Compass

Daily Destination: Laguna Beach, Calif.

Compass

(Photo: Drew Limsky)


This still somewhat bohemian surfer town has one of the narrowest temperature variations in the county, so except for an occasionally rainy winter that typically lasts from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, summertime weather is ubiquitous. Think hot sun and cool, dewy, jasmine-scented air.

But something does always change come summer, and not just the appearance of more families once school lets out. Summer in Laguna Beach marks the Festival of the Arts, where venues are alive with local and national exhibitors, musicians and throngs of arts-minded tourists — plus free open-air trolleys to move people around, mitigating traffic congestion and parking headaches.

The seasonal appreciation of all things esthetic is layered atop a community where art is already a big deal: Laguna has more than three dozen galleries, a popular art walk on the first Thursday of each month and the finest assortment of creatively constructed park and street benches I’ve seen anywhere.

The revelry runs until the end of August. Of all the events, perhaps the best known and downright strangest is The Pageant of the Masters. It's an open-air amphitheater performance of tableaux vivant, in which attractive locals recreate famous paintings and sculptures and remain in fixed position to the oohs and ahhs of rapt audiences. The effect is surprisingly realistic because the preparation is painstaking. This year's theme is The Big Picture (celebration of cinema).

I have to admit, prior to the time I lived in Laguna, I'd only ever heard of this curious art form in an Edith Wharton novel ("The House of Mirth"). I also have to admit that sometimes I just wait for someone to sneeze (no one ever does). Best to check your cynicism at the door and appreciate the local pride and effort.

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