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By Fred Swegles
If you’ve been hibernating at home during the pandemic, or a little less outgoing than usual, it’s exciting to see some new awakenings in San Clemente.
A week ago, I was surprised to discover how one of our town’s most beloved historical landmarks—Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens—is actively ramping up public events and activities, tempered with health safety measures.
I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d visited the Casa. I peeked in for a look on Friday, April 23, because I’d been riding my bicycle by 415 Avenida Granada daily, noticing a lot of construction activity on the grounds. The day the construction gear was removed, I had to go in and look.
The parking lot has been landscaped and renovated, a facelift that gets rid of a badly rutted natural surface that had become a blemish at the Casa since the cultural center had opened in 2003.
The original parking lot, unpaved, was designed with a rustic look. But after a time, the ruts sometimes made parking there a bumpy adventure.
The new parking lot is a lot more welcoming, and when I wandered inside the Casa’s distinctive, keyhole-shaped door, I discovered a surprising level of programming.
TANGO DANCE SPECTACLE
Just the night before, there’d been a live music and dance show called Tango Romantica, and it was on for a second night. Both nights were sold out. Seating in the Casa’s outdoor courtyard was set up for social distancing.
I asked permission to stop in for a few minutes that evening to snap a few discreet tango photos to share with readers.
ABOUT THE CASA
Casa Romantica is an elegantly restored Spanish-style mansion that San Clemente founder Ole Hanson built for his family in 1927-28 on a scenic bluff overlooking the pier. It had a succession of subsequent owners, until the city purchased it in 1989. The city preserves it as a landmark, partnering with a nonprofit foundation that operates the cultural center.
If you’ve never been, or never taken out-of-town guests to roam the former Ole Hanson home, now is a good time to stop in (general admission $5) to explore the exhibits, learn some tidbits about our town and stroll the gardens.
Visit casaromantica.org to purchase tickets for events, or call the Casa at 949.498.2139 for information.
SPECIAL ACTIVITIES FOR MAY
- May 2: From 10 a.m.-2 p.m., admission is free for a special event called D Yoder Family Sundays, offered the first Sunday of the month. This month’s is garden-themed.
- May 4: Local artist Rick Delanty opens a gallery exhibit with an artist reception from 6-8 p.m., free with RSVP. The exhibit is titled Beauty Unites Us, which also is the title of a newly published Delanty art book. A more elaborate preview event will take place at 6 p.m. on May 3, a $100 dinner with Delanty. The art exhibit will be on display through June 6.
- May 5: “Paint Out at the Casa,” a plein-air art activity with Rick Delanty and other artists, is from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., with the public invited to view, with general admission to the Casa. The Paint Out event will repeat, same hours, May 18 and May 26.
- May 7: A 6 p.m. fundraiser for the cultural center is titled “Celebrating Tom Jones” featuring stories and songs delivered by vocalist David Burnham. Event includes dinner and a live auction. Admission is a $200 donation, or $275 including VIP meet-and-greet with the artist.
- May 8: An art demonstration in the gallery with Rick Delanty, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., is free with general admission to the Casa.
- May 13-14: Outdoor shows at 7 p.m. are titled “Opera through the Seasons”; tickets, $40.
- May 15: Rick Delanty presents an art class for students in grades 6-12, 9 a.m.-noon; $50 includes materials.
- May 19: A Floral Crown Workshop is at 7 p.m.; tickets, $45.
- May 22: A bilingual musical concert geared to children is at noon, with admission free for kids or $10-$15 for adults.
- May 25: Screening of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film Top Hat, 8 p.m.; admission $10.
- May 26: 7 p.m. wine tasting at the Casa; tickets, $30.
ON INTO JUNE
Events will include a Sunday, June 6 event, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., free to the public, sponsored by the Yoder family, this time with a Shakespeare theme; a June 8 movie screening at 8 p.m. titled Roman Holiday, featuring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, $10 admission; a June 17-18 performance titled The Tempest by the Shakespeare Festival Guild, 7 p.m., admission $25; a June 24 concert by the 3rd Degree Blues Band, 7 p.m., admission $25; and a free opening reception at 6 p.m. on June 25 for a summer art exhibit titled Magic in the Air.
There are other ongoing activities you can find on the Casa’s website.
Fred Swegles grew up in San Clemente before the freeway. He has 50 years’ reporting experience in the city and can be reached at fswegles@picketfencemedia