Monthly Archives: January 2010

Santee Street Fair Returns

It’s time again to start thinking about the Santee Street Fair.  In fact, the Chamber of Commerce has been thinking about it for weeks now, and much of the preparation work has already been done.  This year’s Street Fair will be even bigger and better than last year’s – and probably even more crowded.  Last year many vendors, especially food vendors, ran out of supplies before the end of the day; this year they will be ready, but the best chance of getting exactly what you want will be if you get there early.

This year the Fair will stretch the entire length of Civic Center Drive and the stage and beer garden will be relocated to provide more space for both.  The entertainment will again include dance groups from the Santee Recreation Department on the Community Stage and headliners on the Main Stage.  This year the Main Stage entertainment will include Lindsay Spurlock (former “Lakeside Idol” winner), The Corvettes, Outta-Sync, and Rockola.

If you are planning to be a part of the Fair as a vendor, click here.

Review of 2009 Santee Street Fair

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Upcoming Grand Opening – Smokin’ Joe’s Barbecue

This Saturday, January 30, the new Smokin’ Joe’s Barbecue will hold its grand opening ceremonies, beginning with a ribbon cutting at 2:00 pm and continuing until 9:00 pm.  There will be games, prizes, drawings for Smokin’ Joe’s barbecue sauce, and an “Old Fashion Pig Pick’n” – whatever that is.  I’ll be there to get some pictures so we’ll all know what a “pig pick’n” is.

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Victory 4 Veterans Makeover Rescheduled

I just got notification that he home makeover for Pearl Harbor Survivor Jim Bounds has been rescheduled because of last week’s storms and this week’s predicted rain.  The new date for the event is Saturday, March 6, after what looks like the brunt of the winter storm season is over.  You can still sign up to help (they have over 70 confirmed so far) from the link on the original story.

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Italia Ristorante Grand (Re)Opening

On Sunday, January 17, Italia Ristorante celebrated its Grand Opening, complete with the First Annual Italia Ristorante Car Show.  This restaurant has been around for quite some time, but the previous owners had allowed both the food and the service to deteriorate to the point of no return.  That’s when Michael and Ravella Cowhey stepped in and took over.  Since they took hold of the reins last September, there has been a complete turnaround – now they are working to overcome the negative reputation the former owners had built up.  If this celebration was any indication, they are well on the way to doing that.

In addition to improving the quality of the restaurant, the Cowheys are determined to be a vital part of the community, and the Car Show was just a start.  They truly care about Santee and want to do what they can to keep it a great place to live.  The Grand Opening was a chance for Santee to see the changes that have been made, especially in the food.  I had a chance to try slices of the regular cheese and pepperoni pizzas, and enjoyed both.  In addition, they are working to bring Chicago heart and style to Santee with their Chicago-style deep dish pizza.  I also had a slice of that, and I have to say that it is more than a mouthful.  I will definitely be going back in the future.  And no, in accord with new federal guidelines, I did not get any special treatment that wasn’t given to any of the others involved in the event.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Italia Risotrante

L-R: John Morley, Virginia & Ronn Hall, Miss Santee – Sierra Billock, Miss Santee Teen – Nicole Ehlke, Santee Councilman John Minto, Ravenna Cowhey, Terry Harris (back), Aramis & Dartanian Cowhey, Michael Cowhey, Thomas Hootman, Sam Jajo, Chamber President John Olsen, Councilman Brian Jones, Rob McNelis (I could not find a picture showing the man behind Sam Jajo, nor did I get his name)

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Warren Savage presents a proclamation from the State of California

Dave Stall of 1170 KCBQ brought his So Cal Off Road Radio show to the celebration

Former Chamber of Commerce President Rob McNelis (at right, with DJ Dennis J) brought his OneStop Party People to provide music for the day

Inside the Sport Bar section


The First Annual Italia Ristorante Car Show


For more Car Show pictures, click here.

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Old Friends in New Places – A JoyfulNess Mercantile Grand Opening

Some of my long-time readers (I hope there are a few of those) or readers of my 2009 wrap-up posts may remember the grand opening last April of SewCalCuties, an eclectic craft store out on Business Route 8.  In less than a year owner Pamela Joy saw her fortunes drop, nearly leaving the area, then rise again when the then-owners of the Apple Crate approached her about selling their location.  That resulted in the creation, with partner Vickie Ness, of A JoyfulNess Mercantile in the former Apple Crate building.  To fans of the Crate, don’t worry – the shop has become part of the co-op that includes the former SewCalCuties, At the Beehive, Chictiques Antiques, and over 30 individual vendors.

According to Pamela, this is the best thing that could have happened to her business.  She now has a larger space in a well-known location, and no longer has to deal with the problem of looking like a converted office – which the original store was.  Plus, with the addition of the other businesses and new vendors, craft and antique shoppers have an all-in-one destination to head for.

Members of the Santee Chamber of Commerce, Miss Santee Teen Nicole Ehlke, and Santee Princess Michelle were on hand for the festivities.  As part of the celebration, cake designer RaNae Thomas created a ‘crafty’ cake and letter cupcakes to welcome the new business operations.  Below are some pictures from the event.

Shopping at A JoyfulNess Mercantile

Miss Santee Teen and Princess check out The Beehive

Cake Designer RaNae Thomas

Cake and Cupcakes

A JoyfulNess Mercantile is located next to The Big Red Barn on Business Route 8, Near Los Coches Rd.

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El Cajon to Hold Forum on ECPAC

El Cajon is holding a forum on Wednesday, January 27, to discuss the future of the East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC).  This long-time performance center was recently closed for renovation, and the City Council is looking for ideas for improving it.  If you have ideas to share, or just want to be part of the process, the meeting will be at the Ronald Reagan Center at 195 E. Douglas Ave., starting at 7:00 pm.  I couldn’t find a link for more information, but you can call the City Manager’s office at 619-441-1716.

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Come Out to Help a True American Hero

I’m sure many of you have watched Extreme Makeover – Home Edition, where a team and community volunteers rebuild a house for a deserving family.  Well, on Saturday, January 30, you have a chance to be part of the same type of event when Barona Resort & Casino, The Home Depot, Asymtek, and the County of San Diego Aging and Independence Services join to provide a free home makeover for a real American hero: Pearl Harbor Survivor Jim Bounds.

Jim Bounds was on board the USS Oklahoma when it was struck by nine torpedoes during the Japanese attack.  Bounds and a few others survived for 32 hours trapped underwater in the ship, until dock workers managed to pierce the hull and rescue them.  He went on to serve a total of 27 years in service to this country, and now the Victory 4 Veterans program wants to thank him by making over his home, including new painting and landscaping.

If you are interested in volunteering for this worthy activity, you can go to United We Paint to sign up.  The work event time will be 8:00 am to 2:30 pm on Saturday, January 30.

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Meet Your Neighbor – DJ DennisJ

The other day I sat down to talk to Dennis Jones, better known in the local music community as DJ Dennis J of Creative Music DJs of San Diego.  Dennis specializes in weddings, clubs, and schools, but will spin the tunes at any event.  We first met at one of the Chamber’s After-5 Mixers and have run into each other a few times since then.

Dennis has been into the music scene since he was a boy, with a break to earn a BS in Computer Science and an MBA.  He remembers getting caught up by “Rapper’s Delight,” buying his first turntables in 1987, and practicing mixing in his garage.  He says he used to go down to Radio Shack to buy speakers, then go home and build the cases for the speakers.  Back then the idea was “bigger is better,” before he learned about such technical issues as air space and resonance.

During his hiatus from spinning tunes, he joined MENSA and became an IT manager (and still does some occasional consulting), but the music continued to call to him and he returned to the turntables.  But the time was well spent, because he is able to take his experience with computers and apply it to the special mixing he does for specific audiences.  For example, he re-mixes popular songs to remove objectionable lyrics for use at school events, and does it in such a way that many listeners don’t even notice the changes.

Dennis’ two favorite venues are weddings and clubs, for different reasons.  Weddings are particularly appealing for him because he is part of creating a special memory for people.  He not only wants the bride and groom to feel they made the right choice in hiring him, but he wants everyone who attends to remember it as one of the best events they have been at.  As for the club scene, it is the energy and excitement of the crowd that gets him charged up there.  One of his biggest recent gigs was New Year’s Eve at “Masquerade” at the North Park’s West Coast Tavern.  He also talked about one of his “craziest” gigs – he was playing an event at the Wild Animal Park, and every time he got on the microphone the animals in the area went nuts.  They must have been enjoying the music and didn’t want him to interrupt it.

We talked about his philosophy of mixing and entertaining, and he believes that the music has to be in the forefront of his shows.  This sounds like common sense, but it’s amazing how many people seem to think that they are the star of the show.  True, in the club scene personality creates a following, which equates to more bodies – but very few people are going to come just for a personality if the music is lousy.  For Dennis it’s all about creating a unique musical experience, then adding the personality on top of that to create a memorable event.

One of the main reasons I wanted to talk with Dennis is that he just recently took on the position of Vice President with the San Diego chapter of the American Disc Jockey Association (ADJA).  This group is the largest DJ association in the U.S., and is a meeting place for serious DJs who want to share ideas, improve their skills, or even mentor newer members.  The organization’s goal is to develop quality DJs who are dedicated to the high standards of the association.  With the advent of new technology, it has become too easy for anyone with a laptop – or even an iPod – to hang out a DJ sign, with little or no experience.  These wanna-be DJs can easily ruin an event and leave behind a bad “taste” for the people in attendance.  Dennis said that he strongly recommends that anyone hiring a DJ be sure to check that  the person they are looking at has insurance and backup equipment – just two of the requirements of the ADJA.

I have not heard Dennis do his thing, but talking to him I’ve found him to be polite, personable, and professional.  I think it would be worthwhile to check him out if you are looking for a DJ for your event.


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Chamber Holds 2010 Installation Dinner

Friday night, January 8, the Santee Chamber of Commerce held its annual Installation Dinner to honor outgoing Board members, welcome incoming members, and generally have a good time.  Several dozen local business owners, political representatives, and community members gathered at the Carlton Oaks Country Club for the event.  Dan Kitchen of North Island Credit Union acted as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

The evening started with a networking mixer, giving everyone the chance to reconnect with friends and meet and welcome new members.  In addition to the “usual suspects” (i.e. Chamber board members and officers), Santee council members John Minto and Jack Dale and Mayor Randy Voepel attended, along with representatives from state and county government elected officials.  State Assemblymember Joel Anderson was unable to make it in time for the mixer, due to another commitment, but he did arrive in time for dinner and awards.  Of course Miss Santee, Sierra Billock, and Miss Santee Teen, Nicole Ehlke, were there to add that touch of class every event needs.

The kitchen at Carlton Oaks Country Club put on a great spread, and several guests took advantage of the chance to go back for a second run through the line.  I didn’t try the chicken, but the beef was tender and delicious, and the red potatoes were nicely done.  The gustatory highlight, though, was a huge ‘serve yourself’ peach cobbler with whipped cream.  I probably put on another pound just writing about the meal.

Although the mixer and dinner were fun, the main event was the ceremonial send-off of the outgoing president and welcoming on the new president and board.  Rob McNelis, the 2009 Chamber President, is going to be a tough act to follow, although his successor John Olsen is certainly up to the task.  Perhaps the biggest project he helped to push last year was the first annual Santee Street Fair.  This event was conceived, coordinated, and brought to fruition in less than 6 months, and this was due in part to Rob’s continuing support.  The hope was to attract maybe 3,000-5,000 people for the one-day event; the final estimates were closer to 40,000.  To say this was a success is putting it mildly.

For his leadership on the Chamber and in the community, Rob McNelis received several awards.  Congressman Duncan D. Hunters office presented him with a certificate and a flag that had been flown over the Capitol building.  State Assemblyman Anderson and Ellen Malin from State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth’s office presented a state proclamation commending Rob on his leadership.  County Supervisor Diane Jacob’s office read a County resolution proclaiming January 8, 2010, as “Rob McNelis Day” in recognition of his achievements.  The final recognition came with a good deal of friendly joking as Mayor Randy Voepel and Councilmen Jack Dale and John Minto presented Rob with a City of Santee proclamation.

The remainder of the evening was taken up with honoring members of the 2009 Chamber Board of Directors, introducing and swearing in the 2010 Board, and incoming President John Olsen’s remarks.  This new year looks to be another busy one for the Chamber, so watch for coming events.

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Upcoming Grand Openings for January 2010


This weekend the Santee Chamber of Commerce will be doing two grand opening celebrations for member businesses. The first will be Saturday, January 16, when A JoyfulNess Mercantile cuts the ribbon at 1:45 pm. The shop is located at 13227 B Highway 8 Business on the east side of El Cajon. The second ceremony is on Sunday, January 17, as Italia Ristorante (8918 Carlton Hills Blvd) celebrates its reopening after an ownership change and remodeling. The festivities  kick off at 12:00 pm and the ribbon cutting is at 12:30 pm. This is a big event, with refreshments and Dave Stall of 1170AM broadcasting from noon until 2:00 pm.

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