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Author Laura Saari

  • Laura Saari

    Laura Saari has been writing Orange Coast's Rituals column since 2008. She recently won the "Best Column" award from the National City and Regional Magazine Association over finalists from Texas Monthly, and New OrleansSt. Louis, and Yankee magazines.


Rituals: The Pursuit of Immortality

As UC Irvine students have discovered, ‘world record holder’ on the resume is always a nice conversation-starter

Maybe it’s because UC Irvine has that strange-looking anteater for a mascot, or because its backyard is the cool, calm city of Irvine. Yet over-the-top school spirit (as in, say, USC Trojan style) has rarely been the hallmark of the county’s UC campus. Read more...

Rituals: The Hills Are Alive

Players gather in O.C.’s foothills twice a month to crank out 19th century standards. Who cares if no one’s listening?

Flatlanders like me sometimes forget that mountains are part of this county, even though every day they flank us on the east and often lure me up their trails. Then one hot Friday afternoon, I stumble exhausted out the Black Star Canyon trailhead and hear the sound of fiddling. And I remember there aren’t just mountains here; there are mountain people, too. I’m inclined to expect magic. Read more...

Rituals: Beach Fires

Can you think of another O.C. tradition that brings together so many disparate people?

The ritual of gathering friends and family around a fire is probably as old as fire itself, and here along the coast, we saw how deep the roots of that tradition go when that fire was about to be taken away. Read more...

Rituals: Theme Park Weddings

The peculiar Orange County impulse to say ‘I do’ at Disneyland

I’m no Mouse hater. We’ve made lifelong memories at Disneyland and bought annual passes before the prices got outtasight for a family of five. But holding a wedding amid the crowds, noise, carnival smells, bloated characters, and wailing kids at the Happiest Place on Earth? I mean, really, bridezillas, we’re talking an amusement park here. Read more...

Rituals: The Swallows of Capistrano

A single pair of birds nested at the mission last year—not enough to restore the county’s most iconic ritual, but maybe it’s a start

There was no predicting the return of the swallows to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. But there they were—a pair, doing what amounted to a flyover, and on Swallows Day no less. It was a pleasant enough coincidence that the installation of Pope Francis took place last year the morning of March 19—the feast of St. Joseph—also known as Swallows Day, when the birds traditionally returned to their legendary Orange County home. But no one expected what happened just after the bells started tolling to celebrate the new pope. Read more...

Rituals: 100,000 Guests for Cider

If you’re gonna go big and bright at Christmas, do it for the right reasons

The next mayor of Laguna Hills traces his interest in politics to a burned-out wall socket. Hang with me here, because somewhere between that outlet and the highest office in the city is a holiday ritual—one that’s only 5 years old, but already is important to tens of thousands of people. Read more...

How to cut your own Christmas tree in Orange County

Still want to cut your own Christmas tree in Orange County? Show up before Thanksgiving—and take a number.

It was our parents’ tradition, and we’ve continued it with our three kids: cutting our own Christmas tree. So, la-di-da, last year we arrived in mid-December at the Peltzer family lot in Silverado Canyon, congratulating ourselves for getting out so early. More than a week before Christmas! We felt like real winners. Read more...

Rituals: The Serenading of the Ox

The serenading of the Ox Can an influx of young, non-German late-night partiers rescue a peculiar Orange County Oktoberfest rite?

Anaheim’s Phoenix Club was founded in 1960 to preserve German culture, and for half a century its members have celebrated the autumn harvest by roasting an ox on a spit and basting it with good German beer, all night long. This takes place on each of the busiest Saturday nights of Oktoberfest. People start lining up Sunday morning to savor the succulent roast, and there’s seldom anything left by mid-afternoon. Read more...

Rituals: Well-Mannered Radicals

Laguna Beach’s weekly protesters have something to say. But there’s no need to get all contentious and impolite about it.

Around lunch hour on nearly any Saturday at Main Beach facing Coast Highway, you’ll find some of that happy handful of Americans who still stand on a soapbox in the public square, telling people what they think, mano a mano. Or mano a auto. Read more...

The Loneliest Fire Crew

The Santiago Fire put a spotlight on Orange County’s only remaining all-volunteer firefighting crew. But one year later, a troubling question remains: Can the heroes of Holy Jim Canyon be saved?

Deep down a narrow, chaparral-choked canyon in the Cleveland National Forest, in a cluster of old cabins without electricity, water services, telephones, or cellphone reception, a dozen willing firefighters prepare each fire season for flames that could come howling over the crest at any time. Read more...

Rituals: The Slo-mo hurricane

Sandy wiped out the fun zones of the Jersey Shore overnight. Here, it’s a less dramatic erosion.

When the Balboa Fun Zone finally goes belly up, everyone will say it died of natural causes. Yet it feels like it’s happening on purpose, with the attractions being shut down one by one. A slow poisoning. Read more...

The Shrinking Pond

Can new ideas rejuvenate the Lions Club’s annual fish fest?

It takes serious longevity for an Orange County ritual to be considered an institution, but at 66 years old this month, the Costa Mesa-Newport Harbor Lions Club Fish Fry deserves the status. Read more...
READ NOW: Serial Killer Seduction

Our "Center of the Universe" story is being read all over the world right now. Click here for the story.


Who Did Randy Kraft Seduce?

Current photos of author Jay Roberts.


A Fact-Checker's Journey to a 1980 Afternoon

Our intrepid intern tracks down the details in Roberts' story.


Why Isn't Randy Kraft Dead?

Our original piece on one of California's deadliest and most depraved serial killers. 


Editor's Letter, October 2013

Our editor considers "Center of the Universe" to be compelling—and incredibly frightening. Click above to find out why.