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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
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August 26, 2011     The Catalina Islander
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August 26, 2011
 

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Xceptional Music keeps music flowing in Avalon BY DENNIS KAISER In the heart of Avalon, The Wrigley Stage has been brought to life over the past two summers with music and dancing in the street. The bands have been from vast musical varieties, and have .ap- peared as if out of thin air. Where is it all coming from? The Xceptional Music Compa- ny has provfded the scene, which fans describe as a "happening," filled with fun and frivolity. Ray McKewon is the president and music aficionado behind the company, which he started after retiring from the business world where he said he ran a large com- pany that yielded up to a billion dollars in annual sales. "Last year was the first concert we did here in Avalon. It was in conjunction with the Flying Fish Festival," McKewon said. MeKewon, 63, brought a seven- piece, country-rock-tribute band, along with a few professional lead singers and a consummate fiddle player that blew the crowd away. The spectrum of players included people who had performed with everyone from Johnny Cash to the Allman Brothers. With the success of the first show, McKewon said, he thought he was on to something that was good for the Island, good for the visitors and especially good for the local merchants in the small tourist town. He kept the music flowing, and before long he began to accumu- late sponsors for the shows, which quickly grew in popularity. The dance concerts are not without their financiai needs. McKewon said, with each one costing from $6,000 to $8,000. There are transportation costs for the musicians and equipment, not to mention having to pay the tal- TERRY PARCELL - CELEBRATING 201,1. Please send us your favorite photo be included in the Catalina Islander. They can be home. Emait your high resolution photo to ented performers. "I'm lucky," McKew0n said. "I pay the musicians as much as I can, but most of them come and play on the Island because they love Catalina. They are usually ea- ger to do it. Many have stepped up and offered to perform." "It is not currently an economic prqposition," McKewon said, "but it will need to eventually become one." McKewon said that he is cur- rently courting more corporate sponsorships and some "civic- minded people to contribute to the kitty to make it work." Until recently, most of the fund- ing has been provided through the Catalina Island Chamber of Com- merce, which has acted as an umbrella sponsor organization. "Their involvement includes fi- nancial contributions and devoting staff time to market the events," McKewon said. Other individual businesses such as the Catalina Flyer and Catalina Express, have provided transportation to the Island for the musicians and their equipment, while The Landing, Catalina Ad- venture Tours, and the Seaport Village Inn have also contributed to the success of the event. McKewon explained that others sponsors, including Ballast Point Beer, Ravenswood Wine and Sve- deka Vodka, have each contributed their products free of charge to the beer and wine garden. This attrac- tion has not only helped to draw locals and tourists to the concerts, but also to earn money for the The band above will perform the Rock of Ages, from the 60s to now. The free concert starts with a beer garden awt 6 p.m. at the Wrigley Stage on Saturay, Aug. 27. They have shared the stage with many of the world's greatest artists including The Jacksons. Don Henley, Kenny Loggins, Kim Cames, Kool and the Gang, The Fifth Dimension, Greg Altman, Norman Brown, Jeff Lorber, Edgar Winter, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Wayne Johnson, Eric Reed, Charlie Daniels and Amy Grant. event. "All we are is General Motors," Me~ quipped with a giggle, whi, pressed his confidence th~ financial hardships they ar rently facing will eventuall3 themselves out so that the taiument is able to continu the future. McKewon is keeping h on the brighter possibilities dance concerts. really missing ~ewon :h ex- any Cur- work enter- e into s eye "or the "I think we will actually break even next year," he said. "In the meantime, the great community response and civic involx~ement we've had in putting on the shows has helped us make up the finan- cial shortfall." Much like the musicians he draws to the Island, McKewon admits that he has also "fallen in love with. Catalina." He is current- ly involved with Hamilton Pacific, building housing on the Island, which includes Hamilton Cove and Trianna. McKewon is not only the im- presario of the concerts, but he also plays guitar with most of the bands that he books for the shows. "It is a labor of love, something I enjoy doing, but it does need to turn a comer financially," he said. "! believe we .Will make it." The biggest challengesto promoting the events, he said, are due to the Island setting. "IfI were doing this sort of concert in San Diego,-there i! ( 4;; CATALINA COUNTRY CLUB JOIN US FOR "NINE & DINE" Enjoy 9 holes of golf at the Catalina Golf Course from 2-4PM followed by a 3-course meal at the Country Club Pub from 4-6PM, Offer valid Sundays and Mondays. $50 PER PERSON* *Excludes ta:~ & gratuity Ray McKewon would be about two million people who could get to the show within 30 to 40 minutes," he said. "That isn't true for Catalina. There's a much lower maximum number of Music, Page 9 THE CATAUNA ISLANDER , Friday, August 26, 2011i 7