In 1984, a group of Orange County community members founded Families Forward after realizing they shared the same vision. Their goal: to help support local families in financial crisis with housing, food assistance, and other services that could help them achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. Along with 28 transitional homes to help families dealing with the loss of their homes or eviction from their apartments, Families Forward runs a food pantry that supports more than 7,000 people each year, career workshops, counseling services, and seasonal programs for children. The transitional housing program has helped more than four out of five families served successfully transition from crisis to stability. Once a family's financial status and living situation stabilize, they can return to being independent, productive community residents, which helps kids from such households experience a safe, happy, and secure childhood—accomplishing Families Forward's number-one priority of protecting children.
Presented in part by Dan Clark, also known as Nitro, of American Gladiator fame, the Gladiator Rock'n Run 6K pairs an obstacle-heavy running course with post-race entertainment, including beer, music, and food. Six kilometers’ worth of collective scampering awaits participants as muscle-testing obstacles impede progress to the finish line. Those prepared to race must dance through tires, army-crawl through mud, and clamber up rope ladders to avoid barrels thrown by giant apes. The roar of spectators rings throughout the course as bystanders cheer on runners to inspire strong finishes. Gladiator Rock'n Run proceeds go toward a good cause, helping to raise money for TACA (Talk About Curing Autism), an organization that provides education, support, and information to aid parents in helping their children diagnosed with autism.
Executive chef Thomas Crijns of Brussels Bistro teams up with fellow Belgian Philippe De Smedt and French restaurateur Thierry Perreau to give his seasonally inspired menu of Belgian-style cuisine a French twist, earning the restaurant recognition as one of the 2012 Top 10 Orange County Bistro Restaurants in Gayot and named Best French Fries in 2008 in OC Weekly for their signature side with dipping sauces. With live jazz music each Tuesday through Thursday and DJs spinning music under pulsing colored lights Fridays and Saturdays, it is not surprising that OpenTable also took notice of the spot and awarded Brussels Bistro the Diners Choice for Late Night Find.
While known for its late night offerings, Brussels Bistro features a menu of lunch fare including quiche Lorraine packed with gruyere cheese, tomatoes, and bacon and savory ham-and-cheese crepes. Diners may opt to share their bountiful pots of mussels and Belgian-style fries on the sunny outdoor terrace while sipping one of nine Belgian beers on tap or 15 bottled varieties each served with a signature glass etched with its family tree.
Having grown up on a farm in central Canada, Marlowe Huber already knew about crop harvesting and soil when he began making wine in the early 1980s. He refined his skills still further by studying oenology in Vancouver before embarking on his first wine-business venture with his brother, Darren. Together they ran two wineries in British Columbia for 15 years before opening Laguna Canyon Winery in 2003.
Today, staffers pour out a diverse selection of Laguna Canyon wines at two tasting rooms in downtown Laguna Beach and at the winery itself. Marlowe and Darren also collaborated with marine artist Wyland to create his Wyland Cellars label, whose bottles he adorns with colorful undersea scenes. Grapes for these wines are sourced from low-yield growers in Napa and Sonoma valleys, who cultivate subtle flavors by hand-picking and home-schooling their fruits.
A summer staple of Laguna Beach since 1966, Art-A-Fair corrals creative works from around the world, unfurling them across the apropos, color-splashed gardens of Laguna Canyon. Festival visitors meander leisurely through the web of imagination, stopping to soak up content that is as rich in quality as it is in diversity. Between brush strokes and spontaneous games of frisbee with their palette, working artists take a breather to chat about their pieces and the inspirations that drive their craft. From year to year, the festival features a wide spectrum of 2- and 3-D art, and, should one of those gems seduce the heart of a passerby, everything at the festival is available for purchase.