The idea to change locations was presented last year, but
postponed when the council directed the Fourth of July Commission to
take some time to gather more information on costs, parking and
The commission, chaired by Pat Stier, has been working since last
July on plans to move the celebration from Huntington Beach High
School, where it has been held for nearly 20 years, back to the
It was originally moved from the beach due to excess fog that used
to roll in and obstruct the view, Stier said. But the fog clears up
much earlier these days and is no longer a concern, she said.
"I think [moving the fireworks back to the beach] is what most
people want," said Stier. "I think everybody really has their heart
If successful, the event would feature a fireworks display shot
from a barge stationed offshore.
But memories of rowdy thrill-seekers, heavy drinking and
widespread pandemonium that led to hundreds of arrests in the past
have triggered concern from residents and city officials.
"The potential, once it gets dark, for problems is immense," said
Councilman Dave Sullivan.
In the mid-1990s, Fourth of July celebrations spun out of control
year after year. Illegal firecrackers were accompanied by couch
burnings, flying bottles, fires on residential streets and the
swinging police batons. Arrests climbed from 40 people in 1993 to 257
in 1994. In 1995, a 21-year-old man was shot to death.
Police finally cracked down in 1996, when arrests peaked at 546
and Downtown streets were barricaded to curb the mayhem.
Stier said she thinks that the community has changed since the
last Fourth of July disturbance.
"Since then, the city has calmed down," she said. "The city's
become more of a family."
But Sullivan is skeptical. At a time when Surf City is trying to
make money through tourism, a bad night could be damaging to the
city's goals, he said.
"The up side is a nice event," said Sullivan. "The down side is
sliding back and striking a body blow to our tourism. The problem is,
in my view, that the downside has too much risk to it."
But the fireworks will need a new home this year because the field