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Costa Mesa councilman hopes third time is a charm for Fourth of July event (that’s actually on the third)

Costa Mesa councilman hopes third time is a charm for Fourth of July event (that’s actually on the third)
Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens, standing at right, is once again asking his City Council colleagues to consider funding an Independence Day celebration at the OC Fair & Event Center. The event took place in 2017, but flickered out last year. (Courtesy of city of Costa Mesa)

Could an on-again, off-again Independence Day celebration flare up again in Costa Mesa? At least one City Council member hopes so.

For the third year in a row, Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens is asking his colleagues to support staging a community holiday event at the OC Fair & Event Center.

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The event would take place July 3 and, as envisioned, feature live music, eating contests, face-painting and other family friendly activities — all culminating in a “made-to-be-quiet pyrotechnic display that will be more family-, pet-, and veteran-friendly than traditional fireworks displays,” according to a staff report included in Tuesday’s council agenda.

“I believe that the city should have a community celebration around Independence Day,” Stephens said Friday. “The community has a lot to celebrate this year and every year.”

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Such a shindig, he added, would “be a true community event that can be a tradition in the city” and holding it on July 3 would make sure it doesn’t conflict with other, long-standing neighborhood celebrations.

His previous pitches, however, were met with mixed reactions. While the council agreed to create such an event in 2017, it did so on the condition that Stephens raise enough money to cover the estimated $50,000 cost.

He did, and the bash — which included games, live music, inflatables and a rib-eating contest — drew about 1,000 attendees that July 4, according to the city.

Last year, the majority of the council balked again at committing funding for such a celebration, and the idea fizzled when Stephens said he wouldn’t move forward without their support.

This time around, Stephens is asking his colleagues — three of whom hadn’t yet been elected the last time he brought such a proposal forward — to authorize $10,000 to help cover event expenses.

The remainder of the event’s estimated $60,000 budget would come from community donations and contributions. Already, the city’s tourism bureau, Travel Costa Mesa, has agreed to pitch in $10,000, according to the city staff report.

On top of that, Stephens said he has so far secured roughly $15,500 in pledges for the event and spoken with “many, many more people who are receptive.”

“If we get it approved on Tuesday, then hopefully the council will buy into it and participate in soliciting for sponsorships and we’ll have an event that’s five or 10 times better than what we had in 2017,” he said.

Stephens said he also believes the event could help promote public safety, since attendees wouldn’t be engaging in illegal activity or firing off illicit fireworks elsewhere — a longtime concern around the Fourth.

When asked whether he expects the council to be more supportive this time, Stephens chuckled.

“I always think I’m going to be successful,” he said. “It just doesn’t always happen.”

Tuesday’s City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Costa Mesa Senior Center, 695 W. 19th St.

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