We certainly hope the lessons learned two years ago are still fresh in
Laguna Beach and the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters
belong together. It is a marriage that, like any other, will hit rough
patches -- as it did two years ago when the festival’s board threatened
to move to San Clemente, the festival’s artists threatened to recall the
board and Laguna’s long-beloved and most original art form became
front-page news for all the wrong reasons.
But it is a marriage that is too strong and vital to dissolve.
Recently, residents who live near -- or more precisely, above -- the
festival grounds complained to the city about noise there. They have
complaints about traffic and parking and say that while they were assured
they would be kept informed about changes and updates to the festival,
they were told nothing about city plans to allow an eight-week classic
music concert series this summer.
They are feeling vitriolic enough to call the festival “a sacred cow”
and say that its leaders feel they can do whatever they want. It’s the
kind of rhetoric that was being tossed around so freely in 2000.
The neighbors are right about two of their complaints. Do the festival
and the pageant bring traffic to town? Of course. Do they lead to noise?
But are they worth having in town? Absolutely. And this point needs to
be central to any discussion -- OK, more likely argument -- that takes
place among residents, city leaders and festival officials. It is
imperative that all sides be intent on maintaining this tradition so
there is no repeat in the spring and summer of 2002 of the long,
distressing spring and summer of 2000.
If city leaders have been less than forthcoming to these residents,
they need to open the lines of communication so those most affected by
the festival know about changes. Pageant officials cannot be hauty and
dismissive of their neighbors. The residents need to understand that
living in Laguna Beach, for all the joyful benefits, is not always
And all of them should share one goal: finding what is the best
solution that keeps the pageant and the festival alive and well.