Huntington Beach plans Pier Festival for Fourth of July weekend

Spectators watch the Fourth of July fireworks show over the Huntington Beach Pier in 2019.
(Courtesy of Gus Martinez)

Huntington Beach is expanding its Fourth of July weekend festivities in 2021, though the traditional parade down Main Street will not be happening for the second straight year.

City officials announced this week that this year’s celebration will feature a festival at Pier Plaza from July 2 to 4, as well as a virtual and in-person 5K run at Central Park, neighborhood car parades and fireworks over the ocean on the holiday itself.

It is the 117th annual Independence Day celebration in Surf City, which is widely considered to put on the biggest Fourth of July event west of the Mississippi River. The celebration is organized by the Fourth of July Executive Board, with help this year from contractor Soundskilz, Inc.

The car parades will follow three different routes, with caravans consisting of 13 to 15 vehicles, according to Chris Cole, Huntington Beach facilities and events manager and special events supervisor.

“We have different legs that will start in the southern, central and northern parts of town,” Cole said, adding that it will start at 8 a.m. and likely run for about three hours. “It’s kind of like that feeling of hearing the ice cream man coming down the street. You hear it approaching, and everyone gets really excited and runs out in front and greets him as he comes by.”

Local city officials and celebrities will be riding in the caravans, which feature participating vehicles like the Ghostbusters ambulance, Disney character car Lightning McQueen and more.

Cole said that when plans came together in April, it was unknown what the COVID-19 protocols would be in July, making the traditional Main Street parade infeasible.

“We wanted to be able to play it safe and…do something that still honors the tradition of the parade, but do it in a way that we are sure can be acceptable to the community and the safety of our residents and visitors,” he said.

The Pier Plaza festival will feature vendor booths, food trucks and a new 12,000-square-foot beer and wine garden, as well as a carnival with rides and an 80-foot diameter Ferris wheel.

The beer and wine garden will be a prime viewing location for a 26-minute fireworks show, set to start just before 9 p.m. at the beach.

As for the Surf City 5K Run, Cole said more than 800 runners have already signed up. It will be run the morning of July 4 starting at Central Park, a change from past years. Another change is that the starting time is flexible; runners can start any time between 6:30 and 10:30 a.m.

Mayor Kim Carr, who usually runs in the 5K, said she is excited about the new location.

“I just think it’s great that we can finally get back in person and do these types of events again,” she said. “I think everybody’s really longing to get together and be connected, especially a community like Huntington Beach. We really support each other. To me, this is the event of the year that Huntington Beach really celebrates every year. This is the epitome of Huntington Beach. So to finally be able to do something, it’s not exactly the way it was before, but in some ways it’s kind of better.”

Additionally, entries are being accepted for the city’s annual home and business decorating contest through June 30.

For more information on any of the city’s Fourth of July festivities, visit

“They’ve done an incredible job of putting together what I think is going to be the best party on the Fourth of July, by far, on the West Coast,” Carr said.

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