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Orange County

Getting Set for Get-Togethers

Holiday: For thousands, the Fourth means getting out of town to celebrate. Then there are Orange County's perennial beachgoers.

July 04, 2002|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Maxine Gilles has spent every Fourth of July weekend since 1972 camping out at Doheny State Beach. She is there again this year, with about 80 of her relatives and friends.

"The first time, I came with two girlfriends," said Gilles, 65, of Anaheim, "and then it just took off and spread. Now it's become a big event."

It took some major planning. To get the 14 campsites they needed, group members had to reserve them individually, seven months in advance. "We all started calling on Dec. 1st," said Stephanie Prescott, 11, who has been coming with her family for years. "We call from work or use our cell phones--we just keep pushing redial."

Gilles and her fellow campers are among the hundreds of thousands of Independence Day revelers expected to leave, arrive in or pass through Orange County this weekend.

An estimated 145,000 will pass through John Wayne Airport, spokeswoman Ann McCarley said Wednesday. "[Wednesday] and Sunday are anticipated to be our biggest days."

Her advice: Arrive at the airport at least 2 1/2 hours before flight time, and don't even consider trying to carry fireworks aboard. "We're being a lot more vigilant since Sept. 11," she said.

The California Highway Patrol planned to have 80% of its available personnel in the area on duty from 6 p.m. Wednesday to midnight Sunday. "Mainly we'll be looking for impaired drivers, DUI drivers, aggressive drivers or any accident-causing violations," said Officer Mark Reeves, a CHP spokesman. "We suggest that you just be patient. Give yourself enough space between you and another driver, have alternate routes planned, and allow yourself plenty of time to get where you're going."

At the Doheny campground near Dana Point, most of the campers lucky enough to have sites were already in them by Wednesday afternoon. "It's a great place to spend the Fourth," said Claud Cook, 74, of Westminster, standing in front of his recreational vehicle. "They have real good fireworks off a barge."

The campground's 115 sites--which rent for $12 a night--are generally reserved for the July 4 weekend within two hours of becoming available at 8 a.m. Dec. 1, said Erin Davis, a park aide. "It's been like this for years," she said. "I think it's a tradition for lots of people."

That is certainly the case for Gilles and the nine families accompanying her this year. Among their planned activities: horseshoes, chess, volleyball, kite-flying and water-balloon-throwing contests, as well as a talent show on the beach, featuring violinists, cellists, singers and novelty acts.

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