Mission Viejo is a family-oriented community in Orange County, California. It was founded in 1968. There’s no “old town” here. “A Well-Planned Community” was the theme when it started and that’s just the way it is today.
So why am I writing about Mission Viejo? I’m writing about it because it’s where my wife and I have lived the past four years. I was reluctant to move to a town that was founded when I was graduating from high school. I thought it might turn out to be the first place I have lived a shallow existence this lifetime. But I have discovered that it’s the little things in Mission Viejo that are way cool. There is a lot more to do here than in some other cities where I’ve lived in California and Colorado.
This past weekend, we went to the Norman Murray Community Center to an intimate concert by pianist, Giovanni Marradi. Giovanni has sold over four million cd’s on QVC and the Home Shopping Network. He plays to showroom audiences of over 1,000 people a night when he performs in Vegas; but on this night, he tickled the keys for about 200 of us. He shared stories of playing with “Old Blue Eyes” Sinatra, whom he admired, about how he learned to play “Autumn Leaves” like his hero, Roger Williams, and about a Discovery Channel special he is filming to air later this year. Giovanni also talked about his life here in Southern California where he enjoys giving back to communities such as Mission Viejo that demonstrate a strong commitment to the Arts.
As I sat there enjoying this pre-Valentine’s Day date with my wife, I found myself thinking about all of the unique and rewarding Arts programs I have attended in Mission Viejo that I never would have thought of seeking out anywhere else I have lived, even if I knew they were offered. Every summer we attend the free concert in the park that Target sponsors with the great Pacific Symphony. Our group of extended family and friends at these concerts has grown so much over the years that it’s now more like an annual family reunion. Why? Because at the symphony concert, like so many other great free events put on by Mission Viejo, there are awesome activities for children. We take our grandchildren and in addition to hearing music under the stars, they get to learn to build a musical instrument, play a drum and go up to the front of the crowd to help the Maestro conduct the symphony.
Mission Viejo has one of the finest family arts festival events anywhere – Arts Alive – and again, it’s a good excuse for a day with our grandchildren. In the past few years, our little ones have painted, had fun with chalk, participated in little theatre, watched a flash mob, met cartoonists and had their own faces painted. The Mission Viejo Reader’s Festival has big name authors and again, lots of good kids’ book authors, so our grandchildren always get a signed book.
We are fortunate to belong to Lake Mission Viejo, one of the nicest beach clubs I have ever experienced. There is fishing, a beach with great swimming, a playground, a large grassy, tree-shaded picnic area, all kinds of boats for rent, and a snack bar. Needless to say, we take the grandchildren there many weekends during the summer. And best of all? They have big name entertainers for summer concerts on the green overlooking the lake. The Fourth of July concert and fireworks are outstanding.
The Mission Viejo YMCA is the best I’ve ever seen. We have had several Olympians over the years, from our Mission Viejo Nadadores swim team. Impressive.
OK, enough of me sounding like I’m writing a brochure. But I just had to weigh in about a great Southern California town that doesn’t get as much attention as Pasadena with its Rose Parade. Mission Viejo has had a float in that parade more than once. My wife helped with the float décor a couple of years ago and I got to go see a bunch of the floats being done. I met the guy with the big blue parrot who designs a lot of floats. Very well-planned and very cool.
Do you think that by writing this post, I might get a seat on the next float the city decides to enter in the Rose Parade? As Chief of Questions, I had to ask that question. I can be the old guy wearing an aloha shirt, waving a cigar – the guy who left his beloved old hometown of Golden, Colorado to find a surprisingly good life in his new home town of Mission Viejo, California.