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Rock Crusher Canyon, other venues continue to expand

Rock Crusher's developer opens a new RV park and renovates the pavilion.

By JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 14, 2001


Rock Crusher Canyon continued to lead the way in Citrus County entertainment news, with developer Stan Olsen making major improvements to the facility in 2000.

But that wasn't the only development during the busy year. Just across the Withlacoochee River, an institution from the past -- the Izaak Walton Lodge and restaurant in Yankeetown -- started a new life in 2000. And community-based entertainment also made great strides.

Rock Crusher features an amphitheater, pavilion and recreational vehicle campground. After completing a permanent stage and a 20,000-square-foot pavilion in 1999, work began on the RV park. By the time the Crystal River Jam rolled around in November, the new RV park was ready to handle the fans who travel to the festivals in their upscale RVs.

The RV park has always been at Rock Crusher Canyon, in central Citrus County, but it was equipped with mostly primitive campsites and just a few electrical hookups. The park now offers 400 full-hookup campsites at the 60-acre tract. The RV sites have basic amenities such as electricity, water and sewer, and modern features such as telephone, cable television and Internet connections for campers who want to stay completely connected to the electronic world.

The pavilion also was renovated. It was partially enclosed, both to provide better protection against the weather and for better acoustics. An overhead heating system now supplements the radiant heaters on the floor. In the summer, portable air conditioners are brought in.

There were some personnel changes at Rock Crusher as well.

Band leader Johnny Baier was named as a replacement for Mickey Finn, and concert promoter Steve Pritchard left.

The RV park was the next step in Olsen's master plan of developing Rock Crusher into a top entertainment facility. The next steps include building a community theater, bringing more prominent regional entertainers to the pavilion, major festivals and concerts to the amphitheater stage and adding a heritage village and restaurant where people can spend an afternoon exploring authentic Florida Cracker homes.

The Izaak Walton Lodge and Compleat Angler Restaurant were destroyed in a fire in July 1999. Only a few landmark oaks remain from the old building site. But the owners rebuilt the structure with a nearly identical exterior, and it reopened in September.

However, the lodge portion of Izaak Walton has been replaced. The restaurant now occupies two stories, with the second story offering an impressive view of the Withlacoochee River. The Yankeetown restaurant seats about 100 diners.

Citrus County's community theaters also enjoyed an active season in 2000.

Playhouse 19 replaced original executive director Judy Poplawski with Ray Hill and is seeking a new site for the 125-seat theater.

The Inverness Festival of the Arts, sponsored by the Citrus County Art League, was abruptly canceled in November after its 30th annual show. But organizers plan to resume the art festival in 2002.

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