Police were called out to break up the annual "mooning" of Amtrak trains in Laguna Niguel on Saturday when the crowd grew to 8,000 and many began baring more than just their behinds.
"We had some mooners and some female flashers and some people who were nude altogether," said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "There was also lots of drinking. We felt that it was in the public's interest to shut it down."
Mooners, flashers and others dispersed peacefully about 3 p.m. and there were no arrests, Amormino said. More than 50 officers responded from several police agencies, backed up by helicopters.
Some participants were angered by the police response.
"What was the point of stopping people from enjoying themselves when they were under control?" asked Robert Zoellner, 47, a first-time mooner from Mission Viejo. "Everybody was getting along."
Some participants returned to a mile-long stretch of festivities after police left, and newcomers arrived throughout the afternoon. Into the evening, revelers continued to moon the trains that passed about every 20 minutes.
The crowd, which included children with their parents as well as middle-aged adults -- stood on the shoulder of a road parallel to the tracks to show themselves. The sideshow included barbecues, T-shirt sales and RV parties.
"It's so liberating it's contagious," said Steve Bartolo, 39, of Costa Mesa. "You just wait until that next train goes by . . . I can't stop."
The 29-year-old event is said to have started when a patron at the nearby Mugs Away Saloon in the 27000 block of Camino Capistrano offered to buy drinks for any of his buddies who would run out to the tracks and bare their bottoms for the next passing train. Many did, and the tradition was born.
Usually held the second Saturday in July, the event begins early in the morning and continues into the night.
Though it has no official sponsors and free beer is no longer provided, it does have a website.
"The truth is I never heard of it until today," Amormino said. "This is probably the first time it's gotten out of hand."
"It's a good thing they were mooning trains," Amormino said, "because if it were cars I'm sure it would cause" an accident. "I guess a few people wrecked it for everybody."