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Huntington Beach’s Pierfest Reels Them In

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The third annual Huntington Beach Pierfest was the place to be Saturday for thousands of fun seekers from near and far to sample some of the best Surf City has to offer in sports, food and entertainment.

Costa Mesa resident Victoria Gardner said she probably would have been riding her bicycle at the beach this weekend anyway but ventured to Huntington Beach because she knew it was Pierfest weekend.

“I love it, especially this music right now,” she said to the blare of a salsa band on the stage.

Matthew Peterson, 9, of Irvine, said the milk-bottle cap booth was his favorite part of the “Kids’ Cove” because “They have more sorts of POGs and you can play without (risking) your own POGs.”

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He also enjoyed a game booth where he played a water-balloon toss with his aunt. Matthew was happy he lost because he got soaking wet--and a splash of relief from heat in the 80s.

Chloe Stavich, 9, of Costa Mesa, said this year’s Pierfest was better than last year’s “because they have a lot more games. I won a first-place ribbon and some (prize) tickets.”

The event, sponsored by the Surf City Foundation, continues today from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the beach and on Main Street at Pacific Coast Highway. The lineup includes a Surf City concert by Jan and Dean, the Surfaris, the Kingsmen, the Chantays and the Tornadoes.

Diversions Saturday ranged from the usual people watching along the bike path and on the sand to continuous musical entertainment, in-line skate stunt competition, powerboat races, arts and crafts booths and plenty of food. Organizers estimated that 125,000 turned out throughout the day.

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Sitting beside the bike path noshing on a Thai rice bowl combo, 29-year-old Royal Moore, from Portland, Ore., said he was impressed with his first visit to Huntington Beach.

“I flew down for this. I had a friend here who said, ‘If you’re going to come down once, make it this weekend,’ ” he said. “I told him I’m coming back. It’s just a complete laid-back atmosphere and I really like it. I think it’s California at its best.”

Throngs of visitors wandered through downtown, where the Main Street redevelopment boom has drawn new businesses, launching a trend that promises to continue when a recently approved Pier Plaza complex is built.

The $3.4-million plaza, due by summer of 1996, will add a new and wider boardwalk, an amphitheater, lawn area and improved restrooms and showers, as well as expanded auto and bicycle parking--both in high demand.

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The festival’s vendor and restaurant area got off to a rocky start because of some misunderstandings, but vendors were mostly pleased with the event by midday.

“It took a while to get started, but once it got started, it’s working great,” said Damon DeGrignon, a Dana Point vendor who was selling insulated, cooling neckbands and hat liners that were a hot item.

“It wasn’t very well organized. The booths weren’t numbered and people didn’t know where to go,” he said. “Then they were charging when it started. Nothing was done until someone mentioned it was advertised as a free event.”

Organizer Paul Cook said the snafu was because advertising noted free admission to “concerts and events,” but many people were unaware of a $1 gate charge for the Pier Taste restaurant fair.

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The problem was easily solved: By about 10 a.m., the gate admission was waived and each hungry visitor had an extra dollar to spend on samples of ethnic cuisine.


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