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O.C.'s Sawdust Art Festival to go on in July as a weekend outdoor marketplace

Laura and Yoshi Uematsu and Missy Pershin shop at the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival in Laguna Beach.
Laura and Yoshi Uematsu and Missy Pershin, center, look over the Brennan Ceramics display in 2019 at the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival in Laguna Beach.
(Spencer Grant)

The show will go on in Laguna Beach for the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival, though it will take on a different look this summer as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Organizers announced last week that the festival will morph into a weekend outdoor marketplace as opposed to the event’s typical summer festival, which took place last year between late June to September, due to state and county health regulations. This year’s event will feature more than 100 artists in rotation throughout the summer.

For the record:

1:16 PM, Jun. 16, 2020An earlier version of this story misstated when the Sawdust Art Festival was supposed to open. It was scheduled to open in June, not in April.

Unlike last year’s almost 200 uniquely designed booths, the outdoor weekend marketplace will have 46 spaces available to artists on rotation.

“Our first priority is the health and well-being of our artists, staff and patrons,” Monica Prado, president of the festival’s board of directors, said in a statement.

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The festival previously had submitted a plan to the city in hopes of operating as usual. Those plans include reductions to crowd capacities, operational hours, concessions, changes to signage and installation of Plexiglass windows between ticket stands, sales and information booths.

Prado said those plans fell short of reopening criteria.

Eight deaths and 167 new cases are reported countywide in the latest COVID-19 update released by the Orange County Health Care Agency on Friday.

Organizers announced the delay of an April opening and gave full refunds to participating artists in a move the board called the “Sawdust Summer Artists Resilience Act of 2020.”

Organizers decided to charge no fees, regardless of whether or not the festival could be held on schedule or would need to be delayed because of public-safety requirements.

“Knowing that even a modified version of our annual festival would not meet reopening criteria, our board of directors quickly pivoted in a different direction,” Prado said. “Artists are innovators, we focused our passion and creativity on finding a way to offer something safe and meaningful for our artists, community and guests.”

Festival organizers said they plan to open the marketplace in July. More details and online ticket sales will be available before the end of the month at sawdustfestival.org.

Nguyen writes for Times Community News.


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