One of my favorite places is celebrating a very important birthday.
The City of Avalon on Catalina Island is turning 100 this year, and residents are marking the occasion with a summer full of travel specials and festivities.
The picturesque village of Avalon is one of Southern California’s most popular destinations with over one million visitors each year. But the Avalon of 1913 was also a resort town.
The Banning Brothers of Wilmington owned the island and had established a resort retreat for mainland vacationers. Since they operated the steamships that carried passengers across the channel, it was a perfect fit.
It was also the perfect time. When Avalon was born, travel for pleasure was a relatively new concept. The Bannings built a vacation destination for mainlanders seeking an escape from summer heat.
Catalina provided the natural beauty of a Mediterranean island only 26 miles off the California coastline. By 1913, business was booming.
Their fortunes turned two years later when, on November 29th 1915, a fire destroyed half of the buildings in town. The Bannings vowed to rebuild and made a great effort to restore the city, but mounting debt and falling tourism during World War I forced them to sell.
Enter William Wrigley, Jr., Chicago chewing gum millionaire.
In 1919, Wrigley’s real estate broker showed him a postcard of an island in the Pacific that was currently for sale. Wrigley bought the island, sight unseen.
Two weeks later, he and his wife Ada visited their new acquisition for the first time. Wrigley later recounted his first morning on Catalina.
“Mrs. Wrigley walked to the window and after a moment called excitedly, ‘I should like to live here.’ I joined her at the window. The sun was just coming up and I had never seen a more beautiful spot. Right then and there I determined the island would never pass out of my hands
Thus began a close relationship between the Wrigley family and Catalina Island that has continued to the present day. William Wrigley descendants still guide the future of the island, recently investing millions in renovation and civic improvements.
Newly remodeled hotels and gourmet restaurants have joined the iconic Casino and green Pleasure Pier. This summer, Newport Beach based Bluewater Grill will open a new restaurant in the renovated Ferry Building, where steamer ships brought passengers years ago.
So, if you haven’t been to Avalon in awhile, this summer is the perfect time to make a return visit. Or if you’ve never met her before, it’s been 100 years; what are you waiting for?
A week long celebration is scheduled leading up to the official birthday of June 26th
-June 20: Centennial Festival/Fair on Crescent Street
-June 21: Community Fish Fry on Crescent Street
-June 22: Musical Concert
-June 23: Catalina Movie Night on the Beach
-June 24: Community Picnic at Joe Machado Field
-June 25: Local Band Night
-June 26: Community Gala Dinner at the Casino, featuring fireworks, dignitaries and celebrations
For details, go to Avalon Centennial