By Sara Vandegrift, Special to the Independent
When a flame touches the tip a sparkler, the combined fuel of charcoal and sulfur ignite. Nitrates and chlorates react, resulting in salts that give the hand-held pyrotechnic its color and create the shooting sparks Fourth of July patrons know well. But just as these chemical reactions are occurring, another response is taking place, too: a sudden blooming of patriotism.
On Thursday, July 4, locals and visitors alike will come together to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day. Locally, the celebration is predicted to swell the town to 100,000 people, according to authorities.
By 11 a.m., beaches should transform into a multicolored quilt of beach towels and broad umbrellas, with scant room for late arrivals. If Main Beach is where you want to be, stake out your spot early.
Crowds make you claustrophobic? Visit the town’s smaller coves that dot the southern coast. Typically a place for locals and much less crowded, they include Christmas Cove, north of the Montage resort, and Thousand Steps, south of the hospital. These locations require more of a walk and reliance on street parking but allow for a more tourist-free experience. If kid-friendly is what you are looking for, try the annual Brooks Street parade, a neighborhood affair.
Those still looking to avoid the crowds can roam downtown galleries. Though the fourth falls on the month’s first Thursday, the town’s monthly Art Walk has been cancelled. But that’s not to stop some galleries from remaining open, such as Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art and Lu Martin Galleries, and inviting visitors to chat with artists.
For those who imbibe as part of their picnic celebration in public parks, the city’s Community Services Department is offering daily use permits for $10 at 515 Forest Ave, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The permit is not valid on the beach. For specifics, visit lagunabeachcity.net. Visitors may now eat, drink responsibly and be merry without the fear of being ticketed.
And while sparklers symbolize love of the USA, no fireworks – even hand-held ones – of any kind are allowed in town. Police and fire departments will be strictly enforcing the prohibition.
For those struggling to fit into parking spots seemingly made for Smart cars, city trolleys will run from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., shuttling people into Laguna Beach for free. Additionally, there will be no public parking in the Pavilions center parking lot located at 600 North Coast Highway at Boat Canyon. Free public parking will begin there on Friday, July 5, and will extend through the end of the summer art festival season.
Budget limitations and new water quality laws almost prevented Laguna Beach from putting on their annual fireworks show in 2010. Fortunately, this year’s display is a “go” and will take place at Monument Point in Heisler Park. The display will begin at 9 p.m. To prepare the site, the area of Heisler Park from the Rock Bench at Myrtle Street to the Rockpile Beach stairs at Jasmine Street will be closed to the public from 5 p.m. onward.
The show can be viewed from nearly anywhere in the city. If you are not lucky enough to be a resident with a convenient balcony, the most popular viewing point remains Main Beach itself, packed with standing people until late into the evening. Establishments just across the street make a close second best. Second level restaurants Rock ‘n Fish and Big Fish give diners a seat while they watch the bombs bursting in air.
Following the display, congestion is inevitable and nearly unavoidable. In ease the gridlock, the center lane of Laguna Canyon Road, between Canyon Acres and El Toro Road, will be reversed to add an additional northbound traffic lane immediately after the show, according to a city statement.
The city also prohibits the consumption of alcohol (without a permit or on the beach), smoking, tents, canopies and barbecues on the beaches. No dogs are allowed on city beaches from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from June 15 through Sept. 10.
Sara Vandegrift is an Indy intern who will attend UC Santa Barbara in fall.
Photo by Mitch Ridder