Travis welcomes us and tries to adjust the umbrella over our table to catch the bits of sunshine that escapes the tree’s branches.
“It’s no use,” he says. “I guess that’s the best it’s going to be for you.” His large, dark stature and inviting personality make us feel right at home. “You’re in luck. It looks like you’re getting the very last of our dough for the day. We’re sold out!” His round eyes enlarge in awe. I look around at the other eager patrons sipping on their beverages, patiently waiting for their food.
I smile. “It looks like we made it just in time.”
Travis pulls out a notebook and pen to take our order. “What kind of pizza would you like?”
“Surprise us,” replies David with a grin on his face. “Have Amy cook us whatever she wants.”
I nod in agreement as Travis double-checks his hearing. With a puzzled look on his face he says, “I guess I’ll just put a question mark down for Amy.” He glances up for a third confirmation. David and I smile reassuringly. When it comes to Juicy’s Pizza and chef Amy Hinson, we know we are going to be in good hands.
The hum of boats on the lake fills the background as growing shadows dance further and further out into the rippling water. Live music swells from the gazebo in Library Park. Children play in the playground, and the sounds of their laughter mix with the rhythm of the band. This moment in time is one of my favorite reasons for living in Lake County. I take my first sip of Chardonnay.
Our evening was already off to a great start. We had just attended the First Friday Fling on Main Street in downtown Lakeport. Cheerful, colored paintings stretched across the wall as David and I walked into Main Street Gallery. Jim Williams softly sang and strummed on his guitar in the back corner. We slowly made our way to the back room while paintings with familiar scenes of Clear Lake and local landscapes melded in with paintings of Lions and scenes from faraway places. There we bumped into Barbara Clark, Executive Director of The Lake County Arts Council.
“It’s so nice to meet you finally,” exclaimed David, shaking her hand and moving out of the way to accommodate an onlooker picking finger foods from a smartly placed table.
“Thank you for coming!” Her contagious smile welcomed us. Her eyes danced around the room and back. Two minutes into the conversation, David recognized a pendant hanging from her neck. It was easy to see, as she had pulled back her light brown hair, illuminating her face and features.
“Are you a Harry Potter fan, by any chance?” David asked, motioning to her necklace. The brightly colored background art of blues, yellows and reds pulled out the blues of her printed top and the bright pink lipstick that broadened into a large smile. Soon the conversation detoured from art and wandered off to magical lands. Her whole being lit up as her eyes danced in her obvious passion, not only for art, but for all things in her life.
Before long, not just one, but two piping hot pizzas arrive at our table. Just like that, our attention leaves the summer buzz coming from the park and returnsto the balcony of Juicy’. “What did she make for us?” I excitedly ask as I pull off my sunglasses to see better. The sun had slipped even further behind the roofline, giving us a hint of shade. I sit at full attention, eager to see what surprise is in store.
“How did we get two pizzas?” David asks.
“I guess the kitchen made an extra pizza by mistake, so Amy just decided to give you both,” Travis explains. “The top pizza is the ‘Popeye.’” This pizza is properly named for its beautiful display of spinach, bathed in creamy white sauce and surrounded by artichokes.
Travis continues, “The second pizza is the ‘Baconfest.’ It was a hit at Baconfest this year.” Amy had added fennel sausage to the already flavorful pizza, covered in thick chunks of bacon sitting atop a rosemary cream sauce.
Anything else I can get for you?” Travis asks before leaving us and our expectant taste buds to enjoy.
“Nope. I think this more than does it!” I respond. We both thank him as our eyes return to our feast.
Back at the gallery, our wandering conversation about Harry Potter had returned us to the world of art. The Arts Council has plenty to keep it busy. They have more than just First Fridays at the Main Street Gallery, which focus on local artists, crafts, jewelry, and books. As we chatted, Barbara shared with us even more than we realized.
They run the Soper Reese Theater in Lakeport, which frequently hosts the Lake County Theater Company, the Lake County Symphony, regular music, and movie events. They hold a regular Writer’s Circle, a Poet and Author series, and partner with the Lake County Office of Education, Lake County Library and the Big Read.
But the Arts Council is always looking for new ways to expand. As David and I talked with Barbara, we learned more about the future of the Arts in The County, something we could see happening all around us in the gallery filled with music and local artwork. The conversation turned one more time.
“Did you know we get to do Chicago?” Barbara eagerly asked as we continued our talk. She bubbled with excitement. “We did Oklahoma! Last year. I was hoping we would get to do Chicago this year, and we do!” Her eagerness was contagious. “I can’t wait!”
The sun finally rests behind the roofline of Juicy’s Pizza and the roar of unmuffled racecar engines drifts our way from Lakeport Speedway. We consider our choices for the rest of the evening. We could leave the concert in the Park, catch the races and still make it to the drive-in. We decide to box up our pizzas and put off our decision for a while.
“Thank you so much for everything, Amy!” We find her just behind the counter. She chuckles, showing us her large smile and cheeks glowing from the end of a long day in the kitchen. “It was so good! We knew it would be,” I continue. Her partner Marinda Scott sits at a side table and eagerly sets aside some papers to join in the conversation.
“I know you use sourdough,” David begins. “So it must be difficult to know how much to make in advance.”
“It is!” Amy affirms, wiping her warm face with her hand. Just behind her, a bubbling five-gallon bucket of sourdough starter percolates on the counter. “We doubled our normal batch and still ran out,” she explains. “But if you make a reservation, we’ll be sure to save you some.”
“Not only that, but we never know for sure what’s going to sell. We had so many sandwich orders today, I couldn’t believe it,” Marinda continues.
“Well, we sure are glad we made it in before it was gone!” David laughs. We chatter for a few more moments before heading out, leaving David and I to commit to our final plans for the evening.
The band has just begun their final set, and we simply can’t resist the chance to be a part of the concert. The cool grass tickles our toes as we sway to the music and join in the dancing. It’s the beauty of live outdoor music; everyone becomes young again.
All too quickly the set finishes, and we make our way, just in time, to the Lakeport Drive-In. Having packed a few blankets and an air mattress, we convert our suburban to a small living room, the large screen centered in front of us.
The evening slowly closes in as the pink hues turn blue, finally easing to black just as Spiderman takes the screen. David and I nibble on popcorn, because no matter how full you are, you can’t see a movie without it. We know we have the next few hours to decide if we are going to stay awake for both movies or not.
I lean into David, settling down for the evening–another great ending to a Friday summer night in Lakeport.