On the Town with Jason Downs

| Entertainment | November 14, 2019

Greetings, fellow Santa Claritans, and welcome to a column that’s all about having fun around town! We’re fortunate enough to live in one of the great entertainment meccas of the world. Join me as we celebrate all the area has to offer … and a special thank you to our veterans and servicemen and servicewomen who have devoted their lives to giving us the freedom to do so!

Here’s what I got up to this week: the 8th Annual Valencia High School “Pride of the Vikings” Field Show Tournament and a Chili Cook-Off at Agua Dulce Winery!

Autumn is the perfect time to attend a Marching Band competition…something I never knew until this week. In high school I was always a part of the show choir and the musicals but never the band. I was not prepared for the sheer magnitude of coordination and detail that goes into these astounding performances. A hundred teenagers dancing (and yes, friends, they were dancing, not just marching) in unison with instruments strapped to their bodies while beautifully playing a complicated piece of music…in tune! To say nothing of the color guard dancing and twirling around them with swinging rifles, swords and flags! These kids should be given medals for even attempting such a feat!

Different high schools throughout the Los Angeles Metropolitan area take turns hosting the Field Show Tournament and this year the honor fell to Valencia High School. Eighteen schools competed for top marks in visual effect, movement technique, musicianship, repertoire, choreography, and of course, the overall excellence of the performance. It was a veritable feast for the eyes and ears.

Mr. Kelvin Flores, the Director of Instrumental Music for the Valencia Marching Band and Color Guard (and host of the tournament this year), explained that a specialist visits each team and uses a highly nuanced computer program to type in the number of band members and, whoosh, out pops a live grid of shapes and movements for the marchers to memorize and rehearse. On top of that, a choreographer adds the dance to moves to get everyone from place to place according to the theme they’ve chosen. Amazing, right? We struggle to get my teenage daughter to keep her closet organized!


And the support from parents was incredible. Each team had ten minutes to run on the field and set up before the countdown began to strike the first note. NASCAR would have been proud of these students, alongside their parents, whipping these sets across the field and wheeling out instruments. I mean, wow! Some bands (with the help of their crafty parents) had built platforms and parapets to match their castle theme, some made elegant lamp posts and banners. All had elaborate set pieces and themes. All had incredible spirit and sportsmanship. And all had baked goods that were better than any sporting event I’ve ever been to. (Yes, those band moms can bake!)

This tournament was a huge production representing hours and hours of practice, planning and construction. West Ranch took home the top prize on Thursday night but a wonderful performance was given by all. You can certainly call me a new fan of the marching band and color guard tournament. Seeing Mr. Flores standing on the Viking field surrounded by his students, all smiles and high fives, was a lovely tribute to what makes our schools in Santa Clarita some of the best in the country. I look forward to seeing him and his students on the field next time!

If you love chili as the weather gets cooler, raise your hand! (I’m raising my hand.) November is the perfect time for an afternoon on the vineyard with all the chili you can eat, my friends, and let me tell you, if you appreciate wine and good food you do not want to miss the annual chili cookoff at Agua Dulce Winery!

It has become tradition in our household for my wife and son to come up with a winning pot of chili and compete each year. They toiled in the kitchen the week before giving us taste tests until they felt they had it just right. And it was deeeeeelicious. I could feel it in my bones; they were gonna take home the prize! And then, with so many ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and wide eyed enjoyment from the folks who came out for a taste assured me they finally had it in the bag. But alas, whether everyone was just being polite (which is possible when you have an adorable eleven year old chef doling out samples) or the other chili pots were somehow even more magical, they didn’t win this time around.

Our adorable eleven-year-old chef doling out samples of his white chicken chili

Either way, it was a delightful day and a wonderful way to spend a November afternoon. The Agua Dulce Winery is worth the trip whatever time of year with plenty of romantic spots to pull out a picnic basket, great wine tasting, beautiful cheeses, horseshoe ranges, and an assortment of animals for the kids to check out. At the very least, come taste my son’s chili next year! It’s bound to be the winner for sure!

So, there it is for this week, friends. Always feel free to let me know what you like doing around town so I can check it out and write it up. (reachjasondowns@santaclaritagazette.com)

Until next time, bon voyage, break a leg, and bon appetit!

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