It’s beautiful at Bella Terra
The toddler made a beeline for Twinkle as fast as her feet — wearing Cookie Monster shoes — would let her.
Freeing herself from her father’s grip, she aimed her blue eyes skyward and launched herself at a pair of legs clad in polka-dot tights, pink leg-warmers and high-tops.
Standing nearby, her older sister, dressed in a printed tutu similar to Twinkle’s, looked mesmerized by the painted hearts on the entertainer’s cheeks.
The lady in question — though not much taller than a teenager herself — responded to the children’s sing-song goodbye with a flying kiss, in a blur of rainbow-colored nails and big, false eyelashes.
“People think we are clowns, but we are not,” said Twinkle, the creator of the eponymous children’s educational pop music show “Twinkle Time,” which took the stage in front of 400 Bella Terra patrons in Huntington Beach on Monday.
Joining her comrades — red-nosed 6'5" sports lover Lil Hoopz and freckled, overall-wearing Happy — she performed original songs including “It’s Okay To Be Me” and “Made In The USA,” each with its own embedded message. Far more than just a prop, Twinkle’s spray-painted vintage suitcase is a fountainhead of make-believe powers.
The Hacienda Heights resident, who said only that “Twinkle doesn’t have an age,” is a former Broadway singer, guest actor on “Two and a Half Men” and lead vocalist of pop band Nobody’s Angel, which has opened for Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys.
As a side job, she began teaching musical theater to youngsters and “really fell in love with it,” she said. Now, drawing on her Peruvian roots, Twinkle ensures that every act, a favorite for mommy groups, family time and play dates, is bilingual.
“The first time I saw kids repeating lyrics...it was so meaningful,” Twinkle said. “They’re learning how to speak, learning how to move and dance. I’ve had parents say, ‘They’re learning English because of you.’”
‘There’s no hard sell’
Such events, hosted weekly by Bella Terra’s Kids Club, run May through September and the first Monday of every month for the rest of the year. In 2012, the Huntington Beach mall, constructed on the site of the former Huntington Center, hosted a turnout of 575 visitors — the most in the eight-year history of the program.
The complex organizes more than 250 such outings, including a “Block Party” in May and “Vegas Nights” in August.
“Shopping centers in general know that in order to be a good community neighbor, it’s a good idea to offer entertainment,” said Kids Club producer Ron Merkin. “Consistency is really important...it becomes part of [the guests’] weekly calendar.”
The safe and comfortable location offers parents face time with other adults and quality time with their offspring. Children, some repeating song lyrics and others bouncing in strollers, pick up social skills, he added, including being good listeners and getting along with others.
Adults and tots who attend receive a raffle ticket, giving them a chance to win a gift card or services from one of the outdoor shopping center’s tenants.
“It’s a symbiotic thought process — there’s no hard sell here,” said Merkin, who is on a first-name basis with many parents.
The amphitheater, a grassy venue at the heart of Bella Terra where more than 250 viewers routinely squeeze in, is surrounded by stores — Princess Bride Diamonds being one of them.
Sales associate Kristina Phipps has on several occasions helped customers en route to the parking lot, who stroll in after attending an event.
“Sometimes the kids just wander in here and then [the parents] start looking around, so it’s definitely brought foot traffic,” she said.
Friday night lights
The live music series are an equally popular part of Bella Terra’s summer lineup, attracting artists from across Orange and Los Angeles counties.
A local band, the Devious Means, has fared well — Aug. 3 will mark their penultimate concert for the summer. The retail center requires the quintet to experiment with their set lists.
“We have to be mindful that we’re not playing at a traditional bar or venue,” said guitarist and vocalist Christopher Faris, of Huntington Beach. “Some of our fans maybe have kids now, others might not want to come to see us at Constellation Room or House of Blues. A lot of people come out of the movie theater and are curious — it adds a different kind of energy and fun to the mix.”
Humbled by recent opportunities to collaborate with longtime favorites like the Silent Comedy, Robert Jon & the Wreck and Midnight Hour, the band, characterized by an easy camaraderie, has enjoyed enthusiastic responses from spectators at Bella Terra.
“For us, music is one of our loves,” Faris said. “To be able to play and enjoy it, and have people come back and enjoy it again, is just the greatest compliment. It makes the entire experience so much fun.”
Apart from the gorgeous weather, Twinkle, who is often mobbed by little girls who wanted to touch her, reassure themselves of her presence and pose for photographs, relishes the sight of new generations coming in.
“Of course, there’s babies that are born every year, and so there’s always new families in our audience,” she said. “It’s cool to see the kids grow with us.”
If You Go
What: Bella Terra Kids Club and Live Music
Where: 7777 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach
When: See website for schedule
Information: https://www.bellaterra-hb.com or (714) 897-2533
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