Sawdust Festival turns country

Patty Booker may have grown up half a continent away from Nashville, but as a child in Southern California, she had no trouble finding country legends in the neighborhood.

On weekends, Booker's mother often took her and her sisters to sit in the audience of "Cal's Corral," a variety TV show sponsored by car dealer Cal Worthington. For Booker, who later launched a singing career of her own, those days in the audience were a revelation.


"My mom had four girls at the time — eventually we got a brother — but she'd take us out there on Sundays, and we'd just enjoy the music," she said. "It was wonderful. People like Buck Owens would come through, and Glen Campbell, the Canadian Sweethearts. It was great."

If any such country devotees live around Laguna Beach — and if they own cowboy hats and other traditional garb — they may want to stop by the Sawdust Art Festival on Saturday. The summer art festival began the annual tradition of Country Western Day two years ago, and this weekend will mark its third go-round.


Sawdust spokeswoman Cynthia Fung said the festival began offering themed days seven years ago, with Beatles Day and Green Day (named after the environment, not the band) among the first. Country Western Day was inspired by musical performers like Booker and Michael Ubaldini, who have performed at Sawdust for years.

"It was a good, enjoyable theme where people could easily get dressed up with cowboy hats and boots," Fung said.

Joining Booker on the performance stages will be Ubaldini's band, Michael and the Lonesome Playboys, as well as Creekwood, Felisha Kieswetter, Grant Langston, Jukebox Scandal and James Setterholm. The festival will also offer saloon specials for all Bootlegger's beers, with 16-ounce servings of Old World Hefeweizen, Rustic Rye IPA and Black Phoenix going for $5.

While Booker and other musicians take the stage throughout the day, Sawdust artists will offer Western-themed crafts such as leather key rings, Gold Rush maps and rodeo paper-bag puppets. Festival attendees are invited to dress up in their best Western garb.


Jane Hilary, the festival's art activities manager, delved into her passion for theater to find the inspiration for the Gold Rush map class. Every year since 1999, she's acted in Sid Fleischman's "By the Great Horn Spoon!" — a play that involves a treasure hunt — in the Laguna Playhouse's TheatreReach touring children's program.

Hilary, a native of England, remembers the allure that the West can have for children.

"I know when I was growing up that the romance of the Western culture, even growing up in England, was just so powerful," she said. "At that time, what we got on television was Westerns."

If You Go

What: Country Western Day

Where: Sawdust Art Festival, 935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $8.50 for adults, $7 for seniors 65 and older, $4 for children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under


Information: (949) 494-3030 or