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FAMILY-FRIENDLY : A Bigger Pierfest This Year Offers More Games and Races for Children

August 17, 1995|CORINNE FLOCKEN

Going to Surf City? Wanna have some fun, oooweeeeeoooo?

Even if you're too young to know the lyrics to Jan & Dean's 1963 hit, you should find plenty to entertain yourself at this year's Pierfest, the annual beach festival that runs Friday through Sunday in O.C.'s own "Surf City," Huntington Beach.

In an effort to reach more families--and, possibly, to give a more wholesome image to a city that has seen its share of violent incidents in past summers--organizers of the 1995 Pierfest are beefing up the number of activities and shows targeted to children. Among the headliners performing this weekend is Craig 'n Co., a five-piece rock-pop band led by Craig Taubman that youngsters may know from the group's numerous music videos on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

Opening for Craig 'n Co. on Saturday and Sunday afternoons is Jim Rule, a Lake Forest kindergarten teacher who nabbed a prestigious Parent's Choice gold award for his debut recording, "Share This World" in 1994.

Pierfest co-chairman Paul Cook said he has gotten a few calls from potential festival-goers concerned about the violence that has erupted at some other large events in the city, including recent Independence Day celebrations.

"Some people have asked if [Pierfest] is safe, and I tell them there isn't a safer place to be," assured Cook. "We've probably had well over a million people at Pierfest since it started [in 1992], and we've never had a fistfight or an incident of any type." The festival's lack of alcohol and "mellow" entertainment, plus the vigilance of local police and security forces, are responsible for that, Cook said, "and we plan to keep it that way."

Each Pierfest day has its own entertainment theme. Friday is "Pier Blues" day, featuring 10-year-old harmonica whiz Brody Buster and his BWB Show Band, followed by the James Cotton Band. Saturday it's "Pier Jazz" with music by Susie Hansen (see Around & About, Page 6), opening for Latin jazz artist Poncho Sanchez. "Pier Oldies" have their day Sunday, with performances by the Chantays and four surf-rock bands featured on the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack. Also performing Sunday is Good Vibrations, a surf band, performing with Dean Torrence, the former Jan & Dean member now living in Huntington Beach.

Torrence is also the co-founder of the Surf City Foundation, a nonprofit organization that puts on Pierfest with the help of local businesses, community groups and the city. Surf City Foundation has earmarked proceeds from this year's Pierfest to go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Orange County, which responds to requests of children with life-threatening illnesses. No formal fund-raising goal has been set, but organizers say they hope to fulfill "at least 10 wishes."

Cook, a retired Huntington Beach city manager, heads up the Surf City Foundation with Torrence, and has been the chief organizer of Pierfest since it was first held to mark the opening of the new Huntington Beach Pier. This year, with the help of event consultant Kelly O'Hara and promotions specialist Lori Courser, Cook is bringing in what he says is the widest range of entertainment, food, sporting activities and family events that Pierfest has ever offered.

To accommodate all that, Cook has moved Pierfest two blocks south of its original location. All activities this year will be held on the six-acre stretch of beach and parking lot alongside Pacific Coast Highway between Huntington and Beach streets. The move nearly triples the festival space and the number of available parking spaces.

Although business contributors and corporate sponsors such as Hawaiian Punch help counteract the event's costs (about $200,000 this year, Cook estimated), there will be an admission for the event for the first time. Adults pay $2 to $5 depending on the time of day they arrive, and children under 12 are free. The ticket price includes all entertainment; game booths and most activities cost extra. Twenty local restaurants and caterers will operate booths selling a variety of food items, most priced under $4, said O'Hara.

"I think people will really get a lot of bang for their buck," said O'Hara, who also coordinated the expanded Kids Cove section. "I'm setting this up like a big family picnic. There are watermelon eating contests, sack races, freeze dances, a water balloon toss . . . everything is really user-friendly and inexpensive." Game booths will be operated by volunteers from local community groups, which will receive a portion of their proceeds.

Gamers will earn tickets redeemable for "really cool prizes . . . anything from bikes to Barbie dolls," O'Hara said. "It's not cheesy stuff at all."

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