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Laguna Beach celebrates its 95th birthday at Main Beach Park

Kaden Faber is the first to grab a few Jeni's ice cream cups to help celebrate the 95th birthday of Laguna Beach.
Kaden Faber is the first to grab a few Jeni’s ice cream cups to help celebrate the 95th birthday of Laguna Beach on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Laguna Beach celebrated its 95th birthday as a city Wednesday, as hundreds passed through to mix and mingle with their fellow community members at the cobblestone area of Main Beach Park.

The two-hour event featured live music performances and an early introduction to the town’s new in-house ambulance service.

Attendees got to meet a few of the ambulance operators who will help run the service. A new ambulance with the words “Laguna Beach Fire Department” displayed on its side was backed up to the cobblestones, its rear doors open for visitors to take a look inside.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman, Mayor Sue Kempf and Councilman Peter Blake cut the official cake.
Councilwoman Toni Iseman, Mayor Sue Kempf and Councilman Peter Blake, from left, cut the official cake on the 95th birthday party for Laguna Beach at Main Beach on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Children in attendance received firefighter hats and stickers to play with. The police department also handed out bubble-blowing toys shaped like batons.

The ice cream social had a bit of a Hospitality Night vibe to it, especially when the Laguna Beach Community Jazz Band entertained to begin the afternoon.

“The Community Jazz Band was fantastic,” Mayor Sue Kempf said. “That big band sound for an outdoor event is perfect. We love our music in this town.”

The official birthday cake for the 95th birthday celebration for the city of Laguna Beach, celebrated on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Kempf shared some fun facts about Laguna Beach, noting the city incorporated on June 29, 1927, with a population of 1,900 people. The average annual income of a Laguna Beach resident at the time was $5,306.43, she said.

“Many things have changed over the last 95 years in the city of Laguna Beach, but one thing remains,” Kempf said. “We still enjoy and preserve our public parks — like this one. We protect our beautiful, pristine beaches. We explore tide pools and enjoy the sunsets over the Pacific, like the early artists who recognized Laguna’s charm did in those days gone by.”

Afterward, the Surftones took the stage. They featured Kerry Chester on keyboard and vocals, Matt Quilter on guitar and Duff Paulsen on the drums.

Alexis Braun, a senior recreation supervisor, hands out Jeni's ice cream cups.
Alexis Braun, a senior recreation supervisor, hands out Jeni’s ice cream cups to an anxious crowd to beat the heat during the 95th birthday celebration for Laguna Beach on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

One resident remarked that the Surftones were seen at events all over town, and when Quilter heard that, he said, “We call it the band you can’t get rid of.”

For 42 years, the Surftones have been bringing people the “California experience,” said Quilter, who added the band was honored to play in the city’s 95th anniversary event.

“Here I am 100 years later after I started first learning how to play the guitar,” Quilter said. “There was surf music. That’s the first songs that I learned how to play when I was a kid. Here I am, 100 years later, they pay me to play these songs that I loved when I was a kid.

“I just consider it to be a little gesture from the surf music gods, saying, ‘Hey, you slugged it out all these years playing in bars and stuff, here’s some fun gigs you can do.’”

A guest wears a "#be a greeter" sun hat by local artist Steven "Sli Dawg" Chew.
A guest wears a "#be a greeter” sun hat by local artist Steven “Sli Dawg” Chew, during the 95th birthday celebration for Laguna Beach on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The gathering was held not far from the Greeter’s Corner restaurant, and Michael Minutoli, who in the past decade revived the role of Laguna Beach’s greeter — once officially held by Eiler Larsen — was on the spot to interact with those in attendance.

Minutoli said he is proud to have helped carry on one of the oldest traditions in Orange County.

“If you asked me 12 years ago where I’d be today, there’s no way I could be saying Friday would [mark] my 11th year greeting and [this will be] my 11th Fourth of July to greet Laguna Beach,” Minutoli said. “… There is no better place than where we’re standing today, and I mean that from my heart.”

Guests grab gift bags, compliments of the city, during the 95th birthday celebration for Laguna Beach.
Guests grab gift bags, compliments of the city, during the 95th birthday celebration for Laguna Beach on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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