The site served as Laguna Beach’s community park for many years. From the 1940s to the 1960s the park was used year-round for a variety of events, including the community Easter Egg Hunt, carnivals, the Goat Show, and the Scottish Festival. In the ’60s, with the Festival’s continuing success and popularity, the event was expanded to six weeks, and the temporary wooden artist booths that were installed each summer were replaced with permanent structures.
From its humble beginnings as a means of promoting and sustaining the fine arts in Laguna Beach, the Festival of Arts has matured into a world-renowned cultural institution drawing visitors from far and wide. The Festival – with its premier attraction, the Pageant of the Masters – has shared its success, awarding millions of dollars over the years in the form of scholarships to art students and grants to art and cultural organizations, and hosting cultural events on the grounds throughout the year. The Festival of Arts and the City of Laguna Beach have grown up together, becoming inseparable in the eyes of residents and of the many patrons who return year after year to enjoy the world-class art of the Festival and unique tableaux vivants of the Pageant.
An attempt in 2000 to move the Festival and Pageant away from Laguna Beach was met with swift and widespread resistance. Happily the will of the membership, artists and patrons prevailed, and the 80-year old tradition shall remain squarely where it belongs – nestled in the seaside hills of Laguna Beach – for the enjoyment of generations to come.
The Festival of Arts gratefully acknowledges the extensive input of lifelong Laguna Beach resident Belinda Blacketer, of the Laguna Beach Historical Society, in the preparation of this article.