Arts, Rides and Sun--It's Festival Time : Fairs: Thousands visit Laguna Beach's Sawdust exhibits and the Fountain Valley Fiesta, both warmed by pleasant weather.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In Laguna Beach, people trampled through sawdust while perusing ceramics and paintings. About 20 miles to the north, fair-goers passed by a twirling Ferris wheel and barking carnival vendors.

Both outdoor festivals--Laguna Beach's Sawdust Festival and the Fountain Valley Fiesta--offered county residents Saturday a chance to enjoy music, arts and crafts and other entertainment while relishing the bright skies and pleasant temperatures.

Under the shade of several eucalyptus trees, hundreds of people tramped over the fine wood chips that have become the trademark of the Sawdust Festival and browsed through the original works of more than 250 artists.

The 24-year-old festival showcases the talents of the local artists by exhibiting their work for two months each summer.

Carrying out this year's theme, "The Magic of Art," were such items as pottery, handcrafted wood, stained glass, clothing of all types, jewelry, paintings and photography.

Although the opening-day crowd was sparse, organizers are confident that the festival will be a success.

"Our first week is always slow," said Tina Arana, director of media relations. Last year, 257,000 attended the festival's run, and Arana said she expects at least that many people to pass through the gates before the event closes Aug. 26.

"We try to provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the arts and culture," Arana said, noting that demonstration booths featuring glass-blowing and sculpting, clay art, face-painting, watercolors and painting are scattered throughout the 2 1/2-acre site.

For instance, free arts and crafts lessons are offered to children 6 and older six times daily on Saturdays and Sundays. During the 45-minute sessions, children can work with watercolor paints, clay and construction paper. On weekday mornings, 3- to 5-year-olds receive half-hour art lessons.

"I just love working with the children," said Linda Clemence, 44, a preschool teacher who has been a fair exhibitor for six years.

The festival also features daily juggling, mime and animal and musical acts.

Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for children under 12 when accompanied by an adult. Passes for the duration of the event may be bought for $15. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. On Wednesday, the festival will be closed for July 4 until 5 p.m.

In Fountain Valley, the Chamber of Commerce's Fiesta got off to its best start ever Friday as more than 4,500 people poured through the carnival gates. Organizers expect that 50,000 people will visit the grounds at Mile Square Park before the event closes Wednesday, Independence Day.

"I came out to check out the girls, go on the rides and get away from my parents," said one 12-year-old youth who was roaming the grounds with two school friends.

Among the main attractions are fair rides, games of chance and assorted vendors and booths. Highlights include an appearance Sunday by characters from "The Simpsons" TV show; a battle of the bands Monday and a Laser Magic and Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza on the final night.

"The chamber started doing it to support its other events and donations to the community," said Fiesta coordinator Joel Vest, noting that the chamber has donated more than $50,000 in scholarships during the fair's eight years.

Daily general admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children ages 6 to 10 and free for children 5 and younger. Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Tuesday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

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