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Hey! No sunscreen near the stuffing

On a summerlike day that could make East Coasters envious, some Southern California families spent Thanksgiving at the beach. They feasted on the usual offerings -- and sunbathed and surfed too.

November 27, 2009|By Esmeralda Bermudez
  • Chip Margelli, 58, and his wife Janet pull their bird out of the fryer at Bolsa Chica State Beach. For several years, they and a group of co-workers have come together to give each other company on the holiday.
Chip Margelli, 58, and his wife Janet pull their bird out of the fryer at Bolsa… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

This Thanksgiving, Donna Nurre was thankful she finally got her way.

It took some convincing, but on Thursday her relatives finally gave in and followed her and the turkey from the dining room to the shore to celebrate the holiday à la SoCal on the beach.

"This is what I wanted," said the third-grade teacher, fastening a tablecloth with clothespins so the breeze wouldn't blow it away. "An adventure."

Across Bolsa Chica State Beach, dozens of families broke tradition to give thanks beneath sunny skies that would make any East Coaster envious.

They ditched ovens and pans for crockpots, deep fryers and electric roasters. They feasted on the usual offerings -- stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls -- as they sunbathed, surfed and, once night fell, roasted s'mores.

Temperatures rose to a comfy 80 degrees by midafternoon, making even those who have made Thanksgiving by the beach an annual ritual take notice of the unusual warmth.

While much of the beach was serenely vacant except for joggers and cyclists, motor-home campers transformed one parking lot into a row of dining rooms, some with wine glasses, linen napkins and fancy china. Others set up on the sand, eating from plastic plates with no need for a table.

As Nurre and her crew of nine relatives worked out the logistics for their meal, Sean Beardsley kept his gang on track for the sixth year in a row. This was no small task, as the table was set for 40 relatives and friends, by far the largest group on the beach.

A detailed four-page agenda titled "The Meyers-Beardsley-Brock Thanksgiving Weekend Extravaganza" assigned everyone a task -- including bringing "a nice bottle of tequila."

Preparations began at 4:30 a.m. as the men set out to bake three turkeys and a brisket, burying them in a bed of charcoal for several hours inside a fire pit. The Orange County beach is one of the few left along Southern California's coast that still has the pits.

As the 3 p.m. dinnertime approached, Beardsley and others dug the birds out of the sand with picks and rakes.

"Smells like turkey!" Gina Beardsley hollered across the beach as the men hauled out the chicken-wire-wrapped entree.

Not far away, Ingemar Hansson and his family kept things simple. As the turkey cooked, Hansson sat in a lawn chair in the parking lot sunbathing and chugging a beer. His children headed toward the sand to fly a kite.

This was the first year the Lakewood family had traded their home for the outdoors, but it might become an annual tradition, Hansson said.

"We got everything we need right here," he said. "What else could you ask for?"

Bob Roth's family agreed as they gathered to cheer on the Green Bay Packers, the NFL game playing on a television connected to his 34-foot motor home.

Four generations of relatives -- from Whittier, La Mirada, Norwalk and as far away as Minnesota -- joined the retired meat-processing plant owner.

After his wife died five years ago, Roth bought the motor home to honor her and travel the country. Since then, it inspired the 78-year-old and others to gather by the waves.

"This makes us feel closer," said Roth's granddaughter Renee Carlson, 29. "We're all in the same area, not in a separate dining room or living room."

Not having many relatives nearby, Chip Margelli, 58, and his wife joined a group of co-workers under a tent on the sand.

For several years, the group has come together to give each other company on the holiday. They make turkey and corn bread, pumpkin pie and hot cider. As they nibbled on their last bits of dinner, they looked out at the water and made bets on whether the sun would set over the ocean or over Santa Catalina Island.

"I got a buck on Catalina," said Gordon West of Costa Mesa.


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