A snapshot of mid to late summer offerings in Dana Point

An estimated 4,000 concert-goers gathered at Lantern Bay Park on Sunday for the city’s kick-off to its Summer Concerts in the Park series. Photo by Kim Tilly
An estimated 4,000 concert-goers gathered at Lantern Bay Park on Sunday for the city’s kick-off to its Summer Concerts in the Park series. Photo by Kim Tilly

By Andrea Papagianis

With the hype of Independence Day celebrations still lingering in the air and the nation’s favorite pastime taking its mid-season All-Star break, summer in Dana Point is just hitting its stride.

Dana Point’s economy is largely fueled by tourism dollars. In fiscal year 2011-2012, the city collected nearly 31 percent of its revenues from transient occupancy taxes, a 10 percent fee placed on short-term rentals like hotels and campsites, and another 13 percent of revenues from sales tax. And while tourism is the city’s largest contributor to its economy, city officials and businesses have been mindful of creating a line-up of summer entertainment with locals in mind, according to Kevin Evans, director of Community Services & Parks, while maybe drawing a few outsiders to the city as well.

Whether you are looking to dig your digits into the sand, catch an up-close glimpse of nature’s largest mammal, sample local flavors or sway to the tunes of a live band, this coastal community has plenty of warm-weather offerings to keep the entire crew cool this season. We’ve compiled a list of summertime things to do and see in Dana Point to keep stay-cationers active and entertained.

So, take a peek and can get to checkin’ off that list.

Sweet Summer Tunes

One annual series in Dana Point is aimed directly toward providing locals a way to enjoy summer life for free, Evans said. For more than two decades, Dana Point has hosted summer concerts in the park, and for this season’s first Sunday showing, thousands gathered together for a little live rock and country musical festival.

“The whole philosophy behind the summer concert series is based on providing cost-free recreational opportunities to the residents of Dana Point,” said Evans, who has organized the events since their inception.

According to city estimates, nearly 4,000 concert-goers filled Lantern Bay Park as the 23rd concert year kicked off when the Orange County-based bands ProgKnowSys and Tijuana Dogs took the stage.

With live performances, food, adult beverages and fun for the whole family, there are seven more chances to catch a free concert in one of the city’s parks with a view before, the season comes to a close. Elvis comes to town this weekend, as teacher-by-day and impersonator-by-night Raymond Michael pays homage to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Tribute performances continue throughout the series’ run honoring legends such as ABBA, Jimmy Buffett, U2, Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Denver.

The Sunday evening events run now through August 25 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with opening acts taking the stage at 3 p.m. and headliners amping up at 4:30 p.m. Concert events throughout the summer will be split between Lantern Bay, Heritage and Sea Terrace parks.

To accommodate crowds to the final three concerts at Sea Terrace Park, the city will provide a free shuttle service from the Dana Hills High School parking lot, 33333 Golden Lantern. Visit www.danapointconcertseries.com for more information and a full series line-up.

Every Saturday vendors fill La Plaza Park, in the heart of Dana Point, with fresh, locally grown produce, homemade products and handcrafted artwork. Photo by Andrea Papagianis
Photo by Andrea Papagianis

Fresh, Local Produce

The scent of peaches, nectarines and apricots in the outdoor-market air provides a clear sign that summer is officially here. And with recipes from desserts to entrees calling for ripe blueberries, cherries and pink raspberries, the Dana Point Farmers Market has merchants offering locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables for shoppers and amateur chefs to peruse and relish in the summertime flavors.

Hosted every Saturday throughout the year, the Farmers Market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at La Plaza Park, 34111 La Plaza Street. On the first Saturday of each month, hours are extended until 3 p.m. to accommodate a craft fair.

Foodie Festivals Galore

The highlighting of summer flavors continues as food festivals abound in the month of August. From festivals showcasing area restaurants and regional brews to throw-down cooking competitions and seafood extravaganzas, Dana Point’s plate is stacked for foodies this summer.

After a positive partnership with last year’s Taste of Doheny, the city of Dana Point and Eventwerks, an Orange County-based event management and production firm, have joined forces to bring new festivals to the city’s summer roster and enhance old favorites.

Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary Club's annual Lobster Fest. Courtesy photo
Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual Lobster Fest. Courtesy photo

The Taste festival has been re-imagined this year, said Rich Goodwin, a consultant with the event production company, and will be reintroduced on Saturday, August 10 as the Dana Point Food & Wine Festival. Goodwin said the event has been taken to a new level of refinery, featuring Old and New World wines and a larger presence from local restaurateurs. Attached to the Food & Wine fest is the Great Southern California Beer Festival, which is expected to draw more than 50 brewers serving 150 beers.

On Saturday, August 17 the Chili Cookoff and Country Jamboree swings into town with amateur chili contests, Orange County food trucks, craft brews, line dancing, bull riding and tunes from Southern California’s Gold Rush Country and Desperado, an Eagles tribute band.

Growing larger in its fourth year, the Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary Club’s Lobster Fest is expected to draw more than 700 crustacean connoisseurs to Doheny State Beach on August 24. Funds from the surf and turf feast go to support the club’s adopted organizations like the Ocean Institute, the Shea Riding Center and the South Orange County School of the Arts.

Two deadlines are approaching for tickets. Festival-goers can save $10 by purchasing tickets by July 29. Tickets bump up to $85 on August 23, and for the first time tickets will also be available the day of the event. Visit www.danapointlobsterfest.org for additional information.

Looking forward to the fall, the city will once again host the Dana Point State BBQ Championship. More than 100 teams of barbecue experts are expected to compete in the annual contest on Saturday, October 5. Check out www.danapointeventseries.com for more on the wine, beer, chili and barbecue fests.

Toshiba Tall Ships Festival. Photo by Andrea Swayne
Toshiba Tall Ships Festival. Photo by Andrea Swayne

History Sails On

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. landed on the Southern California shores in 1835 and five years later in his memoir Two Years before the Mast wrote the cliffs of Capistrano Bay made the area “the most romantic spot on the coast.” For the last 29 years, the Ocean Institute has celebrated the return of the Brig Pilgrim, a replica of Dana’s vessel to the Harbor with its annual Toshiba Tall Ships Festival.

This year, from Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 9, the largest assembly of tall ships on the West Coast will gather at the OC Dana Point Harbor, to celebrate the area’s deep maritime history.

“Each one of these ships has its own characteristics and a number of stories about that individual vessel,” said Dan Stetson, president of the Ocean Institute. “These vessels are designed for different time periods and the public has the opportunity see how they fit into our nation’s history.”

Crews aboard historic vessels will participate in a mock cannon battle and parade to open the weekend-long festivities including interactive living history encampments, open ship tours, pirate school, blacksmiths, live music and more. For more, see www.tallshipsfestival.com.

Staying in line with celebrating Dana Point’s namesake, the annual Richard Henry Dana Charity Regatta, sponsored by the Dana Point Yacht Club, returns to the harbor that same weekend. The fundraiser includes regattas for adults and youth, stand-up paddle races, a poker tournament and auctions. Find out more by visiting www.dpyc.org.

Festival Scene Newcomers

Californian street artist Chor Boogie paints an elephant sculpture at Doheny Surf Festival in June. Photo by Barry Siegel
Californian street artist Chor Boogie paints an elephant sculpture at Doheny Surf Festival in June. Photo by Barry Siegel

Making its first United States appearance in Dana Point this summer, the Elephant Parade, an international art exhibit and educational effort, will take the city by storm as six-foot tall decorated elephant sculptures will be placed throughout the city for 10 weeks.

Opening ceremonies are slated at Doheny State Beach from Friday, August 23 through Sunday, August 25, with closing celebrations taking place in min-November. Visit www.elephantparade.com for more.

Over the last weekend in August, Sea Terrace Park will be transformed into a Celtic cultural center. The first-ever California Celtic Classic will bring dozens of Scottish clans to town to celebrate their Iron and Medieval age European heritage. The two day celebration, on Saturday, August 24 and Sunday, August 25 will be home to the International Highland Games Federation Championships, where the world’s best highland competitors will compete in saber tosses, stone puts, Scottish hammer throws and more. To find out more, go to www.calcelticclassic.com.

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