Tag Archives: Summer

Making Connections in Cleveland – A Look at Sparx City Hop

Tower City - the centerpiece of the Cleveland skyline

 UPDATE: The 2011 Sparx City Hop takes place on Sept. 10, 2011. More info about the 2011 neighborhood hop can be found on Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s website. Read on for a review of last year’s Sparx City Hop.

Saturday was the Sparx City Hop. As I mentioned last week, I headed down there for September’s Sketch Crawl but ended up staying the whole day. Now, despite the fact that I like exploring the city,  I’m really not a huge fan of crowds. While I figured the 25,000+ expected attendees would be somewhat spread out throughout the two trolley routes and 10 neighborhoods, I was surprised at the fact that I didn’t have to fight through a horde.  There was only one time when I felt frustrated by a crushingly packed trolley.             

It wasn’t just the high level of efficiency from the Downtown Cleveland Alliance that surprised me, it was also discovering some of the out-of-the-way places the trolley stopped at.  While there were places on the ‘Hop’ that were familiar sites (Tower City, Westside Market, Playhouse Square), there were other sites that I wasn’t aware of:             

Old Bank Vault door in Downtown Cleveland building

City Arcades: During the Sketch Crawl, we made a short stop near Tower City in an old bank arcade that was closed for the day. Because it was empty, it gave us the opportunity to really examine the building’s beautiful interior. The reliefs on the ceiling, the old bank vault door – another amazing example of the hidden architecture found throughout Downtown’s buildings.            

Tremont History Project: The west-bound trolley stopped in Lincoln Park where the Tremont History Project staged a living Civil War reenactment. It was a two-day event that commemorated the encampment and U.S. General Hospital located in Tremont during the Civil War. The 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Hale Farm re-enactors and the 5th Michigan Regiment Band performed drills, period music and firing demonstrations.            

Art installation in Asian Town Center

Asian Town Center: While the west-bound route stopped at West Side Market, the east-bound route stopped at the Asian Town Center. The Center opened in April at the corner of Superior Avenue and East 38th street. It’s another example of repurposing an older building which was used originally for manufacturing as a mixed-use retail center. The Asia Food Company – the largest Asian supermarket in the area - makes up the majority of the center. It carries a full line of Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, Laos, Korean, Japanese, and Indonesian groceries. Although we just left with some snacks and aloe juice, Scott and I are heading back the next time we want peking duck. In addition to the market, there were other stores and art galleries. If you want to check it out, this Saturday is the 2010 Mooncake Festival – a free event with cultural performances and food.            

Josaphat Arts Hall: I’d say the place that surprised me the most was the Josaphat Arts Hall. One of the things I love about Cleveland are the number of art galleries. The space for this gallery, though, is unique. Located in in the old St. Josaphat Roman Catholic Church, which closed in 1998, Josaphat Arts Hall houses the Convivium33 Gallery, several art business studios, and a main event hall. Private classes, workshops and lectures are offered including stained glass, painting, web design, and glass fusion.            

It was definitely a day well spent where I got to clue into other parts of the city I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to. The fact that it was free didn’t hurt at all.             

     

Free Lolly the Trolley service helped connect 10 of the Downtown neighborhoods

 Sparx City Hop also helped me better understand some of the problems with the city.  Riding from stop to stop, I got to see these pockets of activity across all of the neighborhoods.  However, oftentimes there was a lack of commotion in between. Even walking a couple of blocks from E4th (the main hub for the day’s trolley rides) to our car at E9th, there was a quick dropoff in foot traffic.  Without as much to connect the sections, it’s easy to become confined in a comfort zone. I recognize it in myself constantly.  Although I’ve gotten better at exploring outside of my comfort zone since starting this blog, attending the Sparx City Hop demonstrated that there’s still a lot I haven’t seen yet.            

There’s a lot of work the city can do to fill the gaps between the pockets of activity. In the long-term, we need to provide support and development in the areas of inactivity so that we can create a bridge between those areas that have more bustle. With Cleveland State University’s Urban Affairs program - one of the top 10 in the country - we’re producing people each year who can help those already working on it.  Downtown Cleveland Alliance is also working on Storefront Renovation and Business Assistance programs.            

An artist at Sparx City Hop promotiong this upcoming weekend's Art Museum Chalk Festival

In the short-term, we have to support programs like the Sparx City Hop and Take a Hike. By providing free or low-cost transportation throughout the city and initiatives that encourage the community to get out and experience those neighborhoods less traveled, more people will hopefully be as pleasantly surprised as I was by some of the hidden treasures in Downtown.

Sparx City Hop Promoting Awareness of Arts in Downtown Cleveland

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance's Sparx City Hop is a free event that will connect attendees to Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. (images from downtowncleveland.org)

 

Earlier today, I wrote about this Friday’s Shore Cultural Collective Concert in downtown Euclid.  Tonight, I wanted to focus on another arts-related event this weekend - the 2010 Sparx City Hop

On Saturday from 11am – 11pm, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance will host the Sparx City Hop festival throughout downtown Cleveland and its surrounding neighborhoods. It’s free (which is always a winning quality for me) with the goal of raising awareness of the visual, culinary and performing arts in Cleveland’s most central neighborhoods. 

The Sparx City Hop started 8 years ago and attendance at previous Hops has ranged from 25,000 - 30,000 people so be prepared for a crowd. Fortunately, it will be spread out across two trolley routes that will connect over 70 galleries & artist studios, 100+ restaurants, several markets and dozens of specialty retail shops. 

Lolly the Trolley puts the ‘Hop’ in the event’s name by providing free trolley service through the neighborhoods of Downtown  plus the districts that connect directly to Downtown (Tremont, Ohio City, MidTown, AsiaTown and St. Clair Superior). 

In addition to visiting galleries and studios, mini-art festivals will include:  

  • City Artists at Work Open Studios (11am – 7pm) — a variety of hands-on arts demonstrations throughout the District.
  • The Tower City Art Fair (11am – 7pm) and Cleveland Museum of Art Chalk Artists (2pm – 4pm) — Prospect Ave between W.2nd and w.3rd (behind Tower City) will be shut down for the Tower City Street Fair which will feature these two events.
  • Downtown Photo Challenge Show at Old Stone Church (11am – 7pm) — the top 20 entries to this year’s Downtown Photo Challenge will be shown inside the historic Old Stone Church’s permanent gallery space.
  • Asian Town Center Art Fest (11am – 7pm) — local artists’ work will be on display, as well as performances by stiltwalkers, six local bands and the grand opening of Asian Town Center’s new indoor sculpture garden. From 7:00pm – 11:00 pm, the Asian Town Center will also host an Urban Art Show.

Other activities during Sparx City Hop will link participants to sidewalk concerts, tours of the Terminal Tower observation deck, the Sparx Classic Car Show, Susan G. Komen Northeast Ohio Race for the Cure, a Civil War Living History Encampment in Lincoln Park, and a variety of merchant and restaurant specials. (A full list of the 2010 Participants is available for download.) 

The East (Blue) and West (Red) trolley routes for Sparx City Hop. The hub for both trolley routes is E.4th Street and Prospect.

 

New to this year’s festival is the Sparx City Hop Passport. Although Saturday’s event is only one day, the goal of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Passport program is to continue cultivating an increased interest in Downtown and its neighborhoods throughout the rest of the year.  The Passport – which is free and can be picked up at any of the trolley stops on Saturday – includes special offers to local restaurants and shops in Midtown, Campus District, Ohio City, Tremont, PlayhouseSquare and the Historic Gateway and Historic Warehouse Districts. The specials will start on Saturday and continue until August 31st, 2011. 

This is my first year attending Sparx City Hop. Thanks again to the DCA’s Sketch Crawl, I’m learning about another opportunity in the city I wasn’t aware of before. For those wanting to produce their own art during Sparx City, the Crawl will meet on Saturday at 11am at the event’s main hub on E4th and Prospect. Unlike the last couple of months, this Sketch Crawl will have the group taking quick impressions of the city as we jump through the districts on the trolley.  Although the Crawl will last until 1pm, I know I plan on sticking around the rest of the day. Hope to see some of you down there. 

Sparx City Hop 411: 

Hosted by Downtown Cleveland Alliance
Twitter: @DowntownCLE, #SparxCityHop
On Facebook: Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Sparx City Hop Event 

2010 Sparx City Hop Participants List
Lolley the Trolley Sparx Routes
Schedule of Sparx Events
Sparx City Hop Passport Program

Labor Day in Cleveland – 3 Days of Festivals, Food and Fun

With Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer. Even though the Fall Equinox is weeks away and there seems to be no end in sight to the stifling heat, Clevelanders who want to grasp that last bit of summer have a huge variety of festivals, parties, and other events to choose from this weekend.    

The Rock Hall celebrates its 15th Anniversary (from rockhall.com)

 

Kicking things off this weekend is the Rock Hall Ball. On Friday, Sept. 3, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a party from 8:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.  Live bands and DJs will perform, including soul singer Eli “Paperboy” Reed, alternative rock band Foxy Shazam and DJ Tommie Sunshine.  Two levels of tickets allow flexibility in cost. Platinum tickets ($55 member/$65 non-member) include access at 8:30 p.m., hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine until 12:30 a.m. and entertainment until 2 a.m. Vinyl Tickets ($15) include access at 10 p.m., cash bar and entertainment.    

Labor Day will also feature weekend-long festivals such as:    

  • Labor Day Oktoberfest - At the Berea Fairgrounds will be the 6th Annual Labor Day Oktoberfest. From attending previous Oktoberfests, I recommend indulging in this weekend of oompah bands, brats and beer.  In addition to the food and the beer, years past have had merchants and other organizations promoting a variety of ethnic backgrounds. New this year – the Cleveland Pops Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s celebrated Fifth Symphony.  I’ll be dusting off my alpine hat and putting on my polka-dancing shoes for this.
  • Cleveland Air Show - As the photo in my last post showed, I love attending air shows, and Cleveland’s annual celebration of flying machines at Burke Lakefront Airport is listed as one of the 101 Best Aviation Attractions. Although it runs Sept. 4 -6,  if you’re downtown this week, you can see – and hear – the jets and planes practicing.  Nearby businesses and museums will also be hosting ‘Watch Parties’ including Reddstone’s When Pigs Fly Block Party on Sunday and the weekend-long William G. Mather Air Show Deck Party at nearby Great Lakes Science Center.
  • Taste of Cleveland - The other major downtown festival this weekend is the 15th annual Taste of Cleveland which will feature national entertainment acts and regional food traditional to Northeast Ohio. In addition to the 30+ restaurants that will be at the event, there will be the American Wine School Tasting Bar and cooking demonstrations such as the “Cooking with Kids” parents/children class, the Ohio Natural Gas Ultimate Backyard Kitchen and the 7th Annual Time Warner Cable Mayors’ Dessert Cup Challenge. One of the entertainment acts Scott and I are most looking forward to: “Weird Al” Yankovic on Friday night. What can I say? We’re UHF fans.

Der Glockenspiel - an actual working clock - is one of the attractions at Oktoberfest (from clevelandoktoberfest.com)

 

If festivals aren’t your thing or you’re looking for a one-off event this weekend, there are other options including:    

  • The Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet - On Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 p.m., the Joffrey Ballet returns to the Blossom Music Festival. The Ballet  joins Conductor Tito Muñoz and the Cleveland Orchestra in their presentation of Reflections (choreographed to music by Tchaikovsky), Tarantella (choreographed to Louis Gottschlak), and Pretty BALLET (choregraphed to Bohuslav Martinů). 
  • Cedar Point - Labor Day Weekend is the last weekend to visit the Soak City Waterpark in 2010. It’s also the end of Cedar Point’s regular season. Starting on Sept. 17, the park will open back up for Halloweekends.
  • Aut-O-Rama Drive-In - This weekend, audiences at the North Ridgeville drive-in movie theatre have their choice of a kid-friendly double feature with Toy Story 3 and Nanny McPhee Returns  or cult-classics-to-be Machete and Piranha.
  • The Happy Dog - DJ Kishka’s Polka Happy Hour is back this Friday from 6-9 p.m. (if you can’t make it to this one, he’ll also be at the Happy Dog on the 17th). After DJ Kishka, Adam Tanner and Mark Jackson of North Carolina’s Twilite Broadcasters bring their two-part harmony vocals and acoustic accompaniment to the Happy Dog from 9 p.m. til midnight.
  • Cleveland Polka Association Picnic - The Cleveland Polka Association’s B.Y.O.E. (Bring Your Own Everything) Picnic takes place on Monday, Sept. 6 at  St. Sava’s Picnic Grove (2300 West Ridgewood Drive, Parma). Gate opens at 2 p.m., musical performances run from 3-7 p.m. including Canton, OH’s Polkatones. (More information or large table reservations: 216-661-5227)

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In presents Machete and Piranha (from autoramadrivein.com)

 

Fortunately, it’s a three-day weekend, which means plenty of opportunities to experience your share of these end-of-summer events.

Open Air in Market Square Summer Series Ends This Saturday

West Side Market and Market Square at W25th St. and Lorain Ave. (photo from westsidemarket.org)

This month’s Cleveland Sketch Crawl gathered in Ohio City for the Open Air in Market Square summer series.  As usual, it was another great opportunity to sketch the city’s limitless assortment of interesting architecture and people.  Regardless of whether you come armed with a sketchbook or just want to do some shopping and listen to music, the Open Air festival is a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the city.

Open Air in Market Square is Cleveland’s only urban outdoor market. On Saturdays from late May to the end of August, an eclectic array of vendors and performers set up shop in Market Square Park at the corner of West 25th and Lorain Ave (across from West Side Market).

This coming Saturday (August 28, 11am – 5pm) is the last day on the Open Air 2010 Summer Schedule.

When Scott and I went a couple weeks ago, we got to listen to the Hollywood Slim Band. Their jazz and swing covers were a nice soundtrack to the afternoon as people shopped and hung out on the park’s stone benches.  The Market Square vendors who were there were selling Cleveland photography, glass art, handmade crafts, and – my personal weakness - vintage clothing and housewares.

Bike Rack and Patio in front of Great Lakes Brewery (Aug. Sketch Crawl, ADHicken)

I spent most of my time sketching, though.  By far, I don’t compare to the talent of the rest of the group, but it’s still fun to get out, observe and practice drawing. The best part about this month’s Crawl was that there was so much subject matter to choose from.  Some of the Crawl participants gravitated to the musicians, others sketched the West Side Market tower and the surrounding buildings, and a couple of people managed to put pencil to paper to capture the bustle of the produce market. I’ve posted a few of my sketches – one of the bike rack by Great Lakes Brewery and another of a stone column in Market Square.  Each column in the Square is covered in tiles with community members’ own artwork on it – so picking out my favorite tiles to recreate was an hour well-spent.

Sketch of column and tilework in Market Square (Aug. Sketch Crawl, ADHicken)

This Saturday, rockabilly band Lost State of Franklin (11am-2pm), Troupe Shabaana bellydancing (2pm-3pm), and Kristine Jackson‘s acoustic blues (3pm-5pm) will conclude the Open Air in Market Square’s summer season.

If you stop by, plan on doing some food shopping across the street at the West Side Market. Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market is worth a post all its own, but if you’ve never been there, do yourself a favor and bring an appetite.  With over 100 local vendors, I’ve never gone wrong in shopping there or left empty-handed.

If you like orzo, stop by Urban Herbs for a selection of different mixes. Pickles and stuffed olives? Rita’s. Cannolis? Theresa’s Bakery (they’ll handfill your cannoli to-order from a large selection of flavors; I recommend oreo, raspberry or peanut butter chocolate). Whatever you’re hankering for, they probably have it.  If you doubt me, here’s a complete list of food vendors and a map so you can find your way around.

Thanks again to the Cleveland Sketch Crawl for giving me an excuse (not that I should need one) to explore the Open Air in Market Square series. For those sketchers, painters and photographers who want to join in September’s Crawl, the group will be attending the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Sparx City Hop.  It’ll be a unique experience drawing the going-ons while hopping through 8 districts via trolley.  Art galleries, studio lofts, warehouses, stores, sidewalk concerts, mini-festivals, art shows, restaurants and bars are part of the event, and the Sketch Crawl group will meet at 11 am at E.4th and Prospect Ave. and go until 1pm.   Best of all – it’s free. (Info on the monthly Sketch Crawl can be found on the Cleveland Sketch Crawl blog.)

ON A SIDE NOTE: I’ll be taking another short vacation from posting.  Instead of another stretch of radio silence, I figured I’d have a friend of Clue Into Cleveland guest-blog for me.  Elizabeth Grepp – native Clevelander and huge fan of the eastside - will post on Cleveland Heights.  If you also would like an opportunity to wax philosophic on the Cleve, shoot me an email at clueintocleveland@gmail.com.   I’ll be back sometime next week with your (un)regularly scheduled program.

The Cleveland Orchestra and Bruckner's Eighth Symphony

The Cleveland Orchestra musicians prepare for Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 as one of the cameras zoom in for a shot.

 

In my very first blog post, I referenced the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the most iconic symbols of Cleveland. And it’s no wonder. As 52 Weeks of Cleveland recently put it, it’s a diamond dazzling in the blue-collar-rock-and-roll grit that makes this city great, sticking out ‘not like a sore thumb but as the building that is unmistakably Cleveland.’   

However, on the other side of the musical spectrum, there’s another landmark in Cleveland that’s both a must-see and a must-hear — The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall.  Last Wednesday, Scott and I had the chance to attend the Orchestra’s performance of Anton Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony for a series of dvd recordings. The night definitely ranks up there as one of my favorite Cleveland experiences.   

Outside of Severance Hall (photo from clevelandorchestra.com)

 

Severance Hall, the winter home of the Cleveland Orchestra, has been described as ‘a temple to music’ and America’s most beautiful concert hall.  The detailing of the hall’s interior reminds me of a Faberge Egg and the acoustics are world-renowned.  From the day Severance Hall opened in 1931 through its renovations and reopening in 2000, it has helped shape The Cleveland Orchestra into one of the most sought-after performing ensembles in the world.  In concerts at Severance Hall, each summer as part of Cleveland’s Blossom Festival, in residencies from Miami to Vienna, and on tour around the world, The Cleveland Orchestra sets the standard for artistic excellence, imaginative programming, and community engagement.   

Franz Welser-Möst just completed his eighth year as the Orchestra’s Music Director - a long-term commitment which extends to the Orchestra’s centennial season in 2018.   Under his leadership, The Cleveland Orchestra has not only developed Community Music Initiatives in Cleveland, but has carried the city’s name across the world with ongoing residencies in Miami, at Vienna’s famed Musikverein hall and Switzerland’s Lucerne Festival.  Next year, they’ll also launch a biennial residency at New York’s Lincoln Center Festival, featuring The Cleveland Orchestra in Vienna State Opera productions.   

In addition to making an impact through live performances in Cleveland and abroad, Welser-Möst has promoted the Orchestra’s legacy through a series of DVD and CD recordings.  Last week’s recording of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony was the latest installment in this endeavor.  In total, the Orchestra has recorded four Bruckner symphonies in historic, architecturally significant and acoustically acclaimed concert venues: Symphony No. 5 in Austria’s Abbey of St. Florian, Symphonies No. 7 and 8 in Severance Hall, and Symphony No. 9 in Vienna’s Musikverein. Hailing from the Austrian town of Linz - the same hometown as Bruckner, Welser-Möst developed an early love for the 19th century composer which clearly shows through his astute understanding and beautiful execution of Bruckner’s works.   

Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst (photo from clevelandorchestrablog.com)

 

Bruckner’s works are not always the favorite of musicians - often misunderstood due to the effect his manic need for revisions had on his compositions.  However, Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra is helping the public rediscover the beauty of these pieces by sharing the discoveries they’ve made themselves while performing. As Welser-Möst explained before the concert, Symphony No. 8 has an interesting backstory that lends itself to a deeper appreciation.  Written between 1884 and 1887, the original composition was initially criticized by Hermann Levi, a court conductor that Bruckner respected. Because of this, Bruckner spent years making substantial cuts and changes which have been considered concessions to others’ expectations and arguably weakened the piece.    

Welser-Möst cited an example of these revisions which can be found in the first movement. Towards the end of the movement, the symphony transitions into a section that represents the ticking down of one’s life.  In the original version, there was a dynamic section that signified a fighting back against the inevitabilty of death.  However, this section ended up being removed in the revised version, with the first movement instead just winding down softly. The original version of Symphony No. 8 remained unperformed until 1954 and was not published until 1972 by Leopold Nowak. It’s the longer – and arguably richer – Nowak version that The Cleveland Orchestra performed for the DVD recording.   

Audience members who arrived early had the opportunity to sit in on a concert preview.  During the preview, Dee Perry of WCPN’s Around Noon interviewed Welser-Möst and William Cosel, the Producer-Director of the DVD recording. This was a very interesting conversation, shedding more light on Bruckner’s personality as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the actual recording.    

Welser-Möst spoke about how Bruckner’s musical genius suffered from his insecurities and second-guessing.  He additionally remarked on Bruckner as a composer with one leg in the traditional, religious-inspired style of his century and the other leg in the more contemporary influences of the next generation.  Both Welser-Möst and Cosel shared a glimpse into how they prepared for the recording. Welser-Möst discussed the evolution of The Orchestra’s performance and how certain musicians admitted that it wasn’t until they performed the symphony in a particular space in Austria that they finally ‘got’ Bruckner’s style.  Cosel spoke to the months of research needed to prepare the recording, in addition to introducing the various camera crew hidden throughout the Hall.   

Norton Memorial Organ at Severance Hall

 

Bookending the interview were two performances by Joela Jones, the principal keyboardist of The Cleveland Orchestra.  Jones performed Prelude in F major and Variations on ‘America’, both by Charles Ives.  Both pieces were performed on Severance Hall’s Norton Memorial Organ. which was built specifically for the Hall by renowned organ builder Ernest M. Skinner in 1930. Welser-Möst noted that Ives was an outcast among his colleagues – much like Bruckner was during his time. This idea of outcast could be seen in his Variations on ‘America’ which took a slightly wry look at the patriotic anthem and twisted it in unexpected ways that both challenged the listener and respected the source material.  It was a nice contrast to the Bruckner piece.   

If Producer-Director Cosel’s past experience is any indication, the recording of Symphony No. 8 will be well worth the purchase. However, nothing compares to sitting in Severance Hall and not just listening to but closely watching the musicians. It always amazes me to see how artfully they interpret a composition.  And the live performance brings a certain level of drama that isn’t always seen in a recording.     

An unexpected highlight of my evening was seeing a minor incident arise when a string on Assistant Concertmaster Yoko Moore’s violin snapped. [Editor's Note: see correction in comments section below. It was actually Concertmaster Preucil's string who broke fixed by Moore - makes more sense in retrospect.]  In past performances, Moore has consistently been one of my favorite musicians to watch as she brings a laser focus and intensity to her performance. However, this focus was moreso evident when she had to restring and retune her instrument in the middle of a movement. I’ve never played the violin and Scott has explained to me that this happens frequently with it; regardless, I was still on the edge of my seat as it unfolded.  She impeccably restrung the violin and, in a moment of silent communication that can only come from a strong relationship with a colleague, seamlessly switched instruments with Concertmaster William Preucil who finished the retuning process.  It only took them moments, but the intense thrill of witnessing this play out while the symphony roared around them was remarkable.   

Two days after last week’s recordings, The Cleveland Orchestra set off on their summer tour of Europe. They return on August 30 after nine concerts in six cities. While they’re gone, concerts at Blossom Music Festival continue including Disney in Concert, Canadian Brass Ensemble, and The Joffrey Ballet.  And at the end of September, the Orchestra returns to start the 2010-2011 season. Subscriptions and tickets are available to experience the talents of Welser-Möst and the musicians, and I definitely recommend it.   

Cleveland Orchestra 411:   

 About the Orchestra and Severance Hall
Season and Tickets
Cleveland Orchestra Blog
Cleveland Orchestra on Facebook
@CleveOrchestra

PlayhouseSquare's 13th Annual Cinema at the Square

   

The historic Palace Theatre located at 1615 Euclid Avenue (photo from playhousesquare.org)

 

In my last post, I covered the Capitol Theatre and their ’Classic Movie and Brunch’ series.  However, the Capitol is just one venue in Cleveland where you can see classic movies on the big screen.  Before the Capitol started their monthly series, there was PlayhouseSquare’s annual Cinema at the Square festival.  

Now in its 13th year, Cinema at the Square runs for a few weeks in August and gives audience members the opportunity to experience classic favorites at the beautiful Palace Theatre.  Visiting the Palace for the history alone is worth it – it opened in 1922 as the flagship of B.F. Keith’s vaudeville chain and once showcased the likes of Fanny Brice, Bing Crosby, Houdini, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and The Three Stooges.   

The series’ movies are shown on the theatre’s 20-foot-high by 47-foot-wide super Hurly-Glo projection screen – the largest non-Imax screen in Ohio.  This year’s Cinema at the Square started yesterday, August 5th, and will run until August 22nd.  It features 16 films with a range of options for moviegoers, such as a sing-along Wizard of Oz, James Bond double feature, and The Muppet Movie.  

Prior to the film, audience members are treated to pre-show organ recitals on a restored 1927 Kimball Organ that contains 16 sets of pipes, a xylophone, Glockenspiel, a complete set of drums and cymbals. The organ, which was donated to PlayhouseSquare in 1975, was restored by volunteers as a unique complement to the evening festivities.   

Tickets for Cinema at the Square are $5 each with the exception of yesterday’s screening of Fletch which was free.  If this wasn’t already a cheap datenight, PlayhouseSquare also offers their FlixTIX pass which saves 50% on tickets.  It’s $15 for 6 vouchers, which can be used in any combination and at any movie. Because Scott and I were interested in seeing more than one movie, it ended up being more cost-effective to get the FlixTIX – so now we’re seeing Wizard of Oz, Love in the Afternoon and Back to the Future.  

I’m definitely excited about heading over after work tonight for the sing-along version of Wizard of Oz.  I’ve only seen bits and pieces of it before, so it’ll be nice to experience the whole movie at the Palace.  But if Wizard of Oz isn’t for you or you can’t make it tonight, here’s a list of the rest of the movies:  

Cinema at the Square 411:
Ticket and Show Information
The Palace Theatre
@playhousesquare
PlayhouseSquare on Facebook

Summer Guests Equaled Short Hiatus – But Now I'm Back

Scott's grandmother and mother during a recent visit to the Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma.

 

Summer has not only brought a large assortment of events to check out, but also visitors to share them with. Over the last week, we hosted a few sets of guests and held our first party since moving into the house (it only took a year). 

With family and friends in town, we’ve had the opportunity to share some of our Cleveland favorites and also try out a couple new things with our guests.  I’d say the highlight was taking Scott’s grandmother and mother to last weekend’s festival at the Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma.  The homemade food was fantastic – with barbequed lamb, chicken paprikash, burek, and palachinke for dessert.  The Cathedral was also open for tours, as well as cultural displays, and when we went on Sunday, the Njegos Choir and ‘Srboja’ Saint Sava Folkloric Dancers performed. It was a great opportunity to experience the Serbian food and history of Scott’s family. 

The only downside is that between getting the house ready for visitors and showing them around, I haven’t had too much time to update.  This week, though, I’m back to the blog and hoping to post something very soon about the Capitol Theatre (had a great time at their classic movie and brunch event this morning). 

In the meantime, here’s a video of Scott driving his grandfather’s Model T which was delivered when his mother and grandmother were in town. Although it’s not Cleveland-related, we had a lot of fun taking this piece of well-preserved history for a spin.

The Burning River Roller Girls – True Cleveland Sports Heroes

A minor pileup at last month's semifinals match between The Hellbombers and Hard Knockers.

 

Last week, I shared my opinion on the city’s unjustified adoration feeding LeBron James’ egotrip. Of course, on Thursday, we saw how the train went off the tracks with the self-aggrandizing, outlandish circus of  his ESPN ‘Decision’ special.  It was nothing more than a ludicrous publicity stunt which may have been a disappointing night for Cleveland, but was even more devastating for the perception of pro sports.   

Just to clarify, I don’t have a problem with his decision to go to Miami – at its core it was a business decision. Albeit, it was one that I believe demonstrated his immaturity and shortsightedness (I agree with the Orlando Magic GM and other commentators that even if LeBron does win championships in Miami, not being able to do it on his own will keep ’King James’ from the Jordan-level stature he seems to think he deserves).     

What was pathetic about Thursday, though, was the unnecessary spectacle of it.  Although ‘Decision 2010′ was watched by close to 10M people, it has been criticized by nearly everyone as a rock bottom moment for pro sports, journalism and even society (considering that without the eager audience there wouldn’t have been a need for it).  

The Rolling Pin-Ups line up against The Cleveland Steamers at June's semifinals. The Pin-Ups' victory landed them a spot in Saturday night's finals.

 

However, the purpose of this post isn’t to add more criticism to how LeBron handled his decision. Instead, the shamelessness of it serves as a sharp contrast to the true athleticism and sportsmanship I had the joy of witnessing this weekend.  For anyone who didn’t catch my updates on Saturday at @ADHicken or Clue Into Cleveland’s facebook page, I’m referring to the Burning River Roller Girls‘ finals.   

The BRRG is Cleveland’s first all-female, skater-owned, flat-track derby league, and on Saturday night the league’s 4 teams battled to determine the season’s Hazard Cup champion.   

If you’re unfamiliar with Cleveland’s roller derby league, you can read my previous overview of the league and recap of their Semifinals.  I’ve been a huge fan since the first time I watched the BRRG women play; however, after the LeBronpocalypse, I’ve gained even more respect for them.  In addition to dishing up 2 epic, nail-biting bouts on Saturday night, the Burning River Roller Girls offer an inspiring substitute to the selfish behavior of many so-called ’professional’ athletes.     

Saturday night was a doubleheader between The Cleveland Steamers and Hard Knockers, followed by the Hazard Cup championship between The Rolling Pin-Ups and The Hellbombers.  Congresswoman Marcia Fudge blew the opening whistle to the Steamers-Hard Knockers match. A proponent of maintaining an active lifestyle and female athletes, Fudge was also a fitting choice given the derby’s location in her district.  

Heading into Saturday’s match, The Hard Knockers were 0-4 for the season having recently been defeated by the Hellbombers 117-42 in last month’s semifinals. The Cleveland Steamers, on the other hand, were 2-2 – most recently defeated by The Rolling Pin-Ups in June’s other semifinal match.   

Saturday’s match started with the Steamers’ captain Killustrator taking lead jam to put the first three points on the board. The Steamers played a  tight game early on, not allowing the Hard Knockers to score too many points.  However, Mommy’s Little Monster turned the game around for the Hard Knockers when she took lead jam and the Steamers’ jammer got placed in the penalty box. Mommy’s Little Monster worked this power jam to her advantage by racking up an incredible 20 points and flipping the score to 34-21 in favor of the Hard Knockers.   

Although the Hard Knockers suffered a loss against the Hellbombers in last month's semifinals (pictured), they pulled out a victory against the Cleveland Steamers on Saturday.

 

Although the Steamers tried to close the gap, Mommy’s Little Monster proved a devastating force when more Steamer penalties placed her in two additional power jams where she scored 20 and 14 points, respectively.  Thanks in large part to Mommy’s Little Monster’s 54 point contribution, the Hard Knockers won their first match of the season with an overwhelming 89-49 victory.  

The Hard Knockers’ victory was an excellent start to the evening. However, the main event was the finals match between The Rolling Pin-Ups and The Hellbombers.  Both teams were victorious in last month’s semifinals, so they were set to battle each other for the 2010 Hazard Cup. For the first three seasons of the BRRG league, The Hellbombers have won the Hazard Cup. And leading up to Saturday’s match, they had an undefeated 4-0 record for this season.  However,  The Rolling Pin-Ups headed into the finals with an intense motivation to win. The last time they competed against The Hellbombers in May, they very nearly defeated them with a 47-50 score.  

In the first half of the match, it seemed as if the Pin-Ups weren’t going to be able to stand up to The Hellbombers, who demonstrated jam after jam why they’ve been league champions for three years. The Hellbombers controlled the pace time and again by taking lead jammer, accumulating points, then stopping the jam before the Pin-Ups could make up a lot of ground. By the end of the first half, the Hellbombers held a substantial lead over the Pin-Ups with a score of 48 to 24.  

The second half started off with the Hellbombers’ trio of skilled jammers – Stroker Ace, Gargiulo and CoCo Sparx - scoring 4, 5, and 4 points, respectively.  However, a couple of jams later, the Pin-Ups’ Professor Booty earned lead jammer status.  The Hellbombers’ jammer, on the other hand, tried pushing through a strong Pin-Ups’ defense, but only succeeded in getting penalized.  Reminiscent of the first match, this gave Professor Booty a power jam opportunity to score 16  points and close the gap to 61-45.  Because the Hellbombers’ jammer was still stuck in the penalty box when the next jam started, the Pin-Ups’ Punk’d Pixie was the only jammer on the track and used this to her advantage to score another 20 points putting the Pin-Ups in the lead 65-61.  

Unfortunately for the undefeated Hellbombers, the Pin-Ups’ turnaround occurred so late in the match that the Hellbombers didn’t have much of a chance to recover.  As the Pin-Ups skated to a shocking victory, the crowd in the Wolstein Center erupted with chants and cheers for the first-time Hazard Cup champions.  

The Rolling Pin-Ups: BRRG's 2010 Hazard Cup Champions

 

Although the back-to-back underdog victories provided some of the most exciting athleticism I’ve experienced in a while, the Burning River Roller Girls continually demonstrate that they’re much ’more than a player.’ Whether they’re on or off the track, the ladies in the BRRG practice sportsmanship and team bonds not often seen in other sports.  

On the track, pack members will throw themselves in front of other skaters to protect a jammer in trouble. And in roller derby, a sacrifice like this can have damaging consequences with the potential for signficant injuries a constant given. The off-track bonds were likewise evident through Saturday’s finals  as members of the Hard Knockers donned green gear to cheer on the Pin-Ups, and during halftime the players celebrated the upcoming nuptials of a teammate to one of the league’s refs.   

The BRRG also does an excellent job in supporting the local community. When it comes to community outreach, they work with and encourage The Cleveland Firestarters - the city’s first Junior Roller Derby for young women ages 7-17.  Although not officially affiliated with The Firestarters, the Burning River Roller Girls invited the young players out to the finals so that they could introduce the future of the sport to its current fans.  

In my opinion, though, the most impressive part about Cleveland’s roller derby league is the sincere gratitude the teams show for their fans. The league keeps tickets reasonably priced giving Clevelanders an affordable opportunity to experience quality sports.  Moreover, when they’re not on the track, the players are happy to speak with fans and always invite the audience out for drinks after each bout.  On top of all of this, none of the players are paid for their participation – so there are no bidding wars, free agency periods, or ESPN specials. These women are playing solely because they’re devoted to promoting the fastest growing women’s sport in the country.    

Although the season may be done, there are plenty of events to keep you occupied until the next season starts in the Spring. For those interested in possibly joining the BRRG, the Fresh Meat recruitment period starts August 1.  For everyone else, there’s the annual Black and Blue Fundraiser in November with Full-Contact Musical Chairs.   

At Saturday’s finals, the Burning River Roller Girls thanked the city of Cleveland for the support this past season. However, it’s really the city that should be showing appreciation for this league of dedicated women. Not only are the players talented athletes, they are also passionate, unselfish members of the community who provide a refreshing alternative to the nonsense we’re unfortunately accustomed to in more mainstream sports.   

Burning River Roller Girls 411:     

BRRG Teams
Fresh Meat Recruitment
News & Events
Burning River on Facebook
@BurningRiver

Cedar Point: Summer on the Roller Coast

With 17 coasters, including Mantis and Millennium Force (pictured), Cedar Point is home to the most coasters in the world.

The Cedar Point Coliseum, originally built in 1906, today houses an extensive arcade in the lower level.

Although summer officially begins in late June, the season seems to start weeks and even months before the solstice.

For some, summer starts the first time they dine on the patio of their favorite restaurant; for others, it’s when the neighborhood pool opens or they break out the grill for a barbeque.

For Scott and me, it’s the first time we go to Cedar Point.

From being surrounded by the history of summers long past, to the delicious assortment of traditional – and non-traditional – park food, and of course the rides, Cedar Point is the thing that most epitomizes summers in Cleveland for me.

The Town Hall Museum houses exhibits showcasing Cedar Point's history.

Long before it was the number-one-rated amusement park in the world, the Cedar Point Peninsula was used for fishing and hunting. In 1870, the idea of Cedar Point as an entertainment center grew when local businessman Louis Zistel opened a small beer garden, bathhouse and dance floor that he would bring guests over to with his steamboat Young Reindeer.

It wasn’t until 1892 that the first roller coaster – the Switchback Railway – was introduced. The 25-foot-tall, 10-mph coaster was the predecessor of the Maverick, Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster of today.

Cedar Point helps preserve this long history with the Town Hall Museum. Located near the park’s Frontier Trail, it features displays, videos, mementos and parts of retired rides from the park’s past. One of my favorite features is the display of horses from a former Cedar Point carousel.

Growing up, I visited my fair share of amusement parks - from Kings Dominion right outside of my hometown, to Six Flags, Busch Gardens and Disney. However, it wasn’t until I came to Cleveland and visited Cedar Point that I found a park which successfully delivered not just superior rides but also food and entertainment.

Probably best known for its roller coasters, the park is home to the most coasters in the world — with a total of 17 ranging from wooden to steel, inverted, wildmouse, backward-and-forward launches, stand-up, and a dual-track racing coaster.

But it’s not just quantity that Cedar Point delivers, as three of the coasters are listed among the top 10 steel coasters in the world and year-after-year the park has received Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards in a variety of categories.

Regardless of how great a coaster is, though, you still need to be able to ride it.  One of the things that sets Cedar Point apart from other parks I’ve visited is how efficient the staff is at running the coasters and keeping the wait to a minimum.  For the most part, there’s no need for a ‘fast-pass’ system since most of the rides’ lines run from 15 minutes to an hour giving you plenty of time to fit the majority of the 17 coasters into a day’s worth of riding.

The steam engines of the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad provide a scenic trip throughout the park.

The 60 horses and chariots of the Midway Carrousel - the park's oldest operating ride - were repainted and restored for the 2010 season.

For non-coaster fans, the park also boasts a number of classic thrill rides such as the Matterhorn and Calypso (just one of the park’s variants on the Scrambler), as well as family-friendly, less aggressive selections.

When it comes to non-coasters, my personal favorites include the Cedar Downs Racing Derby – one of only two racing carousels in the U.S. dating back to 1920; as well as the Paddlewheel Excursions - a relaxing, narrated trip around the  Cedar Point Lagoon on one of the park’s paddlewheel boats.

And when we want to take a break from coaster-hopping, there’s always the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad.  As huge fans of model trains and classic locomotives, Scott and I never tire of taking the two-mile-long trip through the park on actual coal-burning steam trains.

Scott's grandmother enjoys dessert at last Halloweekends' Boeckling Banquet in one of the park's haunted houses.

Although many parks can deliver thrilling rides, they often lack in quality food options - suffering from dry burgers and grimy food courts.

Cedar Point, on the other hand, provides a myriad of dining options including standard park fare to grab on the run, the Midway Market buffet, and the Game Day Grille which offers an air-conditioned respite with pulled pork sandwiches, lobster bisque, and perch sandwiches.

In addition to the in-park restaurants, Cedar Point excels at serving up different events such as their Picnic at the Point outdoor bbq and the best park dining I’ve ever experienced – last Halloweekends’ Boeckling Banquet, a feast of lamb chops, lobster tail, and filet mignon in the dining room of one of the haunted houses.  No matter where I’ve eaten, I’ve always found the food to be appetizing and the venues well-maintained.

Among other vintage video games and pinball machines is a doublewide Hercules pinball machine with a cue ball for the pinball.

If excellent rides and food weren’t enough, Cedar Point offers a rotation of shows, games and entertainment.

Highlights have included the Hot Summer Nights fire show (try riding the Mantis coaster while the pyrotechnics are flaming close by) and the Starlight Experience canopy of lights through Frontier Trail.

There’s also the Main Arcade in the Coliseum on the Midway which gives the opportunity to play current arcade games as well as an extensive collection of vintage pinball machines and video games.

Not to rest on their laurels, Cedar Point is continually updating their selection of rides and entertainment. 2010 saw the debut of the water coaster Shoot the Rapids.  In 2011, Cedar Point is unveiling WindSeeker, a 301-foot-tall, nothing-below-your-chair-but-air experience that soars over the park’s beach!  With continual updates each year, Cedar Point provides new experiences for even the most veteran Ride Warriors.  (updated 5/15/2011 to reflect park additions)

Between the food, games and neon lights of the Midway, Cedar Point is reminiscent of an amped up carnival after dark.

With the exception of the warm weather’s return, visiting Cedar Point is my favorite part of the Cleveland summer months. Over the last couple of years, we’ve found that the Season Pass is the most economical option if you’re going to visit more than a few times. Between the free parking, admission to any of the Cedar Fair parks, and discounted renewals, the Platinum Pass usually pays for itself if we visit more than three times.  And with the coasters, local history, and feel of an endless summer carnival, there’s more than enough reasons to visit time and again.

Cedar Point 411:

General Park Info
Admission and Season Passes
Staying Overnight
Park History 

Things to do at the Park
Rides
Food
Shows

@CedarPoint