A Sunny Holiday Draws Crowds to Beaches and Parks

Times Staff Writer

Orange County residents greeted the President's Day holiday with delight Monday as thousands filled the county's parks and beaches, firing up barbecues, organizing pick-up softball games and generally enjoying the sunny, breezy weather.

While the sun made a gallant showing, gentle but persistent winds kept temperatures in the low- to mid-60s, sweaters on and the sun tan oil back on the shelf. Still, the sunshine offered many the chance to get outdoors after Sunday's intermittent rainfall.

At Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, about 2,000 people came through the park's gates to enjoy the huge recreation area's picnic, sports and hobby facilities.

"We've had a pretty good crowd for a winter day. It was sunny, but it was cool enough for most people to keep their sweaters on," park ranger Jeff Bukshapan said. According to Bukshapan, the park's model airplane and rocket-launching hobby areas were packed most of the day.

At Irvine Park, about 700 people gathered to barbecue steaks, hamburgers and hotdogs. Riding horses, playing pick-up games of touch football and softball were also popular activities, park officials said.

Sun and Surf

"It was an excellent turnout," park official Scott Pritchard said. "I think with the weather we have been having lately people were really looking forward to the holiday. It was sunny, but many kept their coats on in order to be comfortable."

Tom Tarpley, a Seal Beach lifeguard, said that about 5,000 people came out for the sun and surf. A few people, braving chilly 55-degree waters, went swimming or belly-boarding, Tarpley said. A handful of the swimmers received stingray bites for their efforts, he said.

"It was a pretty good sized crowd, easily the biggest of this year. While we had a few swimmers, I think that most of the people who came just wanted to enjoy the sun," he said.

According to Gordon Reed, Newport Beach marine safety captain, about 8,000 people ventured onto the beaches at Newport and Balboa during the day.

"We had a lot of people out today. All seemed to be in a great mood and were having a lot of fun. We had a gentle but steady westerly breeze for most of the day, and it was just enough to keep things cool," Reed said.

Terry and Jayne Brenna, along with their children Erin, 4, and Ryan, 2, were lured to Laguna Beach for a sunny, three-day Southern California weekend from their home in Phoenix.

"This is great. We're having a lot of fun. We even have the required Disneyland balloon in the back of the car," Terry said as the family enjoyed a fried chicken lunch on the sand.

For state social worker Thomas Novak, 34, of Arcadia, the sunny weather meant a chance to relax and do some people-watching on the Laguna Beach boardwalk.

Great People Wtaching

"We wanted to get out and get some fresh air. I work indoors all week and I really wanted to get out in the sun. Besides, the people-watching is great," Novak said.

The holiday for Golden West College students Theresa Arroyo, 21, and Keith Minnie, 24, meant a day off from lectures and exams, and a chance to sample the shops and eateries of Laguna Beach.

"We haven't had a chance to get away for a while. Being here is like a small escape, you might say," Minnie said.

Monday's high in Orange County was 69 degrees in Santa Ana, with El Toro and San Juan Capistrano both reporting highs of 63, according to the National Weather Service. Newport Beach posted the coolest daytime temperature with 57 degrees, up from an overnight low of 50.

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