Beginning in 1916 and also enduring end a half-century, the Boardwalk’s self-reliance Day fireworks present crowned every summer season’s festivities. Large crowds arrived to observe the holiday’s spectacular aerial display that some referred to as the grandest in the state. 

In the critical years of those huge beach displays, 400 - 500 pyrotechnic shells developed a spectacle that solid, blended color, flitter, floral and also heavy speed displays. A 200-ft cascade that fire hung off the pleasure Pier a time or two. Distinct whistling shells the replicated falling leaves and little flowers to add a few comet shells dazzled onlookers. "Ooooh’s" and also "ahhhh’s" signaled their wonderment and approval amid the crackles and also explosions of the stunning 30-minute shows.

Through 1962, those vacation fireworks introduced from the Boardwalk’s satisfied Pier but the ravages that one-too-many winter storms caused that structure’s demise the complying with year. Undeterred, the Seaside firm moved the launch area come the beach, close to the birds line and also opposite the giant Dipper ride. Thirty to forty different-sized tube or mortars, buttressed by sand, challenged toward the ocean. Pyrotechnic designers lit gunpowder charges set on the tube’s bottom come propel the projectiles heavenward where they came to be fiery, celestial displays.

On a clear night, the aerial bursts reflect on the moonlit just water, a step that might not be an ext picturesque. Thankfully, many vivid photographs that those long-gone screens live in the Boardwalk Archives. Back the Boardwalk"s decades-long fireworks heritage ceased after ~ 1974, plenty of visitors still come expecting fireworks on July 4th. "What time do the fireworks start?" is a ask on the psychic of many holiday guests.

Visitors constantly arrived an extremely early top top America’s birthday ago then. Barbeque and picnic essentials needed to it is in lugged to their distinct spot along the san Lorenzo flow mouth and Main Beach. It to be a day-long ritual of food, fun, and also festivity under the daytime sun complied with by colorful explosions in the night sky.

Before the Santa Cruz Yacht harbor jetties were created in the mid-1960s, the Boardwalk’s coast was half as broad as today. Also the Boardwalk’s physical width has expanded a tad native 50-years ago. In part, that’s why photographs of vacation crowds of that era disclose a parasol-laden pack beach and also a Boardwalk chock-full the people. Approximates of crowd size over those years differed from 30,000 to 50,000 people, no counting those on numerous hundred tiny pleasure craft moored turn off the Boardwalk come gaze indigenous that distinctive vantage point.


Occasionally, a brass tape on the beach bandstand readied the crowd with patriotic melodies until ignition time. Because that a few years, ten members that the Paranauts Skydiving club dazzled beachgoers v afternoon jumps indigenous 10,000-ft above the beach. Your landward target to be a cordoned off an are on the sand. As soon as a skydiver sheepishly missed the mark and also hit the drink, beachgoers quiet cheered your delight.

The arch-nemesis that beach-borne fireworks is fog. On a half-dozen nights over the half-century, a short cloud ceiling enshrouded the beach area and also caused postponement of the show. Unfortunately, this occurred after disappointed onlookers perceived a few "announcing" airbursts that revealed the folly of expending more. It to be the summary of a last-minute cancellation. The Boardwalk usually rescheduled the occasion on the following weekend. One time, decreased visibility required the show"s cancellation a second time.

The San Jose Mercury News headline claimed July 4, 1974, "‘Raunchiest Santa Cruz 4th—No Fireworks, many Trouble". That summed the up! that evening, an easterly wind drive a fog financial institution that readily available zero visibility in the display zone. After ~ hearing the cancellation announcement, the chagrined beach group begrudgingly exited the sand. Many thanks to lousy timing, electrical energy went the end in the beach area and also Municipal Wharf roughly 10:00 pm, forcing the Boardwalk come close. It plunged the amusement park right into unprecedented darkness for numerous hours, conserve for its emergency light system. 

An unruly and also agitated faction in the night’s packed crowd compelled a fast exiting that the Boardwalk. The pop, pop, popular music of firecrackers echoed throughout the beach. A few safe-and-sane displays continued to irradiate up pockets that sand ~ above the darkened beach. The worst traffic jam in memory clogged beach Street and Riverside Avenue from 8:00pm till midnight. The potential for significant disaster to be at the highest. Thankfully, the worst did no happen. 


The wisdom of drawing such vast crowds come the beach on an already favorite holiday tested the condition quo. The City of Santa Cruz and the Seaside agency jointly agreed to cancel the festive freedom Day displays, do 1974 the critical year.

My check out of independence Day in the "60s and also "70s revolves about my family’s food concessions. Self-reliance Day required preparations like no other holiday. By early on afternoon, the Boardwalk felt landlocked by website traffic well into the night. If concessions were not resupplied at an early stage July 4th by outside vendors, there was no recovery. Us loaded up our food concessions to the brim to serve hungry and thirsty beachgoers. That work called for many long hours of preparation throughout the week ahead. 

One fond storage I have actually of those July 4th experiences is the countless special potluck buffets and picnic spreads of sandwich fixings and munchies the employees could enjoy. There to be many much more concessionaire families connected with the Boardwalk companies in those years. Names prefer Giovannazo, Ottaviano, Fitzsimmons, Malquel, Fulmer, Stoner, Meyers, Arnold, Wooldridge and also Carpenter only reside in Boardwalk archives now. Some funded these vacation feasts.

On the busiest of busy days, continual employees functioned unusually long hours. Any easily accessible family member obtained drafted too. To give their employee a distinctive respite native the day’s intensity, concessionaire families listed unique assortments that food. It came to be a Boardwalk tradition, and also I obtained invited to numerous of these. Working that afternoon and also evening had taking a few "time outs" avoiding by various locations to savor and munch ~ above these varied vittles. 


As the day wore on into the night, i remember how navigating v the group became virtually impossible, particularly when guest froze in ar to gaze in ~ the fabulous half-hour pyrotechnic display. 

After the fireworks show, there would certainly be one last sirloin of company from the exiting coast crowd. Everyone eventually left the Boardwalk toward parked cars and also subsequent full roadways. 

After closing, larger concession staff operated into the wee hours of the morning, clean up and readying their ar for opening later on the same day. It was tough work that felt an excellent when the was every done. 

In the past 45-years because those independence Day events, fireworks have lit up the Boardwalk sky, but never ~ above July 4th. The City that Santa Cruz has topped its October birthday celebration through fireworks over plenty of years. The Boardwalk added a June display in acknowledgment of that is Centennial in 2007.

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However, these display screens fell brief of the spectacular self-reliance Day pyrotechnics the bedazzled crowds earlier in job past.

Do you have a one-of-a-kind memory of city hall July fourth fireworks in ~ the Boardwalk? What was your favorite vantage point? call me what you recall about that festive day at the Boardwalk means back when.