took place in Avalon Bay in 1912. Since that time, aviation played a crucial role in Catalina Island’s development as a tourist destination. Passenger service to the island was introduced in 1919 and continued to be way thousands of visitors arrived on the island for decades. Today, Catalina Flying Boats and Island Express continue the commercial aviation tradition on the island. Although they don’t carry passengers, as Catalina Island’s freight forwarder Catalina Flying Boats serves an essential role on the island, bringing freight to the island each day aboard their historic DC-3. Island Express brings thousands of passengers a year to Catalina in their fleet of helicopters.

Santa Catalina’s aviation history also comes to life each fall at the Scheyden Catalina Air Show. Featuring heart-stopping acrobatics, skydivers and awe-inspiring pilots, the air show provides hours of thrills. The airspace above Avalon Canyon and the clear blue sky above the waters off Avalon Harbor provide the perfect stage for these daredevils and great viewing can be had all along the Avalon waterfront.

The Scheyden Catalina Air Show will be held on Oct. 4. VIP packages are available, including a performers’ dinner Friday night.

CIVR Blog: JazzTrax on Catalina Island

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JazzTrax in the Casino Ballroom is one of Catalina Island's most popular events.

JazzTrax in the Casino Ballroom is one of Catalina Island’s most popular events.

Catalina’s fall schedule is full one. Festivals, concerts or sporting events happen nearly every weekend, but one of the most popular events happens over two weekends in October. JazzTrax has brought some of the top names in smooth jazz to the island for nearly three decades and shows no signs of slowing down.

Each weekend of JazzTrax on Catalina Island includes unforgettable concerts in the Casino Ballroom. Saturdays and Sundays have relaxing afternoon concerts and Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings feature smooth jazz headliners taking the stage. A few years ago JazzTrax added unplugged concerts on Thursday nights, allowing jazz fans to get up close and personal in intimate concerts by some of the top names in jazz. This year, those Thursday Unplugged concerts are at the Descanso Beach Club. On Friday and Saturday nights the fun continues with late night concerts at various venues around town.

Mindi Abair, Keiko Matsui and Dave Koz are just a few of the names that will be headlining this year’s  JazzTrax. Seating is available concert style as well as at tables. Concert goers can choose single session tickets or the full weekend for both Oct. 9-12 and Oct. 16-19.