It’s probably pretty apparent that two of the things I feel quite passionate about are our downtown and our local wine region. So my excitement about the upcoming Wine & Food Week and the April 28 Wine Stroll shouldn’t come as any surprise.The Morgan Hill Downtown Association and the local wineries of the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley wine association have been working on promoting local wines in our downtown businesses, and our downtown businesses in the region’s wineries.That pairing between local wineries and restaurants is a work in progress. The recent March Passport Friday Night Kick-off Event put on by the wine association and upcoming Wine & Food Week are great examples of just that work.That Friday Night Kick off event featured 10 of our downtown restaurants and 24 wineries in a collaborative event that brought in more than 200 guests on a rainy evening. It was a smashing success.Starting this upcoming Monday, April 23, we will celebrate our local wines in our downtown with a mixer showing our appreciation for the winemakers. The rest of the week, we’ll be featuring events where a business will host a winery for that most important personal contact.Having attended several winemaker dinners and food/wine tasting events, I can tell you that short of sitting at a winery with the winemaker and a wonderful meal, this is the best way to get to know and learn about our local wines.It’s also one of the best ways to get to know our fine local restaurants and drinking establishments.Most of the winemaker dinners feature custom designed menus that really allow our restaurants to show how creative they can be with a special menu.I’m not one to continually break out my smartphone to take pictures of the food, wine and the festive setting of the meals and tastings, but I have a hard time not wanting to share these experiences.We’ll have dinners and tastings at Bubbles Wine Bar & Bistro, Granada Theater, La Nina Perdida, Odeum Restaurant, Prova California Table, Rosy’s at the Beach and The Grapevine. Most of the downtown restaurants won’t charge you when you bring in your favorite bottle of local wine too. This will be the region’s best example of fine food and wine served up in one week, and it’s all right here in our downtown!On Saturday, April 28, our Wine Stroll caps the week of celebrating food and wine. This event continues to break new ground with a focus on local wines and bringing in fun new features like an art competition to create the next year’s event poster. Of course, the focus will be our local businesses with our local wineries pouring tastes.Wine & Food Week starts Monday, April 23, and culminates with the Wine Stroll on Saturday, April 28.For more information, visit morganhilldowntown.org. John McKay is president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, city planning commissioner and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected]
A few months back I got an email from a friend who said she would like to talk to me about the Poppy Jasper Film Festival. I kind of thought, “Poppy Jasper Film Festival”—didn’t that film festival kind of fade away a year or so ago?
I think it’s time for another update about the Amgen Tour of California (ToC).
It seems that it’s all about events this time of the year. We’re planning for them and talking about the coming year, all in terms of events.By events, I mean the plethora of fun happenings you can all attend whose co-function is to raise money for some worthy cause. Fundraising events are one of the great “win-wins” of life: you get to have fun, and someone makes money and does even more good for the community with that money. It’s kind of like the “law of conservation of energy,” only here it’s the money you spend that doesn’t lose energy and will come back to the entire community with no noticeable loss in effectiveness.I’d like to take a break from the Amgen Tour of California for a moment and turn your attention to one of my favorite events of the year, and it’s usually the first one too.The Wineries of Santa Clara Valley puts on two major events every year supporting the local wine association and bringing joy to those that appreciate fine wine: the Spring and Fall Wine Passport events.The first one starts this weekend (March 2-4), and it will be the best one yet. Of course, that’s what they always say but what if a two-day event got extended to 30 days, and the kickoff evening event just increased from 16 wineries and 12 restaurants to 22 wineries and 15 restaurants? I would say we have a bigger and better event!This Friday, March 2, that kickoff event will take place at the Coyote Creek Golf Club clubhouse. Since I’m usually working the event I probably pay more attention to the people than most, and all I can say is they have a lot of fun and I wish I could join them.The finest in local wines will be poured, and this is where you can get up close to so many of our local heroes of wine. I’m going to call them heroes because so many aren’t making wine for the perceived fortunes to be made (there is a joke about how to end up with a small fortune in the wine industry: start with a big one…). They are working hard to express their passion in winemaking and help promote this wine region. I can only hope they are feeling rewarded for those efforts.Friday night will also find some of the finest restaurants in the South County showcasing their fine foods. Here too you may get to meet many of the people responsible for bringing their fine foods to you. Regardless of who is serving up the food, it is always impressive and I hope that you’ll find something from a restaurant you haven’t yet tried that inspires a future visit.The wine association is aware that many passport holders tried to visit all the wineries in the old two-day period. It could be a bit much for some so now you have an entire month to make all those tasty visits, because the spring passport event goes from March 3-31.I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again: make a plan of what wineries you want to visit, and then venture out and enjoy yourself. You can do it often now, so be safe.Kick off a year of fun events and a month of wine tasting this Friday!For more information about Passport Month and the order tickets, visit the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley website at santaclarawines.com/passport.html.
I am on a real Amgen Tour of California tear here. Even though I already thought it was a big deal, my eyes keep growing wider as the significance of this event continues to unveil itself.I have been speaking with some people that have hosted events in the past, and they just can’t say enough about how the world really does come to town the day of the race.This is a big deal, a really big deal!Last week, we announced to the world that we too are a part of this world class event. We had local dignitary interviews, Amgen sent Ambassador Freddie Rodriguez and we had a Seriously Fun Trike race. Our own Mayor, Steve Tate, came in second place overall but first in the “amateur” race class.The buzz is starting right now. I’m committed to providing you with information and inspiration for the upcoming bike race. To that end, I plan on a regular series of columns dedicated to the event. Here is the first one, authored by an avid local bicyclist and dentist who has attended many previous Tour of California races:The TOC is America’s premier cycling stage event and will be broadcast on NBC Sports, featuring many of the same cyclists participating in the Tour de France later this summer.This is the first time Amgen has selected Morgan Hill as a race site, and the course will cover approximately 24 miles of our beautiful countryside. Because the event is a time trial—which begins and ends in downtown Morgan Hill—spectators will have the opportunity to see each rider as they start the course AND cross the finish line, making it an all-day event rather than a peloton (close group of racers) flying by you for five seconds going 35 mph.A time trial event is often referred to as the “race of truth” because each cyclist must ride the course on their own, without the benefit of drafting other racers, while competing against the clock for the best time. For those adventurous onlookers wanting more scenery, I recommend bringing a lawn chair and finding a shady spot out on the course. Be sure to bring an ice chest with cool drinks and your camera to get a chance to see the riders in action speeding down winding curves or pushing their hardest up a tough climb.In our downtown Morgan Hill, you will see many of the cycling teams and be able to participate in the ongoing health fair and merchandise/wellness booths that follow along all the Amgen Tour stages. This is a family friendly event with something for everyone. Spectators from all over California follow the tour and will provide a steady stream of customers for our Morgan Hill hotels, restaurants and local businesses.During the event, you will notice TV crews on motorcycles, cars and helicopters following the riders and showcasing our City of Morgan Hill on national and international TV.I hope to see you at the event! -Robert Shorey, DDSLet’s get excited.John McKay is president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, city planning commissioner and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected]
Last week was a big week in the world of planning for our community. The Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, Morgan Hill Downtown Association and the Morgan Hill City Council all held their annual planning retreats.Every year, most organizations will spend an extended period of time really focusing and digging into understanding what it is they do and how they are going to do more of it and do it better.Looking to both the past and the future are all part of creating a meaningful and attainable vision.We spend time looking at the past to see how we did; most of what I’ve seen has been pretty good in my opinion. 2017 was a pretty good year if you believe in constant planned improvement in how we operate as a community. I mean this in the broadest sense with things like seeing public art going up, the Friday Night Music Series blowing up, the increased popularity of the downtown, expanded industrial activity, fundraising events reaching new levels in quality and effectiveness, our Fourth of July and Holiday Lights parades growing and adding definition to who we are, public parks with private partnerships opening downtown; the list goes on and on…We will spend a lot of time gazing into a future that is incredibly bright. That bright future could look different to each person in an organization, and must be distilled to ones they can agree to champion as an organization. Courses to a vision must be charted by mere people, often volunteers that practice a level of good common sense that is not so common these days. I would even call our city councilmembers elected volunteers with their level of compensation.Advice from professionals in the different fields of interest is usually available in Morgan Hill, but ultimately it is really up to the dedicated amateurs to make decisions and chart courses to the visions of the future.So I guess what I am working toward is giving recognition to all of those people that work so hard to make this community what it is in so many ways.Thank you to the city council for the countless hours of work that so often go un-thanked. Thank you to the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Association, Independence Day Celebrations, Kiwanis, Historical Society, AAUW and more…Thank you for paying attention to the past and seeing a vision for the future of Morgan Hill.Thank you for having the courage to make decisions that might ultimately prove to be wrong because no one makes all of the right decisions except for the one who makes none, and then they already made one bad one to begin with…Thank you to the professionals who help guide us amateurs. Thank you for putting community ahead of self. As far as I know, not one of you has made a fortune from all of your hard work, contrary to what some may say.Thank you to all of you who are considering joining the ranks of our volunteer community.Thank you to all of the volunteers of all types that make Morgan Hill truly community driven.John McKay is president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, a city planning commissioner and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected]
In my last column, I described an event that could be the biggest thing to hit Morgan Hill since the Swedish Crown Prince and Princess visited in 1926.The Amgen Tour of California is coming and will bring the world right into our living room. This world class event will be in our town, not 10 miles south or 28 miles north like the last two world class events, both of which pretty much passed us by.Again, this is a big deal for us.Are you one of those people that wonder how this event came to be in Morgan Hill? An event that I’ve heard could cost over $100,000 just to be provided the privilege of hosting—in addition to the direct costs associated with a world class event (just the part we’re paying for)? An event that normally gobbles reams of paper just to fill out the qualification forms to participate?We are the beneficiaries of someone else’s misfortune. Another community pulled out of the event, and Amgen Tour organizers gave the folks in San Jose a call, who in turn gave our folks in Morgan Hill a call.Yes, we have a relationship with San Jose that is strong enough for that call to take place. Bet you had no idea that could have happened.So how did that happen? My theory… In April 2013 the community of Morgan Hill declared that we wanted tourism to grow as a key industry. The city council heard that proclamation, and an environment was created that fostered reaching out to our neighbors to work together in the name of tourism.A couple years back, the very people that gave us that recent call were invited to Morgan Hill to see what we see every day—a beautiful community that could actually be an asset to San Jose.An asset to San Jose? Yes, an asset in the sense that one of the lures to potential visitors of San Jose could be our “charming” community just minutes away from the big city hubbub. When you’re done at the Tech Museum, head over to Morgan Hill for lunch and hiking, for example.A stage was set years ago where this event is now about to play out. This event will in turn hopefully set in motion a recognition of Morgan Hill as a great place to visit, build businesses and live. These are called investments in the future.There is a lot of work to do before we can show off Morgan Hill to the world, and at the same time feel comfortable our community will enjoy this event. We have to get everyone who lives in, works in, or regularly passes through the downtown informed about the event and work to minimize the impacts to them. That work will start right away.As short as the event may be, one day there will be some inconveniences that we need to minimize for the entire community. Careful planning will help with that.We need to plan collaboratively to make the most of the large number of visitors and event coverage. We may only get one chance to shine, and we’re going to make the most of it.Let the work begin.John McKay is president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, a city planning commissioner and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected]
On Dec. 20, the Morgan Hill City Council voted to approve funding to secure a local stop for one of the most prestigious bicycle races in the United States later this year, likely to inject an economic boost into our town.Due to the council’s approval, on May 16, 2018, the Amgen Tour of California will stop in Morgan Hill for one of the event’s time trial stages.Anyone even remotely familiar with bicycle racing, or who is a follower of the sports segment of the news, knows the Amgen Tour of California is a big deal. This race is considered a lead up to the Tour de France for many, and is the only race in the U.S. recognized by the key international bicycle racing sanctioning body.For those of you who really don’t pay attention to these kinds of things, you probably do know what the Tour de France is. This is California’s version of that.It’s a big deal and it’s now coming to our little town!So what does the Tour of California mean to us? It will be fun to watch, but the economic implications are extensive.This event will be televised around the world with a social media following that could bog down anyone’s internet to dial tone levels when everyone is in town: digital imagery of Morgan Hill will be floating around the world. A circus of riders and support crews, event staff, reporters and fans will be here in earnest. Hotel rooms as far as Monterey are already being booked.Morgan Hill will get to show off our regionally recognized active lifestyle. Did you know that Morgan Hill was touted as a Mecca for bicycling just a few years back, in conjunction with the Bicycling Spring Classic hosted by Specialized and Bicycling Magazine? Our Outdoor Sports Center on Condit Road regularly hosts top-flight events. You are minutes from city, county and state parks that many consider destinations. The world will see all of that on their TVs and smartphones.The event will begin and end right in our downtown, so the entire world will see this neighborhood we’re so proud of. Reserve a table at one of your favorite downtown restaurants now.The promoters will host a “Lifestyle Festival,” where our downtown will turn into a huge bicycle party with all kinds of bicycling related vendors and parties lining Monterey Road. A community event is being planned nearby, where we can highlight our local and regional assets.There will be immediate benefits to local businesses, but the exposure promises to help local tourism and other industries as our community and its attributes are seen far and wide.We get to have a 30-second promotional video shown during the event highlighting Morgan Hill that should excite potential employers about our town being a great place for their businesses and employees.This is our time to shine, folks. Let’s make the best of it.More to follow in my next column…John McKay is president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, a city planning commissioner and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected]
Here we are again at the end of the year, and everyone is in great spirits. Everywhere you look the symbols of the holidays twinkle and sparkle and generally scream out that you’re supposed to be a part of the celebration. Go out on your street corner and see if you don’t just feel it in the air—I bet you’ve been conditioned to identify the smells of this time of year with the holidays. I know I have.My e-mail inbox started bubbling over around Thanksgiving with holiday cheer, and advertisements, but now it’s virtually exploding with those deals that “just got extended” and offers of delivery in time for Christmas day. I sense a whimper coming as the offers spin out of control and there’s no time for delivery, so reason sets in and someone stops hitting the send button launching those ads. Besides there’s nothing left in anyone’s inventory as each item I pick is no longer available, and if it’s seasonal you’re not going to see it again until summer wains next year. Since when did the day after Christmas mark spring fashion time?Locally, the stores are running out of those unique and sought-after items, so I reach for the next best thing—gift cards.I love gift cards! I went shopping at REI, Bass Pro Shop and Best Buy while standing with ice cream melting in my cart at Safeway. I also love the aspect of gift wrapping being less stressful: insert gift card in Christmas card and done! Now I only have to worry about whether I guessed which type of store was right, but you can even bypass that with your credit card so you are completely safe.So with all of the shopping options you have to really screw up to totally disappoint someone—unless you should’ve been more attentive and sensitive and really picked out something personal. This is where I get into trouble—unless you like wine and spirits, because then I can totally get into it and then subscribe to the one-for-you, one-for-me shopping methodology.Actually, most of this holiday season shopping has been for myself. You know, I need clothes and wine and motorcycle gloves, too. As a matter of fact, I consider the holiday season a great time to stretch the budget. I usually buy most of the stuff I can think of because it’s usually at least 20 percent off this time of year. My only issue is that I always seem to buy a bunch of stuff for other people, and that can hurt the budget. But then if you’re going to buy stuff for someone else, isn’t it great to get it at a discount? Who says I don’t have the holiday spirit?When it comes down to that spirit, it’s all about the people to me. Not the requisite giving, which I enjoy, but the way everybody acts around this time of year.This is the time of year when it is OK to get together more often than usual, to stay out later, and to enjoy food and drink with the budget being a little less of a concern (remember those discounted gifts…).I hope you have enjoyed the shopping, the celebrations with friends and the spirit of the holidays with all of the right people, and may you have a Happy New Year!John McKay is president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, city planning commissioner and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected]
Okay, I don’t think I’m quite done with talking about the new downtown parks.I was at the three new parks’ grand opening this past Saturday, and it was a big deal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of the community’s leaders and volunteers in one place like this before. There were representatives from the Open Space Authority, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Assembly Member Ana Caballero’s office and of course our city council.But I think the most important thing was that the community really turned out, especially at the Railroad Park. Seeing so many from our community turn out makes me believe that these parks are the right ones for us at the right time.If you had ever seen the old empty lot where the new Creek Park is now, you might remember it was overgrown with tree canopies touching the ground and blocking the views.That old lot cleaned up nicely with a wonderful trail that goes from Second to Third Street through the park, passing over a sturdy footbridge that makes you feel like you are leaving the downtown. There is a sculpture of a fox under the canopy of a huge oak tree and the open main area of the park has a couple features for the young ones to climb on. But this park is mostly just for relaxing and hanging out. I’m already looking forward to sitting under the trees on a nice summer day.After initial ceremonies at the Creek Park, a mass of people went up the hill to the Hilltop Park and we were all reminded that this park will be great for exercising. But the view and the slides make it all worth the effort. Children lined up to go down the slide,screaming down one after another. We really got to see and were reminded of what so much of these parks are about—the children.We went to the Railroad Park on Depot Street. As soon as the gates opened, there was a flood of children climbing on the different play features. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of those zombie movies where the zombies all climb together to get over a wall or something, but the scene reminded me of that. A tower that looks like the Eiffel Tower looked like it had that swarm, but these were wonderful, happy, screaming kids, alive with joy, that now have a place to play in the downtown.Children playing in the Railroad Park went on through the day and into the evening with the park full again after the Holiday Lights Parade.I went to Sunday brunch the next morning, and from the downtown parking garage I could hear the children yelling and screaming and laughing from my upper floor perch. I could see the brightly colored park and equally colorfully clothed children running about and playing with others.This really reinforced that what was missing in the downtown was that sound of life filling the air and the sight of children being children. We got a taste of this with the pop-up parks, but this is much bigger.I want to make sure that one of our most firmly held goals is to make the sights and sounds of children commonplace in our thriving downtown.Can we work on that together?John McKay is president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, a city planning commissioner and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected]