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'04 Waterfront Fireworks Blast From the Past

June 20, 2004|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

After persuading a skeptical Huntington Beach City Council to allow the first waterfront Fourth of July fireworks show in more than 30 years, organizers say they have cleared the next hurdle -- raising $100,000 to pay for the pyrotechnic production.

More than half of the money will pay for 18 minutes of colorful bursts of fountains, comets, spinners, waterfalls and floral star shells.

The funds also will pay for the barge from which technicians will shoot the fireworks mortars, a tugboat to pull the barge and police officers to patrol in and around the downtown area throughout the day.

"We're hoping that the families and people who come to the beach abide by the laws," said Lt. Craig Junginger, operations commander for the parade and fireworks show. "But we will also have our beach detail deployed as well as tactical teams around the downtown and beach areas to make sure they are abiding by the laws."

Neither fireworks nor alcohol will be allowed on the beach or the pier.

Planners of the annual fireworks show, which has been held at the nearby Huntington Beach High School stadium since the 1970s, wanted a return to the days when families staked out a spot on the sand or the pier with picnic baskets and cool drinks.

The 2004 festivities will mark the 100th anniversary of the city's Fourth of July parade.

"We've been working on this for three years," said fireworks committee chairwoman Margie Bunten. "We're looking forward to a very safe and enjoyable Fourth of July. We're emphasizing the safe part."

City officials were reluctant to endorse the beachfront fireworks, fearful that traffic and disturbances from an anticipated crowd of 100,000 or more would overshadow the family-friendly activities planned.

But after dozens of residents and business owners told the council that the city has matured and its past wrongs should not spoil this centennial celebration, the council relented.

The Fourth of July executive committee then had to raise the funds to pay for the fireworks, extra police, firefighters, and an array of equipment and services from the building and safety, community services and public works departments.

With donations from the nuVision Financial Federal Credit Union ($50,000), Beach Boulevard of Cars ($10,000), Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort ($10,000) and others, the committee was able to raise the money in short order.

The committee will also raise funds for the event by selling seating on the pier for the show. The pyrotechnic display will be produced by Pyro Spectaculars, which has done the Macy's fireworks in New York's East River, 12 Super Bowls and the Olympics in Salt Lake City and Atlanta.

Show producer Paul Souza said the display will incorporate more than 4,200 shots jettisoned from about 700 mortars, and feature displays designed for Huntington Beach. The show will be simulcast on KRTH-FM (101.1), with a selection of patriotic tunes and surf songs.

The fireworks display will cost about $65,000, said Connie Young, a spokeswoman for the fireworks committee.

The Police Department has hired 38 sheriff's deputies and 38 California Highway Patrol officers to help during the parade, and some will remain through the evening, said Junginger.

The entire Huntington Police force of more than 200 officers will be deployed that day, he said.

"We're anticipating there are going to be arrests," Junginger said. "We're not anticipating anything like the civil disturbances we've had in the past, but we need to plan for mass arrests."

Even without fireworks, downtown rowdiness has marred Fourth of July celebrations. Seven years ago, more than 500 people were arrested during a drunken spree in which fires were set and patrol cars overturned.

Over the years, the city has dealt with those problems by having a strong police presence on the holiday and a zero-tolerance policy toward drunken and rowdy behavior.

Traffic control, Junginger said, will be the largest task facing police.

Pacific Coast Highway between Golden West Street and Beach Boulevard will be closed to traffic from 5 a.m. until after the parade, which starts at 10 a.m. and is expected to end about 1:30 p.m.

PCH will then reopen. Just before the fireworks start at 9 p.m., however, incoming traffic on PCH from Golden West to Beach will be rerouted until after the fireworks.

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