The Wild West Arena is taking the place of the now closed Winchester Inn
■ By Chris Smith / Advisory Editor
There never will be another Winchester Inn like the now closed saloon in the town of Winchester where a variety of bands played to the wee hours, and you knew you always could find a good time, good music and reasonably priced drinks.
The Winchester Inn was especially a favorite of Hemet seniors on Sunday afternoons for they could listen to country western, dance, have a good time and not worry about driving home after dark. The parking lot was packed, and inside, you barely could find a seat in the large dance hall that had an L-shaped bar that could accommodate a sizable crowd.
It’s a little sad yet encouraging to see folks toward the end of their days come out to have a good time, get out on the dance floor, and show how, while they may not be still young, they know how to have fun. As Toby Keith says, “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”
With the Winchester Inn closing this year, seniors have had a hard time replacing that Sunday afternoon party atmosphere that became so popular every weekend. However, there’s a new movement afoot to truck on over to the Wild West Arena in Winchester on Sundays where they have a country western band playing every other weekend.
The band that plays at the Wild West Arena twice a month on Sundays is the Stagerobbers and is comprised of Randy Pietro on lead guitar and mandolin, Sharon Wyner on Keyboard, and Dale Scott on Drums. The group also plays there several Fridays a month and at a humber of other venues in the valley, including Hemet West, which has dances on alternating Wednesday evenings. Sharon is also the featured singer with the American Made Band of Murrieta, a top-rated country band that has won over 40 awards with the California Country Music Association..
Finding the Wild West Arena isn’t quite as easy as finding the Winchester Inn, which was (and still is} on the main street of town. The Arena is outside town a couple miles, although most people have seen the large faded sign on Winchester Road as you head back to Hemet. Oops, you missed it. Should have turned west on Ninth Street. If you want to plug it into the navigator, it’s actual address is 32150 Grand Ave, Winchester, Calif. 92596. You have to drive past the rodeo arena, down a long driveway leading up to the bar, housed in a manufactured building overlooking the arena. The best thing about the place is that they keep it nice and cool in the summer with a bank of air conditioners humming away to cool the large dance floor. Don’t go in there hungry, though, because, unlike the Winchester Inn, which had a full kitchen, the only food they serve are Fritos, commonly referred to as “dinner packs” among beer drinkers.
Some of you who used to frequent the Anchor Bar and Club on East Florida where El Patron is located now may get lucky and see La Donna Williams working behind the bar, one of her two hangouts now, the other being The Office, 1107 W. Florida Ave. If not, bartender Cindy rushes around when the band is playing on Sundays trying to keep the growing crowd well hydrated.