Dave Brooks and Andrew Edwards
Some people feel it's their patriotic duty to vote every election.
Others fly the flag or tie yellow ribbons around trees.
Martha Neiderman dances -- wildly. Neiderman had a different move
for every musical float that passed at Huntington Beach's 100th
Fourth of July Parade and Celebration.
Neiderman did the shake to a rock band sponsored by the city's
interfaith council, the do-si-do with the Square Dancers of America
and still had enough strength to keep stomping her feet when the
Huntington Beach High School Band brought up the rear of the 2
"It's my patriotic duty to shake my booty," she said. "The only
song I stop for is 'God Bless America.'"
Neiderman was one of thousands to descend upon Huntington for this
year's centennial Fourth of July celebration.
Despite concerns of riots and violence, this year's event went
smoothly, and police described most of this year's participants as
For residents living along the parade route, the holiday began as
early as Thursday evening, with hundreds of people waiting until the
stroke of midnight to stake out a seat on the grass. Brothers Patrick
and Jerry Hutchinson, 9 and 5, brought a TV into their front yard to
help kill time before marking out a place in front of their home with
chalk and blue tape. Others sipped coffee and cocktails with friends
or snacked on marshmallows and popcorn, anything to stay awake to
meet the midnight start time set by city officials.
As the morning fog began to burn off Sunday, nearly every inch of
public space had been claimed for viewing. Residents living along the
street began to set up their lawn chairs and prepare snacks and food
for their parties, while parade participates took over the south end
of Downtown and worked feverishly to put the finishing touches on
their floats and costumes.
"I've been here since 5:45 a.m.," marcher and consultant Dale
Pinoche said. "There's only two things that would ever get me up this
early: free publicity or free food. In this case, I get a little of
The parade kicked off a few minutes after 10 a.m. with a small
police motorcade and the deafening siren blasts of several fire
engines. Anyone still feeling sleepy was shaken awake by the rumble
of two F-16 jets from the California National Guard and the excited
cheers that followed.
Despite the crowded conditions, the Downtown celebration was
markedly friendly and calm, even in the capacity-filled bars and
restaurants dotting the road. Up the street, dozens of homes hosted
parties within their fenced yards, most watching the parade or
attending to a nearby grill.
"We do this every year," said Main Street resident Mike Watson
over the thumping of a band of high school drummers. "We used to have
bands playing in the front. It was pretty wild. Now we just have a
good time with our friends and usually entertain everyone until the
fireworks show starts."
Ben Contreras said he used the holiday to connect with old chums
from Huntington Beach High School.
"It's a reunion of sorts," he said. "A lot of these guys grew up
surfing or going to school together, and this is a chance to
reconnect. We all have kids and families now, and it's hard to stay
Fireworks returned to the coast in Surf City just after 9 p.m.
Sunday, when a pink blast lighted the sky over waters south of the
For about 20 minutes, the light show continued with rapid-fire
barrages of colors, rockets that burst high above the crowd and
comet-like pyrotechnics that emitted scintillating trails of golden
sparks, which fell toward the ocean, then launched back up to the
"How could they make a firework that goes down, then up?" marveled
10-year-old Chris Ogilvie of Huntington Beach.
The final event of Huntington Beach's centennial Independence Day
celebration drew an estimated 150,000 visitors to the beach, many of
whom call other cities home.
"I looked up all the shows on the beaches and found out that they
were going to have one of the largest displays," 18-year-old Jimmy
Lee of Riverside said.
The show, billed as the largest on-the-water fireworks event on
the West Coast, ended with a colorful climax, as several rockets
exploded at the same time, the sound of the bursts being mixed with
the crowd's applause. By and large, the crowd was entertained by the
show, though some said they had anticipated a larger spectacle.
"It was good, kind of short," said Matt Miller, 23, of Huntington
Beach. "I dug that there [were] so many people out here."
The show was free to viewers who watched from the beach, but
people had the option of paying $50 for a seat on the pier.
"I didn't pay 50 bucks and I wasn't that happy myself,"
43-year-old Huntington Beach resident Shan Ray said.
Shannon Carr, 52, of Huntington Beach, watched the show from the
pier and said she enjoyed the entire event.
"It was excellent," she said. "It was awesome. Everybody was
Though some had hoped for more explosions in the sky, the city was
relieved that on the ground, the town was largely free of the
violence and burning furniture that made Huntington Beach notorious
in the early 1990s. Police said the day was relatively quiet, even
for a typical Sunday.
"It's actually been a surprisingly uneventful night," Lt. Corby
Public officials had worried unruly behavior would spoil
Independence Day festivities before the City Council decided to
approve the beach show. After the mellow celebration, Gail
Prestagard, 54, of Huntington Beach, hoped the shoreline event would
become an annual tradition.
"I'm very glad that they brought it back to the beach," she said.
"Look how many people got to enjoy it."
* DAVE BROOKS covers City Hall. He can be reached at (714)
965-7173 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* ANDREW EDWARDS covers education and crime. He can be reached at
(714) 965-7177, (949) 494-4321 or email@example.com.