Only on Catalina

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Please allow me to give you a little insight into my initial thoughts about Bud Light’s “Whatever.”  I was born on the Island in 1947 and have spent most of my life here.  Unfortunately, I have not gone “completely” senile yet and so still remember the events from the past that still haunt some of us old timers.

Please allow me to give you a little insight into my initial thoughts about Bud Light’s “Whatever.”  I was born on the Island in 1947 and have spent most of my life here.  Unfortunately, I have not gone “completely” senile yet and so still remember the events from the past that still haunt some of us old timers.

One is when college students made Catalina their “mecca” for Spring Break and all the crazy exuberance of youth that was brought to our very quiet Island. The Buccaneer Days celebrations, which forced out our police force forever and installed our present County Sheriff’s Department, because as was reported in the Islander newspaper, the results were “ … near riotous conditions.” Ask anyone who was here about our chili cook-offs in the 1970s and how out of control they were.  Recalling the old adage, “If you don’t learn from the past, you are doomed to repeat it,” when asked, “Are You Up For ‘Whatever,’” my answer was always a resounding “no!”


I was afraid that maybe we hadn’t learned our lessons and now this event was going to be sponsored by people on the Island who simply weren’t around to see these other fun events unfold. I love Catalina, like we all do, and I simply didn’t want us to go through another one of those.  Sorry to have to set you up for this, but I feel it is only fair to any reader to know the perspectives and prejudices that the person has who is sharing information with them.  My pessimism was shared by some, but I knew from the start that I was probably in the minority.  I promised close friends and city officials that if this “Whatever” event turned out to be the disaster I had expected, I was not going to write an “I told you so” response, but if all turned out better than expected, then I would write a public apology and here it is!  My major flaw in my thinking was that I overlooked the fact that we now have the professionals who know what they are expected to do and do it so much better than the past.  My problem is I tend to live a lot in the past, which is why I write the columns that I do. But this is not my father’s Catalina anymore and “Whatever” is not my father’s event anymore, but I sort of think that he would have enjoyed it!  Enough said about that. From the very beginning, I could tell that this was going to be a major event and would be carried off as flawlessly as possible.  From all of the equipment being barged over here, without hardly a notice or disruption in the lives of those who were able to continue to do “whatever” it is we do here, to the half hour I stood in line to get my wrist bands and all of the security precautions that went into that, to the final event, this was going to be different!  The Chamber of Commerce asked me to spend more time greeting the boats that were coming in that weekend so I virtually greeted all of these winners as they paraded off the Catalina Express San Pedro boats. I stood there with my sign and a smile, but I also knew that what these 21- to 35-year-olds saw was their Grandfather greeting them!  Many came up to me and patted me on the back, shook my hands, gave me some of those “strange” hand manipulations that I have never really gotten used to, but mostly they smiled and some even screamed with joy to be on Catalina Island and “Whatever.”  I was expecting model types as they were going to used for upcoming promotion and advertising for Bud Light, but they definitely ran the gamut of this age group.
This was our 21-25 demographic all invading Catalina Island! Needless to say, I was more than apprehensive about what I saw, but I knew that it was going to be an event we were not soon to forget, but hopefully in the positive sense.  Enough of my thoughts, I would now like to share some quotes that I was privileged to get from those who were most involved in all of the countless hours in preparation for “Whatever.”

First, her honor, Anni Marshall, mayor of Avalon:
“The Avalon City Council voted in support of ‘Whatever, U. S. A.’ and ‘Whatever’ happened. Anheuser Busch personnel, MOSAIC (planners). PRG (audio, et.), Hargrove (builders), worked cooperatively and professionally, interfacing with City, Chamber of Commerce, freight service, hotels and vacation rentals, Cat. Beverage, cross channel carries, local trash and sanitation, County safety and medical personnel, restaurant and retail business and residential community. As residents swarmed into City Hall to pick up their wristbands-the energy was intense-positively. In recent months the community has dealt with city isssues which have caused fragmentation in our family community. The one half million dollar donation to the city for placement of artificial turf will reduce the city’s water bill by over $50,000 annually. Permanet ground cover will ensure year round usage. Currently we have to close down to resod and ‘baby’ the field. Establishing the ‘District’ and with strict security, children under 21 were not seen or heard. The activities at Joe Machado Field orchestrated by Rhonda Kalish and Company were phenomenal.”


What Anni alluded to was that not only were there very strict restrictions on who was allowed to participate in this event, but Bud Light gave $10,000 for activities, such as food, games, music, etc. for those not wishing to partake in the events on Crescent Avenue.  More than 700 individuals chose this alternative activity and what a great time they had also.  Security, of course, was my main concern, as was with everyone else, so I am relieved to read the statement of Capt. Douglas A. Fetteroll, Avalon Sheriff’s Station: “Our goal for ‘Whatever, U. S. A.’ was to do our best to help ensure that every guest, resident, and visitor enjoyed the Island experience in the safest manner possible. We brought a cadre of deputy sheriffs to Avalon to help meet our goals. I was very pleased with the manner in which our personnel performed their duties. From my perspective, the event was a resounding success in that there were no significant incidents or arrests. I would like to thank the community for their support throughout the weekend.”  Doug, we want to thank you and all of your security personal on the extremely professional way that you handled yourselves.  We definitely knew that you were there, as your people were everywhere, but everyone was relaxed and smiling and so many pictures were taken of your sheriffs mingling and having very friendly conversations with our locals and guests. Very heartwarming.  Finally, from my boss, Jim Luttjohann, president and CEO, Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau: “Early post event indicators are that the event was a huge success for both the Island and Bud Light! 1.7 million applicants vied for the 500 winning trips that resulted in 1,000 new millennial visitors coming to the Island.  The winners, performers and media hosted are among some of the most engaged social media users in the United States, so the exposure for the Island is huge! Add to that the donations to CHOICES and the City, was a home run!”  Jim referred to the 500 “winners,”who had submitted 30 second videos to hopefully be invited to attend, and each was allowed to invite one friend.  CHOICES, our local group that concerns itself with our local youth mainly pertaining to drugs and alcohol education were given the $5 donation that each off us paid to get our wristbands and, as I had previously mentioned, they also donated $10,000 for an alternate celebration for the young people on the Island and the “young at heart” who chose this alternate form of entertainment.  Unfortunately, I honed in on what economic affect that “Whatever” was going to have on Avalon and Catalina Island.
I found myself trounced by locals who told me not to worry about the numbers, but the experience on the Island that “Whatever” allowed the world to see our Island home! Wayne Griffin, a friend and mentor, who gave me my “greeting job,” sent me a message saying that everyone should see a column on the Internet.  The column was written by Joe Kinsey and entitled, “Bud Light’s Whatever USA 2015 Might’ve Changed Lives!”  Kinsey explained more of the behind scenes activities, but mostly focused his article on the winners and other participants regarding what they got out of the once in a lifetime event!  Very revealing and great pictures and video hits, especially for those who were unable to attend. For those who did, you might see yourselves immortalized on YouTube!  Was I happy with “Whatever?”  I would like to share some final thoughts of Mayor Marshall: “The many activities provided to the contestants were phenomenal: uke and pottery lessons, tie dye, exercise on the beach, to name a few activities that we shoud look to replicate. Fun in Avalon is not prohibited! And yes, the lights on the pier are a must! An event of this magnitude may only be a once in a lifetime event … I am grateful it was in mine!”

Anni, so am I!


By the way, Bud Light not only left a lot of their stuff behind, that many businesses are gratefully not having to go out and buy on their own, but they have also added a new word to our lexicon!


“How are you doing?”
“Whatever.”
“How are things are work?”
“Whatever.”
“What do you think about local politics?”
“Whatever.”

Although this word went out with “Valley Girls,” we can still hear it used a lot on the Island. I think a way for us to extend the experience a little bit past the event and give us a chance to smile when we say it!


What I saw were Islanders, who with all of our issues facing us daily, actually having a good time and smiling! Did I have a good time? Did I smile? Let me put it this way. I was thinking about changing my column to “Only On ‘Whatever, USA!”  Inwardly, I am still smiling and if that were all that we got out of this event and not even one visitor comes over because of it (hard to believe with the worldwide coverage we got and the millions of hits on the many, many sites), it was still something I will never forget! “Mardi Gras” came to Catalina Island and I am so happy to have been initially wrong and gladly write this column! Congratulations to Bud Light, locals, and visitors, as we really pulled off a major win!

Only on Catalina