July 1. 2015

`Painting the Sky' a Tradition for Skip, Andy Suhay

That Big Bear’s annual July 4th fireworks spectacular is one of the Southland’s grandest is no accident, and not just because $60,000 of shots will be sent skyward, the most ever.

The late Skip Suhay was passionate about making the show the best around, until his passing just before last year’s show. For Skip the fireworks show was personal, a year-round thing that included going down to Cerritos each year to witness the latest and greatest shells, and making sure there was enough money and volunteer manpower from Big Bear Rotary to ensure the show was the best it could be.

None of which was necessary over a quarter-century ago when Skip got involved. “Back then it was small, what they call a reload show,” his son Andy, who is taking over his dad’s role, said. “You would fire off what you had, then go back to the buckets and reload to shoot again. It was a 15 minute show that was very sporadic with fireworks every 30 seconds or so.”

Now thousands of shells will be fired, sometimes several at once, what Skip liked to call “painting the sky.” To accommodate all those pyrotechnics, Rotary has a specially-designed 80-foot barge, rebuilt each year in about five days by 30-40 Rotary volunteers. The barge is covered in 3/8” plywood, with another 3/8” protecting the areas where bursts are launched.

Rotarians volunteer hundreds of hours during an intense five-day period before and after the show, assembling the barge, putting down plywood, spreading sand, putting up mortar cannons, wiring firing systems. A new launch/control pad was recently built by Rotarian David Stone’s crew at Superior Contractors to protect the pyrotechnics.

When fully armed the big boat looks ready for battle, with nearly 80 feet of mortar cannons lining both sides! For added safety, each is buried in sand, so if one misfires, it doesn’t lead to a chain reaction. There’s also a second smaller barge that has to be built, parked in front of Rotary’s Best View BBQ at Marina Resort, the club’s largest fundraiser, whose guests are treated to additional bursts others don’t see.

Andy has seen the show from the beginning, helping out on Rotary’s largest project when he was a kid and then getting more involved with the fireworks after turning 18. Now 33, Andy has taken over the fireworks show his dad ran so well for so many years, following in his father’s footsteps to make sure Big Bear’s signature event doesn’t miss a beat.

No one is better suited for the task, and not just because of his last name. “I’ve never done anything on the Fourth but this,” he said. “I’ve been on the barge every year since I turned 18.

“I was his (Skip’s) co-leader,”  Andy said. “He always had the idea he would hand the show over. He created a how-to for Big Bear fireworks. It was a passion he and I shared, fireworks and Fourth of July.”

Skip’s playbook was as thick as an NFL team’s, with every shot timed to the second, since the show is choreographed to patriotic music heard on KBHR 93.3 FM. The result is a visual and audio spectacular over the lake, perfect spot to launch pyrotechnics over. Skip liked to emphasize that while regulations call for a fall out area of 560 feet, Big Bear’s show has double that. “I could shoot sideways and not start a fire,” he’d say. Comments Andy echoes.

This year’s show is the largest ever as Pyro Spectaculars is donating additional pieces in honor of Skip. “The relationship Dad had with (Pyro) was special,” Andy said. “I feel I’ve stepped right into that relationship.” Evidenced by the fact that there was again a Suhay for this year’s spring preview in Cerritos, this time Andy.

There’s plenty of stuff that goes boom. Like five 10” shells compared to just two last year, which has Andy especially excited. “Plus we’re using a lot more 8” shells than in the past, almost 40” he said. “Along with 60 6” shells...and that’s not even including the finale!”

Andy has already been able to leave his mark on the show is dad amped up. Rotarians are happy that he’s cut 20 hours of build time before the show. His big plan is to increase funding. Seven years ago Skip was ecstatic that he had over $40,000 in fireworks to work with. The 2015 budget is about $63,000, more than 50% larger than that.

“It would be nice to have multiple barges out on the lake,” Andy said. “We have a beautiful lake that affords great viewing from everywhere. We can do things others can’t, make it not one of the top shows but the top show.” Something his dad would say.

One of these years, Andy admits he would like to look out on the show from the shoreline like everyone else, instead of straight up. Not likely, with the last name Suhay!

July 1, 2015

Fireworks, Arts and Crafts Key July 4th Holiday

From the fireworks to three days of arts, crafts and family activities at the Convention Center, make the most of the holiday weekend in Big Bear with tons of activities to mark 239 years of American independence.

Fireworks from Rotary lakeside barbecueRotary Club’s annual Fireworks Show over the lake is on July 4. The show has been named Southern California’s best free show with over $60,000 in pyrotechnics set to be fired, including five 10-inch shells. Each burst lights up the sky and water below to create a visual spectacular that stadium shows can’t duplicate. Any location around the lake affords viewing.

There’s 2,000 bursts during the grand finale alone. Tune into KBHR 93.3 FM to hear patriotic music synchronized to each shell for a treat for the ears as well as the eyes. A special tribute to late Rotarian Skip Suhay, longtime orchestrator of the fireworks show, is planned.

Best seat in the house to see the show is at the annual Rotary Best View Barbecue on the water at Marina Resort. There’s entertainment, midway games for the kids, and barbecue from 4:30-7:30 p.m. $30 includes entry and choice of steak or chicken dinner prepared by Barnstorm Restaurant, or $25 buys hamburger or hot dog meal from Nottingham’s. Beer and wine are available at the Hydration Station including Big Bear Lake Brewing Co. offerings plus festival food for purchase. Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets or Rotary has commemorative holiday blankets for $20 or two for $35.

VIP guests receive served meal and seating on the deck for the show’s best view for $100 while for $50 there’s reserved seating at the water. Barbecue guests also enjoy exclusive viewing of set pieces and shells from a second barge. Call (800) 4- BIG BEAR

Miss Liberty paddlewheeler has prime fireworks viewing as well as she sails from Pine Knot Marina from 8-10 p.m. Guests enjoy climate-controlled comfort as they see each burst from right below aboard the lake’s largest tour boat. $80 includes hors d’ouevres, champagne toast and souvenir. Call (909) 866-8129.

Independence Day Extravaganza is also on July 4 at Captain John’s Fawn Harbor in Fawnskin. Enjoy reggae music, picnic beach, and water sports from 8 a.m. with a great view of the fireworks. Tropical BBQ of Temecula serves smokehouse plus Caribbean delicacies. (909) 366-5109.

The Convention Center’s 21st Annual Independence Day Faire is July 3-5, with arts and crafts, live music daily, children’s activities, plus food and drink. Over 50 crafters from the West Coast including Arizona and Nevada are featured, with wire-wrap jewelry, home and garden decor, homemade jams, health products, toys and clothing. Some crafters make their wares on site. There is something for every taste and budget.

Enjoy live music under the pines on the outdoor patio featuring local favorites Silver Moon on Friday and Skeleton Key on Saturday. There’s also a special children’s Kinder Garten with face painting, bounce house, game booths and a variety of tasty treats.

When hunger strikes hit Wyatt’s Cafe and Saloon for half-pound, full Angus burgers, a pound of wings or mound of nachos and carnival food like shaved ice, kettle korn and hot dogs. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 10-3 Sunday. Admission is free all three days. (909) 585-3000.

June 26, 2015

History Joins Music in` Annie Get Your Gun'

Just eight years after Custer’s Last Stand, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull was in show business. Only in America!

Serena Saunders, Brett Smith Star in Big Bear showNot only that, he was playing to huge crowds, touring the country with a pretty girl who was a pretty good shot in her own right, sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Who just happened to be romantically involved with the man she bested in a shooting contest over a $100 bet, Frank Butler. All of it straight out of the history books, courtesy of  the famous “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” a late 1800’s traveling Hollywood-ized version of the frontier that focused more on entertainment than history.

Like Annie Get Your Gun does, the musical loosely based on Oakley’s life during her traveling show days and especially her relationship with fellow sharpshooter Butler. As juicy as the storyline is, Annie Get Your Gun, which Community Arts Theater Society presents for 11 shows at Performing Arts Center beginning June 26-28 at 7:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. Sunday matinee), is best known for music, not history.

The Irving Berlin score is replete with many of theater’s best known songs, the marquee tune of course being the entertainment icon “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Yet that’s just the tip of a musical iceberg that also includes tunes like “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better),” “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” and “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly.”

Amazingly the list continues with show tunes like “The Girl That I Marry,” “I Got Lost in His Arms,” “I Got the Sun in the Morning” and more. No wonder some consider the song list the best ever in a Broadway musical!

It’s presented with a talented cast that keeps both music and history flowing with a funny script. Starring as Annie Oakley is talented Serena Saunders, a veteran of many CATS shows, including recent productions of Oklahoma! and The King and I. She was one of the Broadway Broads of Big Bear, the  well-received CATS cabaret-style original spring production.

Saunders was in the first three CATS shows beginning 21 years ago as one of the kids in Fiddler on the Roof starring the late Leonard Graves. She performed throughout school, and studied classical voice in Orange County before returning to Big Bear. “Serena could be on Broadway with this performance,” said Karen “Sarge” Rachels, director and choreographer. “She has a terrific voice.”

Brett Smith stars as love interest Butler. His most notable CATS roles have been as Curly in productions of Oklahoma! The former Big Bear school teacher who new resides in Palm Springs previously was a singer with The Young Americans and toured the country in professional shows such as West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie and the Chevrolet National Tour.

Other Big Bear favorites include Jim Weyant as Buffalo Bill, and he’s growing out his silver beard to capture that distinctive Cody look. Michael Reno is a professional actor who plays Charlie Davenport. Diana Hintergardt as Winnie Tate and Adam McDonald as Tommy Cody Keeler also star along with Steve Mangels, who plays Sitting Bull.

As usual the sets are spectacular and include gazebo, boat, hotel, even a motorcycle, designed by Julaine Salem. Costuming by Priscilla Anderson is equally as lavish and extensive, each of the over 50 performers donning at least four costumes!

Annie Get Your Gun continues with 7:30 p.m. shows on July 1, 3, 6, 8  and 10-11. Sunday 1:30 p.m. matinees are on July 5 and 12. Ticket prices vary by performance and range from $17-$29 for adults, $16-$27 seniors, under 18 $11-$20.

Call the Performing Arts Center at (909) 866-4970.


June 17, 2015

Banjo, Panning, Blacksmith, Lanners Entertains

After hamming it up for an audience at Big Bear Museum’s blacksmith shop, Jim Lanners proceeded to do the same in front of the historic, massive five-stamp mill.

Gold panning, blacksmith, banjo Jim LannersMixing in a few good jokes to go with the bad and sprinkling in just enough history so little kids don’t realize they’re learning something, Lanners did his schtick. He even fired up the mill, so indicative of Big Bear’s mining history, and as the stamps came pounding down on ore he tossed a bucket full of water into the machinery to keep the dust down. Instead the stamps pounded mud up that sprayed onlookers just a little, yours truly included. A small price to pay to see Lanners in action.

By the time his stamp mill spiel was over and he had returned to the blacksmith shop, its fire had gone out. “Being the striker, my job is to keep the fire going,” Lanners said. “Obviously I let everyone down.”

That doesn’t happen often. Lanners has entertained at the museum just about every summer weekend from Memorial Day through September for the last 15 years—no small feat since he lives in  Long Beach and for three years took the bus the whole way to get here—and whether he’s talking gold mining or blacksmiths, families always get their money’s worth.

Of course museum admission is only five bucks and kids get in for free so that’s not saying much. By the time he’s finished making iron pirate peanut butter knives with a fancy twist and spinning yarns folks always seem to warm up to him.

“Strikers didn’t get paid, they worked for free,” Lanners said. “It was basically an audition to become an apprentice. Why would you pay a guy for just brute strength?” As one of the museum’s many volunteers Lanners doesn’t get paid either but as a fixture at one of Big Bear’s best entertainment venues for a decade-and-a-half, he’s priceless.

Lanners likes to talk and at the museum people are there to listen, so a captive audience is just what the doctor ordered for this likeable guy who looks the part of an old miner and plays it better. “God’s gift to me is the gift of gab,” he said. “I’m completely devoid of the sports gene though I did play Little League. My aim was to get hit early so I could go to the snack bar.”

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June 11, 2015

15% Discount on Marina Day at Capt. John's

Captain John’s Fawn Harbor & Marina on Big Bear Lake in Fawnskin is celebrating National Marina Day on June 13 by giving anyone who mentions the event a 15% discount on all motorboat rentals!

Plan on spending the day on the north shore for  picnicking, grilling, disk golf and much more. Festivities are part of the nationwide “Welcome to the Water” program and there’s live music from noon-4 p.m. For boating enthusiasts there’s  safety classes at 9 or 11 a.m. and at 10 a.m. learn about the dangers of quagga mussels and why inspections are so vital for lake health.

The lake’s most eco-friendly marina, Captain John’s is a popular secluded gateway to the water complete with a lakeside beach, picnic area and horseshoe pits, and lots more. There’s even an eight hole disk golf course that follows the north shore with great views that’s free to play—rent a disk for five bucks. Vendors will also exhibit from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

“National Marina Day celebrates not only boating but all water sports,” said Captain John’s Serena Saunders. “Our goal is to help families find new outdoor activities for fun and fitness, to experience boating and other water sports such as paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, wakeboarding and water skiing.”

Be sure to sign up for Stand Up Paddle (SUP) fitness and classes for all abilities. SUP is the latest rage on Big Bear Lake and Captain John’s is known for its extensive selection of boards, SUP fitness classes, expert clinics, and classes for anyone wanting to learn. Your arms are the engine so there’s no gas to buy and boards are budget friendly.

SUP helps develop balance and upper body strength so it’s a great conditioning tools. Quiet propulsion has always been in style at Captain John’s, longtime home to the electric tour boats. New this year is the ability to tour the lake in the only eco-friendly electric lake boat rental but you can also let the captain take the helm to cruise around in one of the Duffield Whisper Drive electric boats while exploring quiet coves and the little known nooks and crannies around Big Bear Lake.

Finally, take an adventure cruise to learn lake history and take advantage of the Captain’s firsthand knowledge of famed China Island. Eco-friendly boat tours launch Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Adults are $20, 12 and under $12.

Captain John’s Marina is at Fawn Park in Fawnskin, 39369 North Shore Dr. Call (909) 366-5109.

June 8, 2015

Parade Kicks Off Annual Old Miners Days

Celebrate past and future with pomp and pageantry as Old Miners Days presents the Valley’s longest running event, Big Bear Heritage Parade, on Saturday, June 13 at 11 a.m. in the Village.

The Parade, themed “Prospecting for Gold in the Heart of Our Community,” departs from the Elks Lodge and heads east to Pine Knot, then north to Pedder before turning east and finishing at the Presbyterian Church. The parade is expected to be 60 to 90 minutes in duration.

Serving as Grand Marshal is former Big Bear Lake Mayor and now State Assemblyman Jay Obernolte. The parade is cosponsored by Big Bear Village Business Association.

Serving as “Golden” Grand Marshal is Dick Kun, retired president of Big Bear Mountain Resorts. Kun concluded 50 years at Snow Summit when the Big Bear resorts were purchased by Mammoth. Military units, color guard, equestrian teams and marching bands are featured including Sound Waves Home School marching band from Garden Grove, the only home school band in the state. Antique cars and fire engine also participate.

The parade is the official kickoff to Old Miners Days 2015 which continues next month with longtime favorite events like the Big Bear Chili Cookoff on July 11. The cookoff is a regional sanctioned competition by the International Chili Society with winners advancing to the world championships in the fall, is 1 from 0 a.m.-6 p.m. in the Village’s Bartlett Parking lot with live music and over 40 vendors featuring Western gifts and souvenirs.

There’s climbing wall, gold panning, pony rides, face painting, potato sack races and children’s crafts making it a great day of family fun. An inexpensive one too since admission is free. Chili tasting kits are $5.

The Cookoff also features the annual Outhouse Race which commences around 1:30 p.m. High-speed people-powered portable potties zip down Cottage Lane (near Murray’s). Winning teams receive a cash prize and gift certificates from Old Miners sponsors plus the coveted “Golden Outhouse” trophy. Get a cut of the loot by bidding on potties at the 1 p.m. Calcutta Auction and Outhouse Parade.

Other Old Miners events include the popular Doo Dah Parade, Ride `n Tie mountain bike race and Loggers and Miners Jubilee, all in Fawnskin on July 18. There’s also History Alive! Chautauqua and horseshoe tournament on July 25.

Call (909) 866-4607.

June 3, 2015

Race Against Clock at New Big Bear Speedway

Drivers wear helmets with full face visors and compete against the clock, reaching speeds upwards of 30 mph while circling the Grand Prix-style course as wildly-popular kart racing comes to Big Bear Lake.

kart racing in Big Bear at new SpeedwayNewly-opened Big Bear Speedway delivers a real racing experience with drivers negotiating full-featured Sodi RT8 Karts down a course that’s a fifth-of-a-mile long, filled with hairpin turns and S-curves. Green, yellow and checkered flags just like at professional races and Tecpro barriers used in Formula 1 and circuits around the world line the track adding to the authentic experience.

Sodi Kart’s RT8 is a mini-race car with features straight from the automotive industry, like self-adjusting hydraulic brakes and vacuum fuel pumps. The leader in the kart racing craze that’s sweeping the country, Sodi Karts balance speed and safety with Four Point seat belts and Extra Enhanced remote controls that the pit crew can shut down or throttle back. any or all karts at any time for safety.

The karts handle like race cars with pinpoint steering and the Honda Whisper Motors generate amazing power, enough for cars to lay rubber through turns though virtually impossible to roll. Sodi RT8 sports design elegance and fully adjustable patented pedals to serve up the ultimate race experience.

Big Bear Speedway has 17 single karts and six doubles that have two steering wheels and two brake pedals for training or parent riding with a child. Up to 11 cars are allowed on the track at one time but drivers aren’t racing against each other, they’re competing against the clock.

The racing experience begins in the base lodge where first time guests view a two-and-a-half minute safety video. Then they’re issued Big Bear Speedway licenses—complete with picture—good for one year and assigned a heat number. Pit crew waves karts onto the track in staggered starts. First lap is not timed so drivers can get a feel for the car and track. Drivers get two to two-and-a-half miles of racing per heat depending on how fast they go. After their heat drivers can get a printout of their time and the six fastest times in the heat.

Initial Big Bear Speedway membership is $25 (double kart $30) which includes license valid for one year, one race and mandatory head sock worn under the helmet. Subsequent visits cost $20 per race or buy credits in advance which are stored on your license for a year and save up to 30%. Open daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., till 9 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and holidays.

Big Bear Speedway at the snow play area on Big Bear Blvd. in Big Bear Lake, three miles east of famous Alpine Slide. Call (909) 585-0075 or www.bigbearspeedway.com.

June 1, 2015

Tubes Rock Cave June 6, Tributes Too

Dance just feet away from stars like The Tubes and Terri Nunn with Berlin. Party to the music of U2,  The Eagles and the nation’s longest-running ultimate tribute to Michael Jackson.

The Cave Big Bear is rocking with a great lineup of headliners and top tribute concerts on tap. All in an up close and personal music experience where tiered seating assures a clear stage view from every seat. The dance floor is right in front of the stage, the perfect place for up close photos and selfies with amazing artists.

There’s a club feel to The Cave with awesome cavern-design bar with cocktail tables and gourmet concessions including full cocktail service, craft beers from Big Bear Lake Brewing Co. and local Stone Summit wines. The state-of-the-art sound system is pure concert quality and laser lights and fog machines enhance the concert experience.

THE TUBES return to The Cave Saturday, June 6. During their first visit to Big Bear last year the San Francisco-based band rocked and the remodeled facility will have audiences even closer to the band! Formed in 1975, much of the band’s original lineup is intact: Fee Waybill, whose costume changes throughout the show are worth the price of admission, Roger Steen, Prairie Prince and Rick Anderson, joined by David Medd.

The Tubes are best known for hits like 1983’s “She’s a Beauty,” which charted in the Top 10 and was one of the most played early songs on MTV. Others include the hard-driving and catchy “Talk to Ya Later” and the iconic favorite “White Punks on Dope,” since covered by Motley Crue among others as well as “Dancin’ ” from the 1980 film Xanadu.

Interaction with the audience has long been a Tubes staple, from Waybill donning a bow tie and suit a la game show host “Feen Wayburn” (a nod to Gene Rayburn) for the song “What Do You Want From Life” to the fan-favorite, beach-themed “Sushi Girl.” Waybill’s parody of a drunk lead singer “Quay Lude” is legendary. Tickets start at $24 to see a headline band up close!

If you’re one of the many who have never seen U2 in concert the next best thing comes June 13 at The Cave with HOLLYWOOD U2. Twice the group has been chosen top U2 tribute band by AXS-TV for its “World’s Greatest Tribute Bands” as Joe Hier perfectly captures the sound and persona of Bono. Tickets start at $16.

Another top tribute is on tap when DESPERADO presents The Eagles on June 20. Desperado sports one of the country’s best tribute bands with worldclass guitar work, solid rhythm section and dynamic vocals. The result is a big stage experience seen in Las Vegas including the Fremont Street Experience and the Peppermill Casino in Reno. Enjoy the supergroup’s many hits plus lesser-known songs. Tickets start at $16.

The Cave raises money for Special Olympics athletes by presenting the ultimate MICHAEL JACKSON TRIBUTE on Saturday, June 27. Who’s Bad presents the longest-running tribute to the late King of Pop and the only one that predates his passing. It’s an unrivaled celebration of Jackson’s expansive body of work that’s ignited crowds on every continent as a musical must-see. The group has earned its reputation by paying attention to every Jackson groove and gravity-defying dance move, complete with dancers whose resumes include Broadway productions of Phantom of the Opera.

Who’s Bad wowed even skeptics during its 50 venue tour of the United Kingdom in 2010, including London’s O2 where Jackson was slated to end his “This Is It” concert series that never happened. Big Bear is a Host Town for Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles July 21-24 and proceeds go toward bringing athletes from Chile, Luxembourg and Montenegro for three days of recreation, entertainment and cultural exchange. Tickets are $16-$27.

Looking ahead fireworks are sure to go off when ZEPPELIN USA takes The Cave stage Friday. July 3. Professional musicians from Las Vegas and Southern California have take the tribute band scene by storm with dynamic recreations of songs like “Kashmir,” “Black Dog” and of course “Stairway to Heaven.” The emphasis is on the sound more than the look with heavy guitar riffs, layered arrangements and haunting lyrics for which Led Zeppelin is famous. Tickets start at $23.50.

And don’t miss BERLIN featuring TERRI NUNN on July 11. Nunn is a rock icon who has been compared to other top ladies of rock, like Grace Slick, Anne Wilson and Stevie Nicks, and came in at #11 on VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Women in Rock.”

The hit single “Take My Breath Away” from the movie “Top Gun” rocketed the group to stardom in the 1980’s along with other hits like “No More Words,” the controversial “Sex (I’m A),” “Tell Me Why” and “The Metro.” Tickets start at $26.

Don't drive home after the show; use the links on our lodging pages to find nearby cabins and cottages, hotels and motels and private vacation rentals. Robinhood Resort for instance is walking distance from The Cave and many accomodations are just a half-mile or so away.

The Cave Big Bear; 40789 Village Dr.  (909) 878-0204 or www.thecavebigbear.com.