A 40-foot inflated green alligator towered over the sand next to the Huntington Beach Pier on Saturday.
Overhead, a rented airplane flew lazy circles in the sky dragging a sign that read "Egbar," the mascot alligator's name.
And along a three-mile stretch of beach, an estimated 800 volunteers wearing surgical gloves fanned out to fill plastic bags with bits of trash ranging from candy wrappers to a fishing lure encrusted in barnacles.
"The idea is that we're all interdependent," said Jessica Fabrizio, 23, who had helped orchestrate the scene. "Our world is everybody's world. If we all took pride in our communities, what a better world this would be."
It was all part of Clean Up the World Day, an annual event hosted by the Egbar Foundation whose name is an acronym for everything's gonna be all right . A nonprofit organization funded by the Huntington Beach manufacturer of an environmentally safe all-purpose cleanser called Simple Green, the group receives 1% of the company's profits with which it operates an educational program and organizes the annual beach cleanup.
While the cleanup has taken place since 1989, this year was the first time it was held in conjunction with a worldwide effort that involved more than 10 million people in 75 countries, according to Fabrizio, the foundation's director.
"It's a day to realize that we're not just individuals and that the planet is all of ours," Fabrizio said.
Gathering in Huntington Beach at 8 a.m., local participants received free breakfast and T-shirts before spending the next 2 1/2 hours searching the sand for the refuse of human recreation. By far the most common find, Fabrizio said, were cigarette butts. "It's unbelievable how many there are," she said. "It's like an ashtray."
Other recovered items included fragmented surfboard bits, plastic straws, soft drink cans, crumpled water bottles, broken balloons, Styrofoam cups, an empty syringe, discarded dice and pairs of underwear for both women and men.
Tim Turner, a city beach crew leader whose job includes overseeing beach cleanups, estimated the retrieved trash--piled high on the back of a pickup truck--to weigh about 175 pounds and comprise about seven cubic yards.
"It's the kind of stuff we can't get with our machines," he said. "It usually gets washed out to sea where it kills marine life. This (cleanup) is not just a token effort; it's a major help."
That seemed to be the consensus of the participants who hailed from all over Orange County and, in some cases, beyond.
"I think we accomplished something," said Connie Abang, 63, a Los Alamitos resident who came with her daughter and four grandchildren. "We want a clean place to go with the children."
Don Videgto, 45, brought his 14-year-old son, Tony, from Fullerton to participate in the effort. "You have to do this sort of thing," he said. "Every little bit helps; my son surfs here and we've got to keep it looking good."
And Sarah Nelson, 15, said that she had rounded up several high school friends in Tustin to make the Saturday morning trek to the sand.
"If you start with the little stuff, you can move on to the big stuff," the teen-ager declared. "It's our future. We don't have another planet to live on."