Guest Opinion: The Year Was 1969 

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By Janice Carter

The Pageant of the Masters was in the midst of auditions in May for the first performance of the summer. Several of our artist friends, Andrew Wing, Dion Wright, Leonard Kaplan, and my husband Robert Tanner McCarron, were deciding if they wanted to enter a juried showing of their paintings and then have to pay for a booth on cold concrete to display their art. They either had their own galleries in Laguna already or sold out of their homes. So, sitting around a meeting in our home, they decided to invite other local artists to start their own art show that would not be juried, be in a warmer environment and create a whole new ambiance. 

Jim Smith, whose mother Peg Smith worked for the South Coast News, local potters Mark, Beverly and Nikki Blumenfeld, painter John Armstrong, potter John Stadelmeir and painters Robert Tanner McCarron and Sculptor Dion Wright put the word out to the community. The first formal meeting was next door to the Cottage Restaurant in an open field on the Coast Highway, across from the Victor Hugo. Discussions of freedom of choice were held against the stringent rules of the “Concrete Slab” show adjoined to the Pageant of the Masters. 

New, young and innovative artisans wanted to break away from the “establishment” of the earlier years and create a brand new venue. The idea of having sawdust brought over from the nearby lumber yard at the end of Forest Avenue to cover the dirt field and provide a soft ground to walk on appealed to all present, and the name “Sawdust Festival” was voted on and approved. 

Our first event was held in the vacant lot next to the Cottage Restaurant in the summer of 1969. The following year, we acquired the property on Laguna Canyon Road across from the Pageant of the Masters. We voted to each rent a 20 by 20-foot space for our booth and only use Redwood lath for construction. It was up to each of us to develop our own unique designs and fabrication to display our art. May was the time for creativity and diversity. It was so much fun witnessing the constructions, and swarms of our friends showed up to support the efforts. Macrame pot hangers were made to hang live plants to bring in greenery and living art. We made Redwood lath picture frames. The organic versus old-world approach to art was starting to form our space. The atmosphere was one of a gala event with artists playing their guitars and flutes, potluck dinners with the “hippie vibe” definitely present. The long-haired, bearded men wore beaded necklaces with beads that were sold at the Festival. The women wore long homemade skirts, dresses and sandals, all sold at the Festival. The long-haired women wore flowers in their hair. Nursing mothers were seen in public. Times were changing with songs from Bob Dylan, the Carpenters and the Beach Boys. As the day’s light faded, candles were lit, and incense was burned until we were informed that having our Sawdust Festival go up in smoke was not a good idea. 

If you were there and remember those glorious days, please email me at [email protected]. My husband died in 2007, and many of our friends are no longer with us. But the memories of the Icarus Shop, Mystic Arts, Yoga and Meditation in the Canyon, and the Old Lifeguard Stand on Main Beach and Trotters Bakery still remain in our hearts. 

Janice McCarron Carter married Robert Tanner McCarron in Laguna Beach in 1966 by Zen Roshi Joshu Sasaki at the Chapel in front of the Episcopal Church. Janice worked in the First Health Food Store across from Trotter’s Bakery on Forest Ave and worked with the La Maze Coach and Midwife, assisting home births from 1969 to 1972. Janice was instrumental in petitioning for husbands to be present in the delivery room as coaches to delivering mothers at South Coast Hospital in 1969. She is the proud mother of two daughters born in Laguna Beach. Janice retired to Sedona, Ariz. in 2000 and built her home where she lives with her daughter Tempera, chickens, dog and cat.

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