A push by Costa Mesa City Councilman John Stephens for a local Fourth of July celebration has garnered support from a perhaps surprising source: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The animal-rights organization, more commonly known as PETA, has agreed to contribute $5,000 for the event if Stephens and the city pledge to use fireworks that won't fill the night with loud explosions.
"By offering sensational, soundless fireworks, Costa Mesa will prevent dogs, cats, wildlife and humans suffering from PTSD from being bombarded with deafening noises," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement Wednesday. "PETA stands ready to help the city make a different kind of July Fourth history by putting on the first major Independence Day display that delivers all the flash without the fright."
Costa Mesa residents, including Stephens, have said noise from fireworks around the holiday can terrify pets or even cause them to run away.
Stephens said he's "ecstatic" about PETA's offer.
"We were intending to do a fireworks display without the noise anyway, so it works out perfectly," he said.
According to a City Council decision last week, Stephens must raise the money necessary to put on the event at the OC Fair & Event Center. His deadline is May 15.
PETA's contribution would cover one-tenth of the estimated $50,000 cost.
Stephens developed the idea for a city-run Fourth of July bash in response to local complaints and concerns about the use of illegal fireworks. He has said he thinks a centralized celebration would promote public safety.
According to plans submitted to the council last week, the new event would take place in partnership with Heroes Hall, a veterans museum at the Fair & Event Center, and culminate with a pyrotechnics display between 8:45 and 9 p.m. using devices that offer the visual spectacle of fireworks but without the typical noise.
Spectators at the celebration "will not be disappointed by what they see," PETA spokeswoman Kate Tuggle said Wednesday. "The only difference will be that they don't have to cover their ears while they watch."
Including PETA's pledge, Stephens said he's secured commitments of nearly $30,000 for the event so far.
The focus now, he said, is putting together a more formal fundraising effort "to engage different parts of the community so when we go out and say, 'Would you like to be an underwriter?' we can give them some concrete reasons why they should do that."
"I have no doubt that we're going to get to $50,000 by the 15th," he said. "We'll get there well before that."