County exercises its freedom | Thousands celebrate at beaches, parades, fair

July 5, 2003 No Comments

Dwight Daniels and Cheryl Clark. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jul 5, 2003. pg. B.1

Hundreds of thousands of county residents braved traffic snarls and parking perils yesterday to make it to area beaches and lakes, while thousands more enjoyed the Fourth of July at the San Diego County Fair, area parks and backyard gatherings.

It was a day of kites and horseshoes, colorful canopies and umbrellas in a wash of suntan lotion. A lifeguard lieutenant said 490,000 people jammed San Diego city beaches.

It was also a busy day for area law and safety officials. Doan Hoang, 16, of Colina del Sol drowned at La Jolla Shores when he was caught by a rip current while body-boarding. Another swimmer, a woman whose identity was not available, was in critical condition in a San Diego hospital last night after being rescued in Mission Bay in late afternoon. She was given CPR by lifeguards, then taken by paramedics to the hospital. San Diego lifeguards made 339 rescues yesterday.

A large number of alcohol-related problems were reported on San Diego beaches despite a beer-keg ban for the day. Nonetheless, police said relatively few people were arrested. Those arrested included a parole violator in Ocean Beach, two people for drunk and disorderly and one for person DUI at Mission Beach. Police said several additional citations were issued in beach areas, but a complete list was not available last night.

Lifeguard Lt. Brant Bass said the total of beachgoers was one of the largest ever on city beaches.

North County beaches were jammed too, but authorities said the crowds presented few problems beyond the heavy traffic.

Del Mar reported about 50 water rescues, but no major problems with alcohol. It was banned at the beach after a beach brawl broke out on Independence Day two years ago.

Temperatures reached 83 degrees in San Diego and Coronado, with El Cajon reporting a high of 96. Desert-area Borrego Springs reported 113 degrees. The National Weather Service expects today’s highs to be 85 to 95 degrees except along the coast where temperatures should be in the mid-70s.

For some, yesterday meant immersion in Americana.

Benjamin Horn, 2, stood on the bluff of Palisades Park in Pacific Beach waving three U.S. flags.

Each was almost as big as he was. With his red, white and blue flag shorts, Benjamin looked like a poster child for the Fourth of July.

“He loves flags . . . he’s obsessed with them,” his mother, Alicia, said. He’s got a flag towel, flag pajamas, flag T-shirts and a flag on the wall of his room.”

Near the Imperial Beach Pier, the grass quickly filled with tents, barbecues, coolers and the smell of hot dogs, hamburgers and corn on the cob.

“It’s a day to have fun and enjoy my family,” said Bonita Mason of Spring Valley. “And I know all this is possible because of the freedom people went overseas fighting for.”

Nearby, Stacey Boyer, 13, came to the beach with her family from Bonita and described the day as “kind of like Christmas without the presents.”

About noon, Ocean Beach neighbors Brandy Bell, Joe Zurkus, Carol MacLaren and Hether Henderson donned their bathing suits and went for a dip. Not in the ocean, however.

Their pool was of the small plastic circular variety — filled with water from a garden hose — set up in front of their apartment complexes on West Point Loma Boulevard.

That’s because nearby, they had a big, red beer keg, banned for the Fourth from city beaches.

“It would have been nice to take a keg to the beach, but since we can’t, this is a great place to hang out,” Zurkus said.

Traffic to Ocean, Mission and Pacific beaches was frequently gridlocked, and parking was almost impossible to find. Many families said they camped out, some as early as 4 a.m., to make sure they got a good spot to spend the day and watch the night display of fireworks.

The same was true elsewhere.

At 2 a.m. yesterday, Doug Dillard and two buddies set up a canopy to ensure front-row seats for the fireworks at Mira Mesa Community Park.

“It’s the perfect spot,” Dillard, 43, said. “You can see the fireworks right over the American flag.”

The men spent the night in sleeping bags to keep their spot.

Hundreds enjoyed the day there, including some marchers in the annual Mira Mesa parade.

Watching that procession was Lynn Reynolds, 61, a retired Navy master chief who sat with his Chihuahua, Boo, as fire engines, beauty queens, politicians, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and bands passed on Mira Mesa Boulevard.

“It’s great. The only time I’ve ever missed it was when I was deployed,” Reynolds, a Vietnam veteran, said. “I think the people of Mira Mesa, with all the military influence, understand the importance of the day.”

At the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, John Hall said he had vowed never again to brave the fair crowds on July 4th.

“Why exactly are we here?” his wife, Karen, joked with him.

But sitting on a bench in the shade, their stomachs full of french fries, the Talmadge couple decided it wasn’t so bad.

Kristina Webb of La Jolla held a huge paper umbrella in one hand and a hot dog covered in mustard in the other.

She and her 12-year-old daughter, Brendan Rexford, planned to spend the day at the fair, Webb said as they plowed through a basket of curly fries.

Carrying a bag with sunscreen and water, Webb and her daughter planned to experience the rides, visit exhibits, and see K.C. & the Sunshine Band.

“We’re just going to work our way around,” she said. “There’s so much to do. It’s a scene — a complete scene.”

Fair spokesman Steve Fiebing estimated that 69,000 people visited the Del Mar Fairgrounds yesterday for events that included a fireworks display.

At Lake Murray, the annual music fest drew hundreds despite the heat.

“Thankfully, there’s a nice breeze off the lake,” said Joyce Morrin, 70, who enjoyed the day with Bill Kersey, 61.

The Allied Gardens couple listened to tunes by Yavaz, a jazz band.

Morrin said she believes such gatherings help neighborhoods feel connected.

“We’re kind of losing that,” she said. “We’re so isolated in society, we need simple things like an old-fashioned picnic to bring us together.”

Teenagers Ally Frank, Amy Ochoa and Tory Le agreed.

“It’s a great way to get the community all together,” Amy said. “And the music and fireworks are good.”

Dwight Daniels: (619) 542-4599; dwight.daniels@uniontrib.com
[Illustration]
5 PICS; Caption: 1. Ocean Beach residents (from left) Brandy Bell, Carol MacLaren and Joe Zurkus enjoyed a Fourth of July dip in a pool outside their apartment complexes. 2. Andy Puentes and his niece, Hailey Trickey, waved U.S. flags as a Fourth of July parade passed along Mira Mesa Boulevard. (B-1:1,7; B-2:6) 3. Henry Mendoza of Santee dressed patriotically for a tournament at Carlton Oaks Golf Course (B-1:2,6; B-4:1) 4. At 5:45 a.m. yesterday, people had already staked out good locations in Mira Mesa Community Park to watch evening fireworks. Some camped overnight for the best spots. (B-2:7; B-4:1; B-8:2) 5. At the end of Grand Avenue in Pacific Beach, the wait to use the bathroom was nearly 10 minutes yesterday afternoon. Crowds jammed beaches yesterday. (B-4:1; B-8:2; B-2:6); Credit: 1,5. John Gastaldo / Union-Tribune 2. Sean M. Haffey / Union- Tribune 3. Don Kohlbauer / Union-Tribune 4. Jim Baird / Union- Tribune

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