By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Erin Willey, general manager of Lake Arrowhead Village, is looking forward to being able to offer more events to visitors and residents as soon as COVID-19 restrictions allow.
“We have been given the directive to have a full calendar of large and small events, including music,” Willey said. “We are trying to work in things that are fun to discover, fun for families, fun for couples – a variety of activities.” Willey said they want to be ready to offer these events as soon as they can.
Willey cautions those who may be expecting the Summer Concert Series to return as it once was that it will be different.
“Everything about an event that would have involved a lot of people has to be retooled,” she said. “We want to deliver something that’s as much fun but, by the nature of things, will have to be different. Folks need to reset their expectations.”
Talking about the music that took place at The Grapevine on St. Patrick’s Day – a performance by Whiskey Sunday outdoors in front of the wine bar – Willey agreed it would be wonderful to have more such events throughout the coming months.
In fact, Vickie Bottelson, the Village’s marketing and events manager, has put out the call for musicians to play throughout the Village on Saturday afternoons.
Her vision is to have solo artists, duos or trios – mostly acoustic – rotate around the Village from 2 to 5 p.m. She is hoping to start this program in April. “We want something fun to be happening all the time,” she said, adding she is looking forward to showcasing local musicians.
As for the summer concerts, Bottelson agreed with Willey that they will look very different. Because of ongoing COVID restrictions, she anticipates that all concert attendees will have to make reservations in advance – whether for a spot on the dance floor, at a table or on the lawn with their own chairs or blankets.
The kiosks that Willey brought to the Village last year have proved to be very successful. “These are two guys with a lot of fortitude,” she said, adding they stood out there in the cold all winter “but have been very successful.” One is planning to expand to a second kiosk. Willey said she has a list of prospects for the other three and expects to get more interest as the weather warms. “I would love to hear from people who have interesting ideas,” she added.
What surprised Willey was that there were 200,000 more visitors to Lake Arrowhead Village in 2020 as compared to 2019. “I would have thought there wouldn’t have been as many,” she said.
She attributes the rise in visitors to Lake Arrowhead being so close to down-the-hill communities and people wanting to get out. “They want to be in the fresh air,” Willey said. “They never stopped coming.
“Last year on Mother’s Day there was nothing open (due to COVID-19 restrictions) and people were here in great numbers, all dressed up because they took Mom someplace special. It was the most marvelous thing!”
“Everyone was coming here because we are within driving distance,” Bottelson added. “No one was flying anywhere. That created a boon for us. This is a beautiful place to walk around.”
Among the changes coming to the Village is an expansion at The Grapevine. Chef Roxie said she can barely sleep at night because she is so excited about the kitchen expansion.
The Grapevine will be taking over some of the space currently occupied by Mr. G’s Toys. The kitchen will double in size and the back deck will triple. In addition, the employees will gain a break room and Joyce, the manager, will get an office.
MR. G’S TOYS
Sandra Neumann has worked for Mr. G’s for 35 years. She started as an assistant manager when there were eight stores. Eventually she became the gift buyer, then the toy buyer. Most recently, she was overseeing the Lake Arrowhead store as well as those in Palm Springs and Los Angeles.
The owner has now retired, leaving Neumann in charge. She closed the Palm Springs and Los Angeles stores and is focusing her attention on the one in the Village.
“I am glad to be able to devote more time to Lake Arrowhead,” Neumann said. “We have a new crew and I think that will give Mr. G’s a small hometown toy store feel.”
Coming in mid-April to Lake Arrowhead Village is Rocket Fizz. “We will offer hundreds of popular, unique and nostalgic candies and sodas,” said owner Justin Kernin. “Rocket Fizz harnesses the emotion of the popular candy and soda pop stores of the 60s and 70s, brought to modern times.
“The nostalgic and delicious treats will bring families together at the Village,” he added. Rocket Fizz will be located between Claire’s and Mr. G’s.
KITCHEN + DRINK
At long last Jetties will open on April 1. Willey called owner Kyle Avarell “amazing. The place has been transformed. He really knows that he’s doing.”
Willey added that the restaurant should have opened months ago “but how do you open during the COVID pandemic? First you couldn’t open the dining room, then you could, then not. I’m really excited about his opening.”
She added that the Village has approved Avarell adding additional outdoor seating along the rail by the lake.
Willey said they are staying flexible in planning events. “We’re full of ideas,” she said. “The challenge is finding community partners for our new ideas and working out the logistics involved with the changing realities surrounding COVID.
“We’re adding more variety to our event calendar,” she continued. “For example, we’re working out the details for a festival with kite demonstrations on the end of the peninsula. We’ll get our merchants involved with related events, like kite making, offering fancy kites and wind-related arts and crafts, maybe even some contests or competitions.
“I’d love to partner with local groups and our merchants to bring in more performing arts to Center Stage, like puppetry, dance and theater.”
Willey said that she feels inspired by special travel memories. On a trip to Florence, she said, “I came around a corner to discover a chocolate festival in the Piazza della Repubblica. In addition to the fabulous chocolates to sample, there were all these entertainers, magicians, puppeteers, musicians – even a demonstration by these amazing medieval-styled flag throwers!
“We want visitors to the Village to have that same joyful feeling of discovering something wonderful and unexpected!”