Black Meetings and Tourism

November/December 2014

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building, perched at the edge of Avalon Bay, is the largest circular theater in the world that was built without support beams. The building itself is equivalent in height to a 12-story office structure and houses the Catalina Island Museum, the Catalina Art Association Art Gallery and a fitness center, a movie theater, as well as public restrooms. The Casino Ballroom, located on the top floor of the Casino Building, has been the site of major events since its grand opening in May of 1929. The ballroom gained nationwide fame in the 1930s and 40s when it hosted many of the big bands, includ- ing Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Harry James and more. The Casino Ballroom is gorgeous and a must-see! It is 180 ft. in diameter with no interior columns and is the largest ballroom of this type in existence, made possible by the building's cantilever construction. The room can play host to many functions including dinners, weddings, dances, meetings and jazz festivals. It can accommodate 1,200 peo- ple for dinner only, 1,800 people in classroom style seating for meetings or concerts, 1,200 people for dances and a max- imum for 1,000 people for dinner dances. For the more adventurous, there is the Catalina Adventure Tours, The Zip Line Eco Tour: Propel down 5 separate zips, dropping from 500' to 60' above sea level at heart pounding speeds. Depart from Descanso Beach Club. The zip line holds a certificate of excellence from Trip advi- sor. Travel close to three quarters of a mile over five con- secutive zip lines at heights of 300 ft. above the canyon floor at speeds pushing 45 mph. The tour lasts approximately two hours. GETTING THERE Getting to Catalina is easy. As the commercial says: 'It's so easy to go to Catalina, Catalina Express.' Catalina Express offers up to 30 daily departures and year-round service to Avalon and two harbors, transporting nearly one million passengers annually. It offers comfortable airline- style seats and grouped table seating. Catalina Express. While some visitors fly by helicopter or airplane, by far the most popular mode of transportation to Catalina Island is by boat. In its 33-year history, Catalina Express has ferried B M & T ••• November/December 2014 ••• 21 If you want to just do your own thing, you can camp, go hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, get spa treatments, do some beach lounging, play golf, motor boating, parasailing, fishing, boat rides down the coast- line and more. Looking for something different? Lets start with The Avalon Theatre, which has one film screen and a seating capacity of 1,154. Current movies are screened in the Avalon Theatre, on the ground floor of the Casino Building. Lavish murals, painted on a jute-like material, adorn the walls. The theatre still has its origi- nal 4-manual, 16 rank theatre pipe organ built by the Page Pipe Organ Company of Lima, Ohio, one of only three left in the world. Visitors can hear it being played every Friday and Saturday evening. The newly remodeled Catalina Island Museum, which is located at the Casino Building, has a collection of archaeological material excavated on the Island, as well as Native American artifacts, historic photographs, fishing tackle, and Catalina pottery. The museum is open daily. You do not want to miss The Santa Catalina Island Company's walking tour of the Casino Building. "Discover the Casino" is a trip down Memory Lane to the heyday of the casino, when the big bands played and the ballroom floor was a sea of dancers (6,200 dancers were on the floor as Kay Kyser played one spring night in 1940). The tour also includes a visit to Avalon Theatre for a viewing of a new video on the his- tory of the Casino. The "Behind the Scenes" tour focus- es on the cultural history of the building, and pays vis- its to backstage areas, green rooms (used by Errol Flynn and Cary Grant), the Ballroom stage, and an editing room where Cecil B. DeMille watched "rushes" of movies shot on Catalina. Visitors can step back 80 years to the big band era when 'talkie' motion pictures were the rage. Tours may be booked at www.visit- The Casino Building, Avalon's world-famous land- mark, is not a gambling casino at all. It was never intended to house gambling and doesn't to this day. The Photo Credit: Lisa Andres

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