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City Council has zeroed in on their man; Dave Kiff to be named city manager

Exciting news for the City of Laguna Beach! On Tuesday’s upcoming City Council agenda, under Regular Business, is an item recommending the adoption of a resolution calling for the “appointing (of) Dave Kiff as City Manager.”

For those of you who know Dave, I think you’ll admit how fortunate the city is to attract someone of that quality to the position. First off, he’s been a long-time resident of Laguna Beach prior to moving north a few years back. He also, in my estimation, has a prior history as a beloved, knowledgeable and respected city manager for Newport Beach, and should be a welcome addition to City Hall.

He is also able to draw on experiences that are unique to cities such as Laguna Beach, which include waterfront issues, lifeguard first responders, as a destination, with traffic concerns and more.

According to Kiff, “I’m looking forward to working on important projects and challenges with the staff, community and council. Laguna is a great town and we’ve missed being a part of it. Tom (Lochner) and I are both excited to be coming back.”

Mayor Sue Kempf added, “Dave Kiff is an experienced city manager and as a former resident he has the added advantage of knowing our city well. Dave is a great choice for Laguna and I look forward to working with him for years to come.”

Courtesy of Dave Kiff

New Laguna Beach City Manager Dave Kiff who will be fully confirmed at Tuesday’s council meeting

Many leaders from Newport Beach also appeared excited upon hearing of the news:

–Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill added, “Congratulations to Laguna Beach on recruiting an experienced city manager who will no doubt bring stability. We look forward to a continued and prosperous partnership between our cities.”

Homer Bludau, former city manager of Newport Beach, who employed Dave for a number of years as his #2: “Dave is one of the absolute finest city managers and public officials I have ever known. His integrity is absolute. His compassion is vast, and he believes in public service and doing the right thing for the right reasons with all his heart.

“This is a great city manager appointment for Laguna Beach, as he knows the city so very well.”

–Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President & CEO and former Mayor of Newport Beach Steve Rosansky said, “The residents of Laguna Beach should be ecstatic that they have managed to hire one of the top city managers in the State of California.

“During the years I worked with him, Dave proved to be a compassionate and caring administrator who had the respect of the City Council, his co-workers and the people of Newport Beach. He’s always all-in on any task he takes on.”

–“Dave Kiff was one of the most beloved city managers in Newport Beach history. Laguna Beach residents are fortunate to have a city leader with his considerable experience, intellect and exceptional character,” said Nancy Scarbrough, successful business executive, long-time activist, instrumental member of SPON (Still Protecting Our Newport) and a 2024 City Council candidate.

But no one conveyed their excitement quite like Susan Skinner, an activist with residences in both Newport and Laguna, “WOO-HOO! Dave is an excellent city manager and Laguna is damn lucky to have gotten him. He listens well, seeks to understand and is one of the most ethical and honest men I know.

“The added plus is that his city updates are wonderfully amusing. I’m delighted that Laguna snagged him!”

Kiff is expected to start in early May, a date which should be shared following Tuesday’s City Council formalities.

• • •

That’s not all, there are other changes announced around City Hall – our own Sara Hall informed me that “during yesterday’s Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee meeting, Acting City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Gavin Curran said there will be a change to the interim position for community development director. Mark McAvoy will head back to his position as public works director and the city will be bringing in another temporary CDD, David Crabtree, who retired from the same role in Brea in 2019. Crabtree has filled in as interim CDD for a few other jurisdictions and is expected to start in the position in Laguna Beach on Monday.”

Curran added that they also hope to fill the full-time community development director position by summer.

• • •

Tuesday (April 2), a number of members in the community were treated to a wonderful State of the City Luncheon, organized by the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and the City of Laguna Beach, at Montage Laguna Beach. It’s a nice combination.

The gathering included many of the city’s who’s who, including elected officials, city staff, business owners, school leaders and top officials from our non-profit world.

Mayor Kempf offered a well-done video presentation outlining “highlights and challenges” of the past year.

Fortunately, for those of you who couldn’t or didn’t attend, the complete video is here.

View the video presentation that Mayor Sue Kempf made available to the community last Tuesday at Montage Laguna Beach

Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce chairman, then conducted a Q&A panel of community leaders, including Police Chief Jeff Calvert, Fire Chief Niko King, Marine Safety Captain Kai Bond, Public Works Director Mark McAvoy and Acting City Manager Gavin Curran.

Questions submitted prior to the luncheon and during the luncheon were entertained.

The mayor has also included her speech elsewhere today in Stu News Laguna in her letter titled Inside City Hall.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

(L-R) Chamber Chairman Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, Mayor Sue Kemp and City Communications Manager Cassie Walder

• • •

The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach is earmarking a $6,000 grant bestowed to them by the Festival of Arts Foundation for their Arts for All program.

The Arts for All program will “ensure that every child in attendance has access to the transformative power of art.” The program helps foster young people’s creativity, self-confidence and ability to contribute to the world.

For more information about the art activities, contact Mar Stash at 949.494.2535, or mars@bgclaguna.org, or visit the club’s website at www.bgclagunabeach.org.

• • •

A controversy erupted earlier this week at Laguna Beach High School following the distribution of nude photos created by wrongly using artificial intelligence, falsely giving the appearance that the photos reflected several local students.

The school and district are undertaking a full investigation and education program for all students discussing the potential dangers involved in using AI incorrectly.

Due to school privacy guidelines, disciplinary actions are not public.

The incident is beyond acceptable under any circumstances.

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Inside City Hall

Dear Laguna Beach Community,

It is my privilege to share with you highlights, challenges and aspirations that shape our community in this year’s State of the City Address.

Before telling you about some of our plans for the future, I would like to take a moment to highlight a few notable accomplishments from this past year.

Our city has made substantial investments in service enhancements through strategic asset acquisitions. We acquired the former St. Catherine of Siena School in South Laguna, which became the Laguna Beach Community and Recreation Center. More on this a bit later. We completed the purchase of a property in South Laguna – the first step toward constructing a modern fire station in the area. And yes, I promise it will include a public restroom!

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Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach Mayor Sue Kempf

The acquisition and the city’s operation of South Laguna Beaches and Parks have seen significant improvements in service delivery. Last year, in South Laguna alone, our Marine Safety Department made more than 2,300 rescues, 73,000 ordinance advisements and 193,000 safety contacts.

The city’s mobile mental health program, launched in August 2023, has made significant strides, averaging more than 400 community contacts per month. It connects individuals with mental health and substance abuse crisis intervention specialists, reducing the strain on public safety resources and allowing redirection toward other community needs.

Our Police Department remains dedicated to addressing loud vehicle noise and other quality-of-life issues in our neighborhoods, beaches and parks, particularly those heavily impacted by visitors. Despite the nationwide challenges in police recruitment, the leadership and diligence of our police department, supported by the city’s human resources team, have fully staffed the park ranger program. I am confident this program will continue to address quality-of-life issues for the community and residents.

Now here is a big win! The Fire Department introduced our in-house ambulance service in mid-2022, and has notably enhanced provision of care in the community by reducing emergency response times. In 2023, the department reported an average ambulance response time of seven minutes, which is eight minutes faster than the Orange County benchmark for ambulance response.

To meet the many recreational interests of our community, we offered programs that engaged more than 8,500 people in 2023 – including adding three more permanent pickleball courts at Alta Laguna Park. We also recently celebrated the opening of Moulton Meadows Park Dog Play Area, a vibrant, pet-friendly addition for all our community’s dog lovers. In our small town, we hosted more than 250 live music performances, and our Arts Commission brought us Music in the Park, Circus Bella, Friday Night Flicks, Band on the Bus and procured new and temporary art throughout the city.

View the video presentation that Mayor Sue Kempf made to the community last Tuesday (April 2) at Montage Laguna Beach

The community embraced Laguna Local, the city’s free, on-demand, transit service, with an impressive 63,000 boardings in its first year and we hope to expand to the end of Laguna Canyon Road. In support of our local businesses, the City Council extended the Outdoor Dining and Parklet program, popular for residents and visitors alike.

The city continues to support nonprofits through the Community Assistance Grant Program. This program has made a meaningful impact on the community by contributing more than $1 million to local non-profit organizations over the past five years.

The city maintains a strong financial position with a balanced budget for the fiscal year 2023-24 and is preparing for the anticipated “slow growth” economy in the coming year.

Soon, new leadership will assume the positions of City Manager and Community Development Director. While change is inevitable, our city staff remains committed to serving you – the residents and business community – at the highest level possible. On behalf of my council colleagues, I extend heartfelt appreciation to each member of our team as they continue to ensure the seamless continuity of services with the dedication we have come to expect from our city team.

While it is good to reflect on recent achievements, we now turn our focus to what lies ahead for our city. Let’s talk about what we plan to do next.

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SchoolPower’s Gala is an “Above & Beyond” success for Laguna schools

SchoolPower, Laguna Beach’s Education Foundation, hosted their 38th Annual Gala Above & Beyond on March 23 at Montage Laguna Beach. Chaired by SchoolPower trustees Ashley Brown and Liz Black, the event grossed more than $400,000 for Laguna Beach Unified School District’s four schools.

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Photos by Candice Dartez Photography

(L-R) “Above & Beyond” event co-chairs Ashley Brown and Liz Black at SchoolPower’s 38th Annual Gala

“When a community works together to realize a mutual goal, magic is created. And magic is what SchoolPower has created with its commitment to improving both the education and well-being of Laguna Beach students,” said Liz Black, Thurston Middle School parent and event co-chair.

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(L-R) Thurston Middle School teacher April Coffman, LBUSD Superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria and Holly Viloria, LBHS Principal Dr. Jason Allemann, Allison Keller and LBUSD Director of Social Emotional Support Dr. Michael Keller with Top of the World Principal Meghan Schooler

More than 320 attendees, decked out in “gilded glamour” attire, enjoyed Champagne and cocktails in a courtyard glowing with early evening light. Guests perused a wide selection of silent auction items including restaurant gift certificates, local fitness and boutique items, jewelry from Fredric H. Rubel, sports tickets, weekend getaways and much more. Event attendees, joined by SchoolPower supporters outside the room, furiously “bid for the kids” on their phones. Guests with raffle tickets whirled a colorful spin wheel, shouting with surprise when they scored prizes including gorjana treasures and premium tequila.

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SchoolPower President Iva Pawling delivers a heartfelt speech at SchoolPower’s 38th Annual Gala

After guests were seated for dinner, SchoolPower Executive Director Sarah Durand spoke on a podium beneath an illuminated hot air balloon. Durand recognized the elementary, middle and high school educator recipients of three exemplary SchoolPower Grants. Her presentation was followed by LBUSD Superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria, who toasted the exceptional opportunities and innovative programs that go “above and beyond” for Laguna Beach students.

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SchoolPower Executive Director Sarah Durand addresses guests

During the live auction portion of the event, guests bid on compelling packages, including stays at Montage Big Sky, Aspen, Napa and Ireland, as well as a diamond tennis necklace from gorjana, a suite for Monster Jam at Angel Stadium, the sought-after In-N-Out truck, a harbor cruise and Mastro’s dinner, and a dinner party at The Loft at Montage Laguna Beach.

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LBHS sophomore Zealan Munsey tells the audience about his journey through the Laguna Unified School District

Student speaker Zealan Munsey, a LBHS sophomore, captivated the audience with his articulate gratitude for Laguna Beach schools. SchoolPower President Iva Pawling spoke of the importance of SchoolPower’s core programs – SchoolPower Grants, the After School Program and services at the Family Resource Center – and their impact on students.

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Jason Reidel offers a Fund-a-Need match while Gorjana Reidel cheers him on

Brent Martini pledged $10,000 to support the journalistic passions of students like Munsey, then emphasized the importance of open discourse in today’s world with an additional $25,000 donation. Jason Riedel, co-founder of gorjana, generously offered to match bids of $1,000. In response to Riedel, the ballroom buzzed with laughter and zealously raised paddles.

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(L-R) Katie MacGillivray, Greg MacGillivray, Dennis Berryman, Barbara MacGillivray, Carol Berryman and Erin Berryman show multiple generations of family support for SchoolPower

“We’re so grateful to have the community’s support in carrying our vision forward,” said SchoolPower president Iva Pawling. “What a huge and humbling success when we all work together.”

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LBUSD elementary school students greet guests

By the end of the night, guests and organizers had proudly achieved above and beyond SchoolPower’s fundraising goal. “We are thrilled with the success of this year’s event,” said SchoolPower Executive Director Sarah Durand. “From our supporters’ incredible energy and generosity to Montage’s excellent service and cuisine, it was a spectacular evening to benefit Laguna Beach students.”

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(L-R) Steve and Kristin Samuelian, Carol and Dennis Berryman, and Joe and Jane Hanauer

SchoolPower is thankful to the 2024 Gala sponsors who helped make the event possible: Mays Dermatology, gorjana, Fredric H. Rubel Jewelers, Montage International, RNDC, Angels Baseball Foundation, Candace Dartez Photography, Edward Flower and Tim Bina.

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A room full of happy bidders for a cause at SchoolPower’s 38th Annual Gala

SchoolPower is the parent volunteer-based, non-profit education foundation that has raised money for Laguna Beach public schools since 1981. SchoolPower’s mission is to enrich the education and support the well-being of all children in the Laguna Beach Unified School District. Through SchoolPower Grants, the Family Resource Center and the After School Program, SchoolPower supports academics, athletics, visual and performing arts, music, student experiences, social and emotional wellness and community connections. Learn more about SchoolPower at https://lbschoolpower.org/.

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Laguna Beach County Water District honored

Laguna Beach County Water District (district) has announced that it was recently honored for financial stability efforts by being awarded the prestigious California Society of Municipal Finance Officers (CSFMO) Meritorious Award for Operating Budgeting for 2023.

“It is an honor to be recognized for the efforts the district is taking to ensure rate payer money is spent wisely,” said Keith Van Der Maaten, Laguna Beach County Water District general manager. “It is a commitment from all levels, including the district’s board, commission, management and staff, as we continue our efforts to meet the highest principles of transparency in financial reporting.”

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Courtesy of LBCWD

(L-R) LBCWD General Manager Keith Van Der Maaten, LBCWD Manager of Financial and Administrative Services Brian Jewett, Ph.D. and Laguna Beach Mayor and LBCWD Board President Sue Kempf

Founded in 1957, the CSMFO is a statewide organization serving all California municipal finance professionals. The CSMFO Budget Awards Program is designed to recognize those agencies whose budget documents meet certain state-wide standards and requirements considered to be of the highest quality. The award represents significant accomplishment by a government and its leadership in meeting high standards and setting an example by encouraging others in their efforts to achieve and maintain an appropriate standard of excellence.

The district’s annual budget was judged by an impartial panel, which determined that it embodied the high standards of the program including demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the budget document.

“This honor validates our dedication and hundreds of hours of work on behalf of the residents we serve,” said Brian Jewett, Ph.D., the district’s financial and administrative services manager. “Staff showed great focus and determination in preparing a budget document that serves as an excellent planning, financial management and public education tool.”

Laguna Beach County Water District provides water service to 19,000 residents within an 8.5-square-mile area of Laguna Beach. The district’s mission is to furnish a high quality, reliable water supply in a financially responsible manner, while promoting water-use efficiency.

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The Ranch at Laguna Beach hosted their 3rd Annual Golf Tournament to honor First Responders

In appreciation of the unparalleled excellence of both the Laguna Beach Police and Fire Associations, The Ranch at Laguna Beach hosted their third annual golf tournament and dinner reception this past Monday, April 1 to showcase gratitude for the selfless commitment and ongoing support of local first responders.

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Photos courtesy of The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Fire beat Police in the 3rd Annual Tournament

The resort was honored to welcome first responders for a fun, Laguna-style day of canyon golf followed by a BBQ in the ballroom, as a thank you from the residents of Laguna Beach. Friendly rivalry and a good amount of smack talk was expected.

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On the tee with the picturesque canyon as the green’s backdrop

“We were honored to host these local heroes who keep us safe and make Laguna the place that it is,” said Mark Christy, managing partner of The Ranch.

The tournament took place at The Ranch at Laguna Beach Golf Course – the only golf course in Laguna Beach – at 2 p.m. Situated in the Aliso and Wood Canyons, the nine-hole course offers the ultimate playing experience with stunning views and elevation changes on each fairway.

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Feast for a king

First responders were invited to participate in a two-person scramble involving a team score. Three clubs were recommended throughout the tournament, and if golfers played barefoot, they received a mulligan.

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A delicious BBQ awaited hungry golfers in the ballroom

The day’s results? Fire beat Police in the 3rd Annual Tournament, making the record now Fire 2 and Police 1.

Hosted by The Ranch at Laguna Beach, Laguna’s first responders enjoyed a BBQ dinner reception in the resort’s elegant ballroom following the golf tournament.

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Barefoot players received a mulligan

Focusing on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, offerings on the menu included short rib and black bean chili with cornbread croutons along with baked mac and cheese with smoked gouda and roasted poblano for starters and sides. Entrees included Santa Maria tri tip with Fresno chimichurri, BBQ ribs with peach BBQ sauce, and cedar plank salmon in a honey mustard glaze. Dessert options providing the perfect ending to the meal were double chocolate brownies and mini-N.Y. cheesecakes.

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The Sacramento Chronicles


April 5, 2024

Hello Laguna Beach!

In Sacramento, committee hearings on 2,100+ proposed bills are in full swing. I spend much of my time meeting with groups and individuals advocating their various legislative issues coming before my committees. This month, we will face a major deadline: All bills with a cost impact to the state must be voted through a policy committee by April 26.

This week, I was added to a seventh committee: Privacy and Consumer Protection. I have replaced Assemblymember Vince Fong, who is running for Congress. I am looking forward to working with a whole new area of the law.

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Photos courtesy of the Office of Assemblymember Diane Dixon

Assemblywoman Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach)

For me, a typical day consists of committee hearings overlapping with one another as we all scurry from one meeting to another. I am either presenting my own bill, serving as a committee member, or both. A lot of steps are achieved in this process walking back and forth between the Capitol building and our legislative offices across the street. I have hit 10,000 steps nearly every day, but who’s counting? On a more serious note, my staff and I are working hard to push my bill package through the process. Below are several of my bills to highlight for you this month:

AB 1931, or Kayleigh’s Law, will allow victims of heinous crimes to seek a lifetime injunction against their perpetrator. Current law allows for temporary restraining orders, or protective orders, in cases of domestic violence, harassment, elder abuse and other crimes to protect victims. These protective orders only provide short-term relief and require a victim to face their perpetrator in court every time the order is close to expiration. This bill will provide critical protections for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The bill is currently awaiting a hearing date with the Assembly Public Safety Committee. Two weeks ago I held a press conference on my bill and several news outlets picked it up. You can watch it here. This is an important bill to every victim of sexual abuse.

AB 2121 – California has 1,801 licensed alcoholism and substance use treatment facilities (aka sober living or recovery homes) statewide, with 331 of these facilities located in Orange County. This bill would provide consistency for adult alcoholism and substance use recovery or treatment facilities with all other state-licensed group homes. It will protect existing neighborhoods, in addition to residents recovering in state-licensed group homes, by ensuring with distancing requirements there is not an overconcentration of these facilities in one neighborhood. This bill has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Health and is awaiting a hearing date.

AB 2626 will extend for 10 years the Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) compliance dates for local governments for their medium- and heavy-duty vehicles as required in the Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation. This extension would allow ZEV and battery manufacturers to advance technologies to address issues specific to these specialty fleet vehicles. Unfortunately, the Assembly Transportation Committee has indicated that it does not plan to set this bill for a hearing and instead encourages cities and agencies to work directly with the California Air Resources Board. I do not agree this is the best solution for our cities (or small and large businesses).

Next month I will update you on any bills successfully making it through their policy committees. There is progress!

In the district, I was thrilled to celebrate Women’s History Month. I honored Marcia Manker as my 2024 Woman of the Year. Manker serves as the current CEO for MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills and Orange Coast Center in Fountain Valley, which are leading acute-care hospitals serving the communities of Orange County. As CEO, she is helping to revolutionize women’s healthcare in south Orange County with the new MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center Women’s Health Pavilion targeted to open this summer. Additionally, Manker oversees all hospital operations, strategy development and business initiatives. With a commitment to mentoring other women, she embodies everything this award stands for. I am delighted to honor her with this recognition. Congratulations, Marcia Manker!

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Assemblymember Diane Dixon (R) presents Marcia Manker, CEO for MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills and Orange Coast Center in Fountain Valley, with recognition as Assembly District 72’s 2024 Woman of the Year

Mark your Calendars for Earth Day! This year, Earth Day falls on Saturday, April 22. I look forward to celebrating and protecting the future of my beautiful district by volunteering at a local beach clean-up event. If you would like to give back to your community, be sure to check out these volunteer events: www.orangecounty.net/html/earthday.html.

Assembly District 72 Non-profit Recognition. Do you know a non-profit organization making a difference in your community? Help me select one to honor by nominating them for California Nonprofits Day. Nominations close Tuesday, April 9, so please fill this form out: 2024 Non-Profit of the Year Nomination Form (ca.gov).

Not receiving invitations to my events? Send an email to assemblymember.dixon@assembly.ca.gov to be added to our distribution list or visit my website: Diane Dixon website. Be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and X.

Thank you Stu News for keeping our local residents informed! I am honored to reach Stu News readers with highlights about my life and times serving you in Sacramento. Until next month – be well!

Diane Dixon is a two-term Newport Beach City Councilmember and two-time Mayor. She is currently serving her first term in Sacramento.

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The Plant Man: a visit to Anza-Borrego State Park

By Steve Kawaratani

“Wildflowers aren’t meant to be cut and tamed. They’re meant to be loved & admired.” –Anthony T. Hincks

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Photos courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

Steve Kawaratani

Leaving behind our springtime visit with Cooper in Palm Desert, a literature festival in Bombay Beach and dinner with friends in Indio, we headed southeast through the Coachella Valley, towards Anza-Borrego State Park, in search of late March wildflowers. While we were likely a couple weeks late for the peak superbloom, I was confident we would find abundant desert wildflowers once we turned on S22 towards Borrego Springs, due to significant autumn and winter rainfall.

The Coachella Valley’s farmland is among the important crop-growing regions in California, known for its citrus, dates, bell peppers, lettuce and grapes. Portions of the highway are filled with the musky scent of marijuana, legally grown in desert greenhouses. The vast areas of cultivation are irrigated in part with Colorado River water. Due to past drought and increased population demands, water is a major conservation issue with adjacent states and Mexico, and the reason the shrinking Salton Sea is no longer replenished with fresh water.

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Desert Badlands on the road to Anza-Borrego State Park

As we entered the desert foothills, the vast arid region transformed into a badlands, a type of dry terrain that has been deeply eroded by water and wind. These areas can be appreciated at the many off highway viewpoints, where steep slopes and minimal vegetation create an uncluttered, but artistic backdrop.

Entering the Anza-Borrego State Park, we were treated to the beauty of desert sunflowers, purple sand verbena, desert lilies and countless other wildflowers that transformed the landscape into a floral oasis. The desert’s unique climate, coupled with abundant winter and spring rain, nurtured a remarkable diversity of blossoms in the desert. We took our time to wander through this majestic display, looking for other botanical treasures like the majestic ocotillo.

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Sand verbena thrives in sandy soil just off the highway

As we delighted in the beauty of the wildflowers, we stayed on designated paths to respect the fragile ecosystem; one must be mindful of the delicate balance that sustains these remarkable wildflowers. By leaving their habitat undisturbed, we ensure the survival and breathtaking displays for future travelers.

As April greets us with its warmth, nature’s magical carpet still unfolds in Anza-Borrego, but not for long. Only a few hours from Laguna, the drive is worth experiencing the desert bursting with the breathtaking beauty of March wildflower blooms that will surely return after our next rainy winter and spring. See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani, a regular columnist with Stu News Laguna, has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula with Catharine and Loki. He can be reached at plantman2@mac.com or 949.494.5141.

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Documentary by Laguna filmmaker to screen at Illuminate Festival

Eva Haller: A Work in Progress, a feature-length documentary directed by Laguna resident Jeanne Meyers, will screen at the Illuminate Film Festival in Santa Barbara. The festival takes place April 5-7, with Meyers’ film screening on April 5.

The film chronicles the life of Eva Haller, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor, who escaped arrest in her native Hungary as a child by telling a Nazi officer she was, “Much too young and beautiful to die.” She lost her older brother in the war and dedicated her life to making a positive difference in the world through mentoring and supporting non-profit organizations. During the pandemic lockdown, Haller started a weekly online salon series she continues to host today. Her salons bring together artists, scientists and media makers from around the globe.

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Courtesy of MY HERO Project

MY HERO International Film Festival, 2015 where Eva Haller presented the inaugural Women Transforming Media Award to Alyse Nelson of Vital Voices (L-R): Kathy Eldon, Eva Haller, Alyse Nelson, Jeanne Meyers and Xenia Shin

“She truly is my hero,” said Meyers. “Eva Haller’s ability to adapt, survive and thrive through life’s challenges is truly inspiring. The film explores relationships that have shaped her magnificent life.”

Meyers, who co-founded the Laguna-based nonprofit The MY HERO Project, began filming Haller in 2014 for a segment of MY HERO’s Women Transforming Media Series. The online series was launched with a grant from the American Association of University Women, championed by the Laguna Beach branch. Women Transforming Media mentored young filmmakers and celebrated women in the media, but Meyers soon realized that more of Haller’s story needed to be told.

“We would talk and swim at the Coral Casino early in the morning and she would share her wisdom and reflections on life,” Meyers said. “She is a devoted mother, grandmother, wife, friend and mentor to leaders of non-profit organizations around the world. Her story does not end – she continues to be a work in progress.”

The film has won awards at the Cannes World Film Festival, the Stockholm City Film Festival and the Impact DOCS Awards. It has also been chosen as an official selection by the Toronto International Women Film Festival and the Documentaries Without Borders International Film Festival.

The Illuminate Festival launched in Sedona in 2014 as a hub for visionary filmmakers. The festival’s mission is to harness the power of cinema to inspire personal change and social transformation. The festival recently made the move to Santa Barbara. Deepak Chopra, the bestselling author and prominent figure in the world of alternative medicine, will deliver this year’s keynote address.

Immediately following the April 5 screening of Eva Haller: A Work in Progress, Haller will be presented with the Local Luminary Award.

“Those of us fortunate enough to know her, or those who screen the film and want to meet her, have a great opportunity to tune in weekly to her Virtual Salon Series to learn from one another,” said Meyers. “I am grateful to the Illuminate Festival for shining a light on Eva Haller and this film.”

Submissions are being accepted for the 2024 Women Transforming Media Award, which will be presented at the 20th Annual MY HERO International Film Festival in November.

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Discover the magical Hortense Miller Garden at Open House on April 6

On Saturday, April 6 from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., the Hortense Miller Garden will host an open house for those who want to experience the magic of this unique property. Garden tours will be offered every hour, and the house will be open to tour.

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Photos courtesy of Friends of Hortense Miller Garden

Murals and enchanting wisteria

This hidden Laguna gem features a 2.5-acre garden with more than a dozen unique trails and a pristine mid-century modern home built by Knowlton Fernald in 1958 on the slope of Boat Canyon. Tucked under towering canary pines, planted from one-gallon saplings in 1959, there are more than 500 plant species of which about 150 are California natives. The wondrous variety gives the garden color and texture during every season. The home’s walls of glass offer breathtaking ocean views. The original furnishings give the home a rare authenticity, fitting of a true Laguna artist.

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Free workshop for children

There is continuous shuttle bus service from the parking lot of First Church of Christ Scientist, at 635 High Drive, Laguna Beach.

There will be a free art workshop for children. Sack lunches are permitted. Don’t miss the Beekeeper Talk at 12 p.m.

Walking shoes are recommended. Books by Hortense Miller, as well as container gardens and garden art, will be available for sale.

No reservation is necessary, and admission is free. However, donations are gratefully accepted.

For more information, go to www.hortensemillergarden.org, or call 949.374.2696.

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Spring Grief Group offered at Laguna Presbyterian Church

The Spring Grief Group is available to everyone in the community. The meetings begin on Monday, April 8 at 4 p.m. in the Brides’ Room at Laguna Presbyterian Church, just off the Rose Garden near the fountain. It meets every Monday from April 8-May 13 from 4-5:30 p.m.  If you are struggling with your grief from a recent loss, or one from several years ago, they invite you to join them and find your way to hope. There is a $20 materials fee, but scholarships are available.

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Courtesy of Laguna Presbyterian Church

(L-R) Rev. Jon Moore (parish associate), Deborah Sakach and Phyllis Wilson

Those who love will inevitably experience grief. Have you experienced the loss of a loved one?  Do you find yourself sad, confused and isolated, wondering if these feelings will ever end?  Everyone experiences grief differently. Some are immobilized by it.  Others seem fine initially but are hit by waves of suffering later.  Shock, depression, anger, hopelessness, insomnia, lack of energy and sometimes physical issues are all common.

At any given time, many people in our community may be grieving the loss of a loved one. That is why Laguna Presbyterian Church offers a Grief Group. A Grief Group is a place to engage your grief, to be comforted, find answers and to find your way to hope.

Laguna Presbyterian’s Grief Group is led by Rev. Jon Moore, parish associate; Deborah Sakach and Phyllis Wilson. All are experienced with grief, and the Grief Group is open to all members of the community.

For questions, contact officemgr@lagunapreschurch.org, or call 949.494.7555.

To register, click here.

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The Drake Gives celebrates the power of music with upcoming annual fundraiser

Philanthropist and Laguna Beach resident Alec Glasser has been a driving force behind music education initiatives in Orange County. Recently donating $1.5 million from The Drake Gives, the generous contribution will help fund a novel initiative at the University of California (UCI), Irvine’s School of Social Ecology. UCI’s Power of Music initiative is one distinct way in which The Drake Gives is helping leverage music for social good and well-being.

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Photo by Frank Salas

Alec Glasser, founder of The Drake Gives

The Drake Gives partnered with Save The Music Foundation in December 2021, and since then has raised more than half a million dollars for music education equity and access. These funds have supported music education re-builds across Orange County, with The Drake Gives’ contributions supporting more than 12,000 students, with over half of these funds specifically used to jumpstart a new music program in five schools in the Anaheim Union High School. The Drake Gives has identified a significant opportunity to increase music and arts participation in elementary, middle and high schools throughout Orange County, where every $57 raised can help a child receive music education, instruction and an instrument for one school year.

Through The Drake Gives’ musically inspired celebrations, they are fundraising to help create sustainable impact for our youth here in Orange County. Revealing the date of their 2024 annual namesake fundraiser, which is Tuesday, June 4, The Drake Gives shares that the evening will be one to remember, thanks to the dynamic co-chairs who have spearheaded the event including Lourdes Nark, Urvashi Patel, James Cueva and Linda Young. The unique culinary experience will feature a multi-course caviar and wine-paired dinner which will take place at The Drake in Laguna Beach, with live entertainment from the talented Parson James, thanks to Cueva Entertainment. Further event details and sponsorship opportunities can be accessed here.

The Drake Gives, based in Laguna Beach, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) foundation that provides underserved youth in public schools with music education, materials and instruments to experience the transformative power of music. For more information, visit www.thedrakegivesevents.org/about.

The Drake in Laguna Beach is located at 2894 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

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A glimpse at Crystal Cove in April

Crystal Cove State Park is offering a variety of events in April. During the spring, the beaches and park are less crowded, providing the perfect opportunity to hike, explore and discover the flora and fauna, and take in picturesque ocean vistas.

Here is a glimpse at a few of the offerings.

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Photos courtesy of Crystal Cove State Park

Spot resident dolphins, migrating gray whales and birds on the Whale & Wildlife “Twalk”

Saturday, April 6: Whale & Wildlife “Twalk” from 9-11 a.m.

Crystal Cove State Park is a great spot to look for resident dolphins, migrating gray whales and birds just passing by the coastline. Join a park naturalist for a Whale & Wildlife “Twalk” and learn some fun facts about the coastal creatures as you walk the bluff trail and scan the ocean at each overlook. Bring binoculars for better viewing. Meet at Pelican Point lot #4 (PCH coastward at Newport Coast left at kiosk to the last lot). $15 day use fee.

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Check out the fascinating creatures that call tidepools home

Sunday, April 7: Beach Wrack and Tidepool Walk at 2 p.m.

Spring gives us a series of excellent low tides in the late morning and early afternoon. The receding tide leaves a potluck of animals and seaweed to explore, so come join a Beach Wrack and Tidepool Walk. Where there are tidepools, you’ll investigate. Maybe talk a little geology. You’ll walk from Reef Point toward the Historic District. When you are finished exploring, take some refreshment, and enjoy the spectacular view at the Shake Shack, then return at your leisure along the bluff top trail. Wear sturdy walking shoes, or closed-toed sandals for tidepooling, rocks can be slippery and sharp, and your feet will likely get wet, and bring a hiking pole if you are unsteady on rocks. Meet at the Reef Point Lot (PCH coastward at the stoplight Reef Point, around the kiosk, then left to the first restroom building, which is on the right). $15 day use fee.

Friday, April 12: Perimeter of the Park from 7:15-11:30 a.m.

Ready for a challenging hike to tour the Crystal Cove backcountry? Join a park docent as you go from the “gills to the hills” on this strenuous but very scenic loop hike. The distance is around nine miles; elevation/gain loss, around 1,500 ft. The hike is done at a moderate pace with one or two short breaks. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a snack. Arrive by 7:15 as the hike will start promptly at 7:30 a.m. Meet at the Ranger Station (PCH inland at the stoplight School-State Park, follow the signs towards the Ranger Station). $15 day use fee.

Saturday, April 13: Spring Bird Walk from 8-10 a.m.

The birds are twitterpated and spring is an invigorating time to see “birds in love!” Crystal Cove State Park is a great spot to identify new species as well as seeing and hearing resident avian friends like California Gnatcatchers, Greater Roadrunners and Osprey. Come join a park naturalist for an easy Spring Bird Walk along Moro Canyon. Meet at the Berns Amphitheatre (PCH inland at stoplight School-State Park, follow signs towards the campground). $15 day use fee.

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Stewards will aid in activities such as weeding, seeding and planting

Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20: Stewardship Days from 8-11:30 a.m.

Come help Crystal Cove Conservancy and work alongside California State Parks on habitat restoration projects during Stewardship Days. Participants will aid in activities such as weeding, seeding, and planting. Be prepared to walk about 30 minutes to the project site (3 miles round trip) on mostly flat, but uneven canyon trails with slight elevation gain. This event is recommended for ages 8 and up. All participants under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Contact Jennifer Mendez at jennifer@crystalcove.org for questions and to register.

For a complete calendar of events, go to www.crystalcovestatepark.org/park-calendars/.

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Sky squiggles

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Writing from another world

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The Honarkar Foundation hosts Visionary Energy Sound Bath on April 7

Elevate your evening with a transcendental sound bath led by Sound Nectar and THE FULLEST at The Honarkar Foundation in Laguna Beach, accompanied by indulgent saffron lattes for a truly immersive experience.

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Courtesy of thefullest.com

Immersive Sound Bath experience on April 7

Mark your calendar for Sunday, April 7 from 6-7 p.m. and don’t forget your cozy essentials like a mat and blanket.

Space is limited. For tickets ($44), click here.

The Honarkar Foundation is located at 298 Broadway St.

Laguna Beach.

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Laguna Craft Guild to hold spring show on April 7

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Courtesy of Laguna Craft Guild

The Laguna Craft Guild’s spring show will be held on the Main Beach Cobblestones on Sunday, April 7 from 9 a.m. until an hour before sunset. Shop local and find some unique gifts from among the jewelry, ceramics, glass blown art, paintings and more. For more information and the schedule of future shows, visit www.lagunacraftguild.com.

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Meet Pet of the Week Nellie

Nellie, at 8 years old, is considered “a little old lady” by shelter organizers. She is affectionate and very devoted. The spayed tri-colored terrier mix is small, but with a big heart. She is very quiet, housebroken and will do anything for food. She’d be most comfortable in a quiet home, without children.

Nancy Goodwin, shelter director, is hoping to have Nellie adopted as soon as possible.

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Courtesy of the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter

Nellie is a small tri-colored terrier looking for a quiet home

The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter adoption procedures are designed to make sure that both the potential family and the animal adopted are in the very best situation possible. Due to their approach to adoption, their return rate is 5% as compared to the national return rate of 50%.

The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Road. Call 949.497.3552, or go to the website for information on adoption procedures, www.puplagunabeach.org/our-pets.php.

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“Coffee with a Cop” on April 6 at the Farmers’ Market

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Courtesy of LBPD

Join members of the LBPD for “Coffee with a Cop” on Saturday, April 6 from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Farmers’ Market. They hope to see you there!

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Crystal Cove Conservancy hosts talk with California Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot

Join Crystal Cove Conservancy and Bank of America for a conversation between California’s Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot and Conservancy President and CEO, Kate Wheeler, about issues facing California’s vast protected lands and waters including climate resilience, maintaining biodiversity and expanding equitable access to the outdoors.

The event takes place on Wednesday, April 3 at 5 p.m. with a sunset reception to follow at the Cottage Check-in Deck, located in the Crystal Cove State Park Historical District #35 Crystal Cove.

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Courtesy of Secretary Wade Crowfoot

Wade Crowfoot

Secretary Crowfoot is responsible for stewarding the state’s vast natural and cultural resources. With 280 state park units, more than 340 miles of coastline, 970 miles of lake and river frontage, 15,000 campsites, 5,200 miles of trails, 3,195 historic buildings and more than 11,000 known prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, California’s Department of Parks and Recreation contains the largest and most diverse recreational, natural and cultural heritage holdings of any state agency in the nation.

Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a sunset reception following a guided discussion and Q&A with Secretary Crowfoot as he delves into topics such as strengthening California’s climate resilience, maintaining biodiversity, and expanding equitable access to the outdoors.

Event Schedule:

–4:45 p.m.: Check-in Deck

–5-6 p.m.: Guest welcome, interview-style discussion and audience Q&A

–6-7 p.m.: Sunset reception with light bites and drinks

The Conservancy’s “Cove Talks” aim to bring influential individuals working to change the world to Crystal Cove State Park, as they share a diverse collection of experiences and viewpoints. These talks are another step towards connecting the community to the natural world, while deepening their understanding of issues facing local parks, the coast and the planet.

This Cove Talk is generously sponsored by Bank of America.

To RSVP, go here.

Parking is available at the Los Trancos Parking Lot located inland off Pacific Coast Highway. Day use parking costs $5 per hour, up to a maximum of $15 per day.

To get to the Cottage Check-in Deck, take the Los Trancos crosswalk to cross PCH and follow the Crystal Cove Trail to Cottage Check-in.

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Music to your ears? You must be thinking of the Susi Q in April!

This April, the Susi Q will be hosting three musical events, each of which is guaranteed to fill up fast, so act now to reserve your spot.

Begin the season with the free “Spring Swing” Concert featuring the Laguna Beach Community JaZz Band on April 18 from 6-8 p.m. Under the direction of Lynn Olinger, the popular event also features the talented, vocalist Ginger Hatfield.

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Courtesy of Laguna Concert Band

Ginger Hatfield

Hatfield explained why she believes that swing is so enduringly popular. “The swing beat is infectious, and the songs are romantic and fun,” she said. “Our show is a big dose of positivity that all ages respond to. Even folks just walking by add a swing to their step!”

The vocalist began her singing career as a youngster. “My first vocal solo in front of an audience was as part of Mrs. Mudge’s kindergarten chorus at Aliso Elementary School. I was so petrified that a classmate was assigned to walk up to the front of the stage with me,” said Hatfield, who joined the JaZz Band in 2007.

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Courtesy of Laguna Concert Band

Laguna JaZz Band 

The “Big Band” is a traditional 18-piece jazz band featuring five saxophones, four or five trombones, four trumpets, piano, bass, guitar, drum-set and aux percussionist.

To register for the Spring Swing Concert, click here.

Excitingly, the Susi Q’s wildly successful partnership with Lyric Opera of Orange County continues in April with the presentation of Verdi’s Falstaff. The lecherous Falstaff finally meets his match when his underhanded plans to solve money troubles have the three Merry Wives of Windsor conspiring to teach him a lesson.

“We knew this hysterical and timeless tale was a great way to end an amazing first season with Susi Q! It’s full of incredible music, lots of laughs and one of the most iconic fugues of all time where each of the 10 characters sing simultaneously,” said Diana Farrell, Lyric Opera of Orange County’s artistic director/president.

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Courtesy of Lyric Opera of Orange County

Lyric Opera of Orange County’s cast of “The Marriage of Figaro” from last year’s Susi Q’s performance

Lyric Opera of Orange County’s operas are presented in a concert format, with minimal to no staging or costumes, but with piano accompaniment. English supertitles appear on Susi Q’s large flatscreen TVs to aid the audience in following the narrative backbone of the opera.

Featuring an all-star cast of performers, Falstaff takes place on Wednesday, April 24 from 4-5:30 p.m. at the Susi Q Center, 380 Third St. A token fee of $5 secures your registration for this popular event. Register by clicking here.

Before attending the Falstaff presentation, you might want to bone-up on opera by attending Maestro Jeffrey Briar’s free Music Appreciation Class: Spotlight on Opera, which will take place on Thursday, April 11 between 3 and 4:30 p.m.

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Courtesy of Lyric Opera of Orange County

Members of Lyric Opera of Orange County

With accomplished pianist/composer Jeffrey Briar at his keyboard, learn about opera’s place in musical history – composer’s influences, social factors and how each masterpiece has stood the test of time.

“Once you have learned to love opera, it can touch you more deeply than just about any other form of art. It can inspire profound feelings and thrill you in ways you can hardly imagine,” Briar said. Register by clicking here.

Visit www.thesusiq.org, or to RSVP by phone, call 949.715.8105, or email christineb@thesusiq.org.

The Susi Q offers a wide range of educational and fun programs, classes and clubs for older adults – though all ages are welcome. The Susi Q’s Care Management Department provides free consultation, education and practical resources for vulnerable seniors, enabling them to stay safe, informed and independent. For more information on The Susi Q, the portal to access the best of Laguna’s community resources, visit www.thesusiq.org.

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Laguna Community Concert Band takes a musical journey Around the World in 80 Minutes

The 50-member Laguna Community Concert Band (LCCB) will kick off its 25th season by traveling Around the World in 80 Minutes during their first concert of 2024 at the Artists Theater at Laguna Beach High School, Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m.

The eclectic and exciting program has been months in the making. The concert will begin with the theme from “Around the World in 80 Days,” setting the tone for a musical journey that includes Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Russia, Tunisia, China, the Caribbean, Mexico, and of course the United States. As an additional treat, Laguna Beach High School sophomore Eliana Merritt will return to provide dance interpretations of “Up” and “Around the World.”

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Photos courtesy of LCCB

Eliana Merritt – from the 2023 “Greatest Hits of the Silver Screen”

“We’re all delighted that Eliana could perform with us again,” said Director Mark Lowery. “Her dance solo last year was a special moment in our performances, and these kinds of collaborations are central to our mission of supporting the arts in Laguna Beach.”

Audience members at this concert will take an “Italian Holiday,” spend “A Night in Tunisia” and enjoy a “Dragon Boat Festival.” Other program highlights include Shostakovich’s thrilling collection of “Folk Dances” and Johann Strauss’ amusing “Tritsch-Tratsch Polka.”

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Orchestra performing during the 2023 “Greatest Hits of the Silver Screen”

Assistant Director Jennifer Baker took special effort to curate a program that represented as many musical styles as possible in the time allotted. “It was a challenge to put together a program that would truly span the world in such a short time, and I tried as best as possible to follow the route of the travelers in the original movie. Including a piece written to commemorate Amelia Earhart and her epic journey helped us cross the Pacific Ocean. We’re proud of how the program came together and I think the audience will enjoy this mix of new and familiar music.”

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Performers singing hits from “Chicago” during 2023 “Greatest Hits of the Silver Screen”

Like all Laguna Community Concert Band performances, this concert is free, and no tickets or reservations are required. Following the concert, audience members can show their program at the Lumberyard, 384 Forest Ave., to donate 15% of their meal cost to the band.

Upcoming Concert Band performances include a Memorial Day American Salute on the Cobblestones at Laguna Main Beach with the Laguna JaZz Band (JaZz Band at 11 a.m., Concert Band at 12:30 p.m.). The JaZz Band will be the featured entertainment for the Annual Art Star Awards at the Festival of Arts on Friday, April 26 at 5 p.m. and will be featured at the Fête de la Musique on Saturday, June 15 at Main Beach at 11 a.m.

For more information on upcoming concerts, to book an appearance, or if you would like to play with the band, visit www.lagunaconcertband.com.

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