Federal Judge David O. Carter will be the keynote speaker at the Memorial Day ceremonies, which return this year to Monument Point in Heisler Park.
A decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and a member of Laguna's American Legion Post 222, Carter will be at home among the men and women who have served their country as they gather on Monday to honor those who gave their lives to preserve the freedoms Americans cherish.
The 85th annual ceremony conducted by the post, which was founded in Laguna in 1927, will begin at 11 a.m. Monday. Early birds will be entertained by patriotic music, starting at 10:30 a.m.
Last year the ceremony was held at Legion Hall due to park renovations. But wherever it is held, Memorial Day has special meaning for those who served their country and those who lost loved ones due to their service.
"Memorial Day is a time set aside to focus our attention and respect on our fallen comrades who have passed to the 'Post Everlasting' and to honor them," said Post Cmdr. Frank Daniel.
Guests at the ceremony will be welcomed by Daniel, Post Adjutant Richard Moore and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5868 Cmdr. Arnie Silverman.
Mayor Jane Egly, Legion Auxiliary President Diane Connell and VFW Auxiliary President Jackie Heddlesten will also extend greetings.
Chandler Davis will sing the "Star Spangled Banner" and Boy Scout Troop 35 will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the ceremony is the tolling of the bell for post members who have died since the last Memorial Day ceremonies.
Legionaries who have passed to the Post Everlasting include Ed Drollinger, Harry Lawrence, R. B. Dillon, Paul Pon, Lee Rhodes, John Schrom and John C. Ware.
Community organizations that plan to present the traditional floral arrangements are asked to include the name of the group or person making the presentation and to contact Diane Connell at (949) 494-2065.
The ceremony will conclude with a Rifle Salute, "Taps" played by Chad Kanner, a rendition of "Climb the Highest Mountain" by Haley Castuera and remarks by Legionaire David Connell.
Red crepe paper poppies, the recognized Memorial Day flower, will be offered by members of the post auxiliary. Donations benefit the post's programs on behalf of veterans, still in service or in hospitals.
Auxiliary members can be identified by the navy blue hats and jackets adorned with the poppy corsages.
Memorial Day pancake breakfast
Laguna Beach firefighters start flipping flapjacks at 7 a.m. on Memorial Day and keep right on grilling until 10:30 a.m., sometimes longer if pancakes and sausages hold out and the line of hungry folks is long.
"We need to be done in time for people to get to Monument Point," said Sande St. John, who has been organizing the Exchange Club Pancake Breakfasts for 25 years.
It is the locals' traditional acknowledgment of the beginning of the tourist season.
Preparations begin early. Before the sun rises, about 50 Exchange Club volunteers pick up donated pancake mix, sausages, orange juice, coffee and equipment from Las Brisas, the White House, and the Orange Inn and fire up the grills.
"We have added an extra grill this year to accommodate the crowd that seems to get bigger every year," said St John. "And free popcorn has been added to the menu, courtesy of South Coast Theater, which also donated tickets for an opportunity drawing.
Entertainment will include Doug Miller on violin, No Square Theater's LagunaTots, and singer April Walsh. Retired Fire Capt. Eugene D'Isabella will be there with the 1931 Seagraves pumper for kids to climb on or have their pictures taken. Grunt, a 215-pound mastiff, is also expected for photos.
The $5 per-plate-and-beverage benefits local charities and child abuse prevention programs supported by the Exchange Club.
Stars and Stripes Forever
And what would Memorial Day be without the annual performance of the Laguna Beach Concert Band at Main Beach?
The one-hour concert will begin at 12:30 p.m. on the Cobblestones, just enough time to hoof it from Monument Point to Main Beach. Music will range from Sousa to Swing.
Bring a beach chair if you plan to sit and your dancing shoes if you don't.