Oceanside celebrates one last hurrah of summer with its annual Harbor Days on Saturday and Sunday. The free family-oriented event encompasses the entire harbor and enlists the services of the Marine Corps, merchants and entertainers, among others.
The festivities will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days and will feature more than 40 international food booths, about 200 arts and crafts and vendor booths and a separate children's area. Live music and a car show, beauty pageant and various water sports will highlight the weekend.
More than 65,000 people attended last year's Harbor Days and more are expected this year, said a spokesman for the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event. Under the chamber's helm for the past 11 years, Harbor Days is Oceanside's largest annual event. It is staffed by volunteers from a variety of local service organizations and businesses.
"This is designed as a family event," the chamber spokesman said. "It's kept very conservative so it's nice and enjoyable for the families, especially with no price to pay to park or to get in." The festival opens with a boat parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by an 11 a.m. performance by the Marine Corps band. Opening remarks will be delivered at noon by Oceanside Mayor Larry Bagley and Jack White, this year's Harbor Days honorary commodore.
Although admission and parking are free, minimal fees are charged for some of the events, said Rob Parker, 1992 Harbor Days chairman. The Nail 'N Sail competition, for example, has a $35 entry fee to defray the cost of materials, he said.
Nail 'N Sail is one of many weekend water sports and one of the wildest, Parker said. Teams of six people or less are issued two pieces of plywood and several nails, then given two hours to construct a boat.
The clincher is that the boat must be able to keep two people afloat, Parker said. Prizes are awarded for the most creative boat, ugliest and the first to sink.
Teams interested in participating in Nail 'N Sail or any other water sport can register by calling the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. The phone number is 722-1534.
Another water event is the Mayor's Cup Regatta at 2 p.m. Saturday. Mayor Bagley, the general of Camp Pendleton and other North County mayors and city council members race in small boats in the harbor. The winning city receives an America's Cup-style trophy, which has been passed back and forth between the winners since 1985.
The biggest rivalry is between city officials in Oceanside and San Marcos. When one city wins the trophy, it has trouble hanging on to it until the next year's race.
"We keep winning the trophy and San Marcos keeps stealing it," said Colleen O'Hara, an attorney in Oceanside and Harbor Days organizer.
"It's a perpetual trophy and it's kept in the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce office, except when it gets stolen," O'Hara said of the good-natured competition.
Harbor Days chairman Parker can remember just as many times when Oceanside has "confiscated" the trophy when it was rightfully in San Marcos' possession.
Other weekend highlights include the Navy Seals parachuting onto Harbor Beach at 2 p.m. both days; jet ski, canoe and remote-control boat races; an exhibit of Camp Pendleton vehicles and weaponry, and tours aboard the Coast Guard's 82-foot cutter the Point Hobart.
On Sunday, the Miss Southern California Children and Teen Pageant will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the entertainment stage set up in front of the harbor's Cape Cod Village. Girls ages 2 to 19 entered in the competition will be judged on personality, poise and overall beauty, said pageant coordinator Pam Pahnke of Elegance Modeling in Carlsbad.
Oceanside's Harbor Days celebration got its start 29 years ago when the harbor was built. Local merchants decided to hold a celebration to attract people to their new port.
The harbor--today a center for shopping, sporting and dining--had turbulent beginnings.
Within the first year, despite the dredging of the channel entrance, the flow of sand made the harbor one of the worst navigational hazards on the West Coast. Hundreds of boats were swamped and capsized over the years. A photograph taken in 1964 showed then-harbor master Jon Curtis walking across the harbor entrance in waist-deep water. Eventually, those early problems were overcome.
Several Oceanside community groups have hosted Harbor Days over the years. Some years--due to lack of sponsors--the event was skipped altogether.
The desire for a community celebration never completely waned, however, and sponsors plugged on. The Chamber of Commerce took over the event when it grew too big to be handled by harbor merchants.
"The event grew to such proportions that they (the merchants) felt they couldn't handle it anymore and the chamber took over," organizer O'Hara said. "We've greatly expanded it. It encompasses the entire harbor, with three different locations for the arts and crafts, an art walk, entertainment and a car show."
The price tag for the weekend's festivities is about $32,000, said Marva Bledsoe Chriss, who is treasurer for the event. This includes paying for the services of a private security company to patrol the arts and crafts area overnight, Oceanside police and emergency personnel during the days, shuttle buses to and from Camp Pendleton, and buses providing transportation throughout the harbor.
Arts, crafts and food booth rentals fund about three-quarters of the event, Bledsoe Chriss said. A lesser portion of the costs will be defrayed by Chamber of Commerce sales during the event, she said.
At one time a major chamber fund-raiser, Harbor Days is now presented more for the enjoyment of the residents of Oceanside and neighboring communities.
"It does still raise funds for the Chamber of Commerce, but because of the situation with the city of Oceanside, which is no longer able to be a partner (for financial reasons) . . . the fund-raising level is diminished tremendously," Bledsoe Chriss said.
The Oceanside Harbor District has been able to remain a partner in the event, Bledsoe Chriss said, and its efforts are key to the success of the event.
"Harbor Master Don Hadley and his harbor police just do a wonderful job to work with the chamber and the committee and the community to make sure their harbor is spotlighted those days."
WHAT: Oceanside Harbor Days
WHEN: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: Oceanside Harbor on Harbor Drive
COST: Free admission. Free parking available at Camp Pendleton with free shuttles operating between the base and harbor.
GETTING AROUND: Streets will not be closed to through traffic during the celebration, but event organizers urge people to use the parking provided at Camp Pendleton. Motorists can drive through Pendleton's main gate off I-5 at Harbor Drive. Shuttle buses operated by the North County Transportation District will run continuously between the Marine base and harbor. Free transportation throughout the harbor will be provided by London-style double-decker buses.