Grapes of Grad is Laguna's largest annual wine tasting. This year's was the biggest ever.
The event, which was held this past Sunday, was hosted by the Rotary Club of Laguna Beach at Tivoli Too.
"We had more wineries, we had more food and we had way more people," said Steve Dotoratos, co-chair of Grapes for Grad along with Jeff Redeker.
That translates to more financial support for scholarships for Laguna Beach High School graduating seniors and Laguna College of Art & Design students.
"Grapes for Grads helped with the cost of college during a period of economic hardship," wrote LCAD student Michelle Faro, a 2011 scholarship recipient. "The scholarship contributed to both tuition and living expenses, allowing me to fully focus on school."
LCAD graduate Dan Mulligan, and Christine Kinder and Jake Michaels, Laguna Beach High School graduates who received scholarships in 2011, also expressed their appreciation.
Michaels is a freshman at Cornell, where he is majoring in hotel administration, earning a 3.57 GPA in his first semester, while also playing varsity tennis and football.
Kinder, who is at Babson College, is on track to attend The London School of Economics and Political Science and hopes to graduate with honors. She plans to intern with a British company or to take courses in Milan later.
Rotary President Jim Cox said the caliber of students at both institutions is impressive and all applicants for scholarships are winners in the eyes of the Laguna Beach club.
The club's Grapes for Grads has raised more than $60,000 for scholarships since its inception.
"This is such a good cause; everyone in town should be here," said home remodeling designer Michael Macaluso, who escorted Los Angeles television host Mara Brown to the fundraiser.
Among those who were there: LCAD President Jonathan Burke and school district Supt. Sherine Smith, school board member Ketta Brown, Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger, Councilwomen Elizabeth Pearson and Toni Iseman, City Treasurer Laura Parisi, Police Employee Assn. President Larry Bammer, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kris Thalman, Laguna Beach County Water District Executive Director Renae Hinchey and Human Resources Manager Michelle Boyd, Laguna Nursery owner Ruben Flores and No Square Theatre founder Bree Burgess Rosen.
The event was underwritten by House of Big Fish and K'ya, which catered the lunch at no cost to the Rotary Club, the Passionate Collector, which donated goodie bags, Union Bank, the Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation, the Gas Co., Doctor's Ambulance Service, John L. Campbell Insurance, Lippa Insurance Services, Waste Management, Coldwell Banker, Marine Room Tavern, RTC Mortgage Corp. and Super Dave's Print & Mail.
There were 112 participating wineries and distributors this year. Eighty-five artists and businesses donated items for the silent auction.
Lang, Pura Vida and Kate Elise photographic studios and artists Loren Eck, David Solomon, John Eagle, Cynthia Britain, Fred Eck, Kathy Jones, John Barber, Scott Moore, and H. Gallery were among the donors of art.
Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course, 370 Common Kitchen, Salerno, and Romeo Cucina were some of the eateries that donated gift certificates. The Marine Room, Mozambique, White House, Sandpiper Lounge, commonly referred to as "The Dirty Bird" by locals, House of Big Fish and Hennesseys donated the "Greatest Bars in Laguna" T-shirts. Seats for Laguna Playhouse, Pacific Symphony, Laguna Beach Live! and the Pageant of the Masters performances were hot tickets.
Other items included teeth whitening by Dave Norton, wines from Hartigan and American Vines wineries, and a hand-knitted meditation shawl from Kim Salter.
LCAD students Benjamin Gibs, Leah Kranz, Irin Mahaparn, Radah Tague and Stephanie Snee demonstrated oil and watercolor painting.
Magnolia Memoir provided live music.
Julie Hile, Marge Earl, Marianne Raczkowski, Maggie Hempen, Peter Jones, Helen Maxwell, Kerri Redeker, John Campbell and Veronica Nice served on the event committee.
Sister Cities' salon
Guests let their hair down at the salon hosted by the Laguna Beach Sisters Cities Assn. on April 26 at Sandra Jones Campbell's studio in Laguna Canyon.
The event had plenty of good food, wine, music and company.
"We do this three or four times a year in addition to the Fete de la Musique, Bastille Day and a celebration of the new year of Beaujolais on the third Thursday of November at French 75," said Karyn Philippsen, president of the association.
The all-volunteer, nonprofit association was established in 2008 to forge cultural, educational and business links with Menton, France, a city with similarities to Laguna.
Both cities are built on sharply rising coastal hillsides. They have almost identical populations and temperatures and draw large numbers of visitors.
Other cities could become siblings. Any association member can nominate a city, which then must pass muster with the Future Sister City Committee.
New members are welcomed to the association. Annual dues are $15 for students, $25 for singles, $50 for couples and $100 for businesses.
Some events, such as the salon, may be restricted to participants 21 and older because alcohol is served.
School board President Betsy Jenkins, Festival of Arts Events Coordinator Susan Davis and Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda organized the salon in Campbell's studio.
"I love this space, not to mention her art and the work of some other artists she has," said Kollenda about the rustic studio, which featured a soaring ceiling and elegant rugs that Campbell traded her art to acquire.
The studio also has a grand piano and guests gathered around it to sing along with guitarist Jason Feddy and pianist Phil Palapiano — honest.
Among the singers: Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham, artist Michael Tauber, Drs. Gary Jenkins and Cheri Myers, Laguna Concert Band founder Carol Reynolds and Fabiola Kinder.
Other guests included Amy Larsen, Friends of the Library President Martha Lydick, Michelle Monda, artist Jennifer Griffith and Ann McDonald.
Also: Mary and George Rabe, Visitors Bureau Executive Director Judy Bijlani, Rollinger, Iseman and Alice Harmon, who is trying to raise funds to restore the sculpture created by her late son, Steven, that had to be removed from Riddle Field due to its deterioration.
Ann Dryer catered the event.
For more information about the association, visit website http://www.lagunabeachsistercitiesassociation.org.