Day shakes, doesn't stir

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

1/2-hour parade.

"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

in touch."

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

Bright said.

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

* ANDREW EDWARDS covers education and crime. He can be reached at

(714) 965-7177, (949) 494-4321 or

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