Not far from Bill Darnall's pottery booth Saturday afternoon, a musician strummed his guitar, a saxophone player attracted a crowd and the sounds of a dulcimer from another part of the Sawdust Festival drifted over.
Like the musicians and other artists gathered to kick off the 20th annual festival in Laguna Beach, Darnall drew his share of festival-goers, or "sawdust kids" as he called them.
They wanted to try making their own cup or mug or bowl, or anything accomplished with hands and clay.
"Me, me, me," a group of girls pleaded when he asked who wanted to dabble in pottery making. Allison Bonn, 9, was one of the lucky ones.
She got to stick her hands in water, clay, make squiggly lines and use a credit card to smooth her creation. ("It's Amco. Next week, I'm going to cut the Visa card. I'm tired of making minimum payments," Darnall joked.)
About 7,000 people had arrived at the Sawdust Festival by early afternoon, said Ron Rodecker, publicity director. The festival, with more than 200 booths, will continue through Aug. 31, as will the Art-A-Fair, which also began Saturday in Laguna Beach. Beginning Wednesday, art lovers will have yet another festival to choose from when the Festival of Arts opens.
For Laguna Beach's art community, the Sawdust Festival is lucrative, said Rodney Anderson, who sews bright, summery, comfortable-looking clothing and creates colorful jewelry from beads, shells, copper and brass. Anderson, who said he has made up to $50,000 at a festival, has returned for 13 years. This year, he expects to top that.
Anderson, who described himself as "an ex-cop" who married an "ex-teacher," said they now make their living "entirely off festivals."
"People are staying more at home and that buying-American kind of feeling is going around," he said.
While the artists at the Sawdust Festival must be residents of Laguna Beach or South Laguna, visitors came from all over on Saturday to buy or just look.
"It's great," said Samantha Lo, a Pomona resident who arrived with her husband, 6-month-old daughter and relatives from Chicago. "The last time I was here was 10 years ago. And it's about the same. We're enjoying it."
Many people throughout Orange County let the Fourth of July fever carry over to Saturday. Police departments throughout the county got calls from residents complaining about firecracker noise.
"The safe and sane fireworks are no problem; people don't mind them," said Lt. Felix Osuna, Santa Ana police watch commander. "But the skyrockets and things like that which are not legal are a problem."
Elsewhere in Orange County, holiday crowds were less than expected Saturday. At local beaches, lifeguards said the crowd size was more typical of an average weekend.
"Maybe the foul weather yesterday kept them away," Huntington Beach senior lifeguard John Gifford said, referring to the overcast skies on the Fourth of July. About 25,000 people visited Huntington Beach, and another 30,000 went to Laguna Beach, lifeguards said.
"It's a little bit lower than we expected," lifeguard supervisor Mitch White said of the estimated 85,000 people who visited Newport Beach following what he called the "Fourth of July blues."
For many on the beach in Newport on the Fourth, the celebration ended early after a police detective was injured by a tossed firecracker, and the beach was ordered cleared.
Jeff Cantrell suffered a possible concussion after a high-powered, M-80 firecracker exploded just two feet from him, knocking him to the ground, police said. Cantrell was treated at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and released. He was spared more serious injury because his helmet shield was down, Newport Beach watch commander Don Chandler said.
The incident occurred when a crowd at the beach became unruly after a fireworks display ended Friday night, police said. After Cantrell's injury, a squad of police officers began clearing the beach of everyone between 32nd and 54th streets where "numerous members of the crowd began throwing rocks and bottles and fights broke out," said Lt. Jim Spears, who was on duty Friday night.