Magic Unfolds at Festival Events

By Susan McNeal Velasquez
By Susan McNeal Velasquez


The theme of the Pageant of the Masters 2014 is “The Art Detective.” Pageant Director Diane Challis was asked: “Who is the art detective?” Her reply? “Anyone who suffers from a case of curiosity. Anyone who is driven to ask who, what, where, when and why.” She added, “Who doesn’t love to solve a mystery or enjoy a good scandal or a ripping yarn?”

Exactly. That’s the reason that locals from all over town relish getting their hands on the invitation-only tickets to the preview parties that are held just before the official opening of the Festival of Arts, the Sawdust Festival and the Art A Fair.

Curiosity abounds. No, it’s not about the art. That’s a given.

It is about who is going to show up as you circle the festivities, like the horses on a carousel, both seeing and being seen. Out of the blue comes a light tap on the shoulder, a kiss on the cheek, or even better arms encircling you, as you turn and find yourself face to face with another person who you’ve lost touch with as you wander through the maze of predictable responsibilities that drive your day-to-day reality.

These surreal venues are a yearly, unique tradition in our community. You may catch a glimpse of someone on the dance floor that you haven’t seen in years. As you take your gaze away from the artwork, you get a glint of recognition that bursts into the knowledge that you’ve found an out of sight but not out of mind friend who has materialized as a perfect example of synchronicity; being in the right place at the right time. This experience of renewed connections is part of the magic of these evenings.

Next are the quick exchanges that can touch the edges of a “good scandal” or even “a ripping yarn.” It is the cliff notes version of the twists and turns that have occurred since the last time you touched base.

The topics range from births, deaths, marriages and divorces, reaching for the stars or suffering a slide of disappointment when life takes an unexpected downward turn. All of that information is succinctly transferred including quick updates about kids or grandkids.

There is an energy that is generated when our life story is condensed into conversations that simply highlight the main events. The more specific details are withheld because this isn’t the time or place for a more in-depth, intimate conversation. As a result, it gives the listener permission to be wholeheartedly supportive of either the good fortune or the courage that facing tough challenges require. It’s like reading a short but well-written movie review that gives you a good sense of what the film is about without burdening the exchange with the real-world details, whether uplifting or devastating.

Last Saturday night was the artists oarty at the Festival of Arts grounds. All guests were encouraged to dress in “dapper” attire that gave leeway for creativity, ranging from bowler hats and bow ties, elegant dresses and trendy hats, as well as the ever-present beach town traditional uniform of shorts, t-shirts and sandals.

The dance floor was crowded, the exuberance was catching and the band played vintage oldies but goodies including the classic “Celebrate.” Two performers on stilts that made them seem like 12-feet tall were mesmerizing. They gyrated, twisted, dipped and twirled non-stop and never seemed to break a sweat. Both the young woman and young man were like Olympic level athletes that never missed a beat. The music wrapped around the festival grounds and did its job to keep the party atmosphere lively from start to finish.

We are so fortunate to have the privilege of participating in these outstanding experiences that remind us of the goodness of our lives and how much our Laguna Beach community is a gift to be savored and appreciated.

     Susan is the author of: Beyond Intellect: Journey into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind. Reach her at: or mailto:[email protected]

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