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For many years, the lack of knowledge and interest in our Festival of

Arts and Pageant of the Masters by our local “live here” citizens has

completely amazed me. What the Festival has done in and for the city of

Laguna Beach, with little praise of recognition, approaches a modern



In 1954, as I was completing a term on the local board of education,

two artist friends asked me if I would consider my appointment to fill a

vacancy on the Festival board. Joe Johraus, then owner of Laguna Lumber,


told me it would be a great way to get to know the real Laguna. I

accepted the appointment and thus generated a 46-year career that, next

to my family, became my greatest lifetime experience.

The deserved pride of the Festival workers is something to marvel at

-- then and now. At the time of my appointment the full-time, paid

employees numbered three. Verner Beck manned the office, Carl Callaway

did everything on the stage, and John Callan was the director/producer of

the Pageant.


Back then the Irvine Bowl was grass and cinders with wood park benches

for seating, and the stage was a green wooden structure much resembling a

barn. The exhibit area was covered with about four inches of shavings

(courtesy of Joey Johraus) and each artist designed and built their own

booth. This, like the present sawdust, did generate quite a bit of


The bowl was the first major improvement with a concrete floor and

steps. This was done “in house” with my company doing the work “at cost.”


Shortly thereafter Don Williamson was employed to design a stage

structure, which Earl Grandy built. This new facility made posible an

entirely new era for the Pageant.

Williamson liked the stage building so much he gave up his

architectural practice to become producer/director of the Pageant for the

next 16 years, and he truly did a wonderful job -- many new innovations.

After Williamson did such a great job with the stage, he was given the

job of designing an administration building for our large staff of 10.

The building was built by Chas Benton and the Festival became a real


Around then Bill Blurock was hired to design the permanent site layout

for the exhibit area and structures. Next Williamson was called upon to

prepare plans for the Tivoli Terrace and Forum Theater. These were

started by Ralph Kinney and finished by my company.

While all these structures and improvements are showing their age,

they are well-designed, structurally sound and serve their purpose well.

All buildings and facilities on the grounds were designed, built and paid

for by the Festival.

In addition, the Festival has given the city of Laguna millions in

rent payments, millions in art promotion grants, millions in tourist

promotion, millions in scholarships and the Main Beach.

While I know our city administration must serve many masters, I still

have faith in the hope that they will not disappoint our 500 faithful

volunteers and loyal staff in their prayers for a fair and equitable

lease -- soon!

David Young

Laguna Beach