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Our Laguna: Festive gatherings kick off holiday season

Folks in Laguna don’t need a calendar to know the holidays are upon us.

The annual Laguna Beach Woman’s Club luncheon where Tarnished Treasures are donated and bought ushers in Hospitality Night the first Friday in December, considered by many to be the official opening of the season.

Donated items were scooped up, while Carol Reynolds played Christmas carols and musical favorites on a nifty keyboard that performed like a regular piano.

Singers included Mayor Elizabeth Pearson, who sings carols in German, which she learned as a child when her family was stationed in Germany. She sang carols at the Castle Barbarosso outside of Kaiserslautern.


Club President Gayle Waite welcomed members and their guests to the luncheon.

Past club and California NOW President Kim Salter gave thanks for blessings of friends, homes and the climate — it was a balmy, clear day before the rains came, which are sorely needed.

Waite gave thanks for the committee, of which she was a member, and volunteers who put on the luncheon: Sande St. John, Connie Burlin, Michaelyn Stout, Donna Le Claire, Donna “2” Gee, Andrea Miller, Laura Donahue, Katherine Delpdew, Nancy Joseph, Diane and David Connell, Sandy Thornton (who made the truffles at each plate), Pauline Walpin, Magda Herlicsha, Anne Wood, Anne Kopinski, Jean Law and Stephany Skenderian. Jahn Levitt created the floral arrangements for the tables and the mantle. Faye Chapman took photographs, which will be posted on the club’s website.

The luncheon was catered by the White House.


“Platters of hors d’oeuvres were passed the minute people arrived and the champagne flowed the whole luncheon,” St. John said.

Skenderian put in some plugs for upcoming club events — a Women’s Forum presentation on the Sandwich Generation, Jan. 21; a collaboration with Laguna Books for Ladies and Gentleman focused on the “The Art of Racing in the Rain” — Skenderian will provide tissues; and the annual Outgoing Mayor’s Luncheon, honoring Kelly Boyd for his leadership in a tumultuous year.

The luncheon also was a celebration of Iris Adams’ 91st birthday. Adams is a longtime member of the club known for her generosity when asked to donate her art for fundraisers. Club official presented Adams with a cake and a life-time membership. The whole crowd sang “Happy Birthday.”

The luncheon didn’t wrap up the holiday season at the club. Today, low-income families will be choosing gifts from donated items.

Hearts are all aglow.


Hospitality Night by all accounts had its biggest crowd ever to watch Santa Claus switch on the lights draped over the pepper tree in front of City Hall.

There are 16,000 bulbs — all new LEDs that use 15% of the power the old incandescents used.


Santa traversed the town in a city fire engine before arriving at City Hall. Chamber of Commerce officers and guests followed in a trolley.

On board: chamber President Jeff Redecker, chamber Executive Director Rose Hancock, former Chamber President Dennis Junka, Gregg Abel and Andy and City Clerk Martha Anderson.

A police motorcycle escort did an exceptional job of controlling traffic to keep Santa rolling through town on schedule.

The route went from South to North Laguna, giving passengers glimpses of stores decorated for the season, which makes them eligible for the Coastline Pilot’s Holiday Window Contest — don’t forget to vote.

Downtown stores were open for browsers and buyers.

Musical entertainment was provided by the Laguna Beach Community Concert Band, Laguna Presbyterian Church bell ringers, the Thurston Middle School band, Lagunatic singers, Miss Linda’s Bell Ringers, Annaliese’s Choir, Steamroller, the Laguna Beach High School Band and the San Clemente Scots Bagpipers.

“We had the biggest, most enthusiastic crowed ever at our concert,” said Reynolds, a founder of the concert band that numbers in the 60s. “I loved it.”

The bagpipers continued playing after the shops closed at the Marine Room — Boyd’s personal contribution to Laguna’s biggest party of the year.



Year-round tourism is the lifeblood of Laguna’s business community and hospitality industry. On Tuesday, the Laguna Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau hosted a holiday party to honor the businesses, services, city officials and attractions that bring those tourists to town.

“This is a social occasion to say thank you,” said bureau President Karyn Philippsen, who welcomed guests.

Guests were given five tickets as bids on prizes donated by some of the honorees.

Prize donors included La Sirena Grill, Sorrento Grille, Nirvana Grille, Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen, Sundried Tomato, Mark’s, the Lumberyard and WatermarcCQ restaurants, Laguna Culinary Arts, the Loft, the Casa Laguna Inn, which won a gold medal at the Select Register of high-end B&Bs; 2008 breakfast cook-off, the White House, the Cottage, Ruby’s Auto Diner, 230 Forest, Gina’ s Pizza, Madison Square Café and Garden, Mozambque, Blue Laguna, Tivoli Terrace and Laguna Canyon Winery.

Hostelries that donated prizes: Manzanita Cottages, Art Hotel, Aliso Creek Inn, Inn at Laguna, the Art Hotel.

Also: the Festival of Arts, Pageant of the Masters, Sawdust Festival, the Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Art Museum, Studio Art Gallery, Salt and Fine Art, Fawn Memories, Fiori, Gem Mountain Studios, Thalia Surf Shop, Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari and Pacific Marine Mammal Center.

Out of town donors included the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park ad Universal Studios.

Among the guests: Festival of Arts board member Fred Sattler and artist Jan Sattler; Jim and Festival board member and Arts Commission Chairwoman Pat Kollenda, Sawdust Festival General Manager Tom Klingenmeier, past chamber President David Sanford, city Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl, Steven and Design Review Board member Caren Liuzzi, Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman, Councilwoman Verna Rollinger and Assistant City Manager John Pietig.

Also: Mission Hospital Chief Executive Peter Bastone, Deputy City Clerk Lizette Chel, John and Lu Campbell, kayak entrepreneur Billy Fried, attorney David Kennelly, former Festival of the Arts board member John Hoover, Rebecca Barber, George Nelson and Realtor Bob Chapman — Faye was again taking pictures.

“We appreciate Bobby Fader and June Neptune from Tivoli Too for making this lovely event possible,” said Judy Bijlani, bureau executive director. “This was our best attended event — at least in the five years I have been here.

More than 120 people attended. Fader and Fiori owner Bonnie Wolin co-chaired the event.


Don’t forget the Winter Fantasy, where unique gifts are the norm. “A World of Art and Imagination” features the works of 173 artists and craftspeople.

The show will be open until Sunday on the Sawdust Festival Grounds, 935 Laguna Canyon Frontage Road. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children 6 to 12 and free for children 5 and younger. For more information, call (949) 494- 3030.

The Craft Guild will also have holiday gifts at the December show next weekend.

And remember to stop and look at the artist designed Holiday Palettes that decorate Laguna’s streets in Only in Laguna style.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail