LAGUNA BEACH — It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here, where the art and craft fairs that typically signal summer in Laguna have moved in for the winter.
Despite the bah-humbug economy, Art-A-Fair is mounting its first winter sale in several years, and the Sawdust Festival is running its second Yuletide mart in a row. Both operations have held two-month summer festivals for the past 26 years side by side on Laguna Canyon Road. Their 10-day winter events--each including a Santa for the kids--opened last week on the same grounds where the summer fests are held and will end Sunday.
Art-A-Fair organizers opted for a winter sale this year because they didn't want their grounds to "go to waste" for a full 10 months, according to newly elected president Janet Friedman. Eventually, she added, "we may have four Art-A-Fairs," one for each season.
Admission is free to the winter Art-A-Fair, which features work by about 50 artists and craftspeople. The sluggish economy "definitely" could slow sales, but organizers and participants are "very optimistic" and are not concerned about competition from the Sawdust Festival, Friedman said.
According to Friedman, Art-A-Fair features more "fine arts" such as painting and sculpture and "finer crafts" including painted porcelain items or coffee mugs. The Sawdust Festival, she said, emphasizes crafts.
Sawdust organizers say they're not sweating the competition, either. Because of Sawdust's success last winter, this year's sale will feature about 100 more artists and craftspeople than Art-A-Fair (and 45 more than Sawdust presented last year). Admission is $2.
"We have a long line (waiting to get in), clear down the street," co-chairman Chris Krach said on Thursday, opening day.
"We have really searched for Christmas-themed crafts," she added.
Meanwhile, the granddaddy Festival of Arts, which has staged summer events for 60 years across Laguna Canyon Road, has no plans for a winter event, according to spokesman Tim Wilcox.
Wilcox maintains that the Festival of Arts features "higher end" art than either of the other operations, "and at this point we don't see a real strong market for it" around the holidays.
"But," he added, "we're going to watch to see how successful these (other winter sales) are, and we may follow suit."
The Art-A-Fair Winter Festival at 777 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach and the Sawdust Festival Winter Fantasy at 935 Laguna Canyon Road continue daily through Sunday (except Thanksgiving). Art-A-Fair hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free. (714) 494-4514. Sawdust hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.. Admission is $2 (free for children under 12). (714) 494-3030.