BACK WITH A BANG! July 4th Fireworks, Summer Concerts by the Sea returning to La Jolla Cove

Fireworks explode over La Jolla Cove from a previous Independence Day celebration and will light up the sky again after a two-year absence.

Two La Jolla summer institutions sorely missed by residents, tourists and merchants alike are set to return in 2020. City permits have been pulled, and funding secured, to make both the July 4 La Jolla Cove fireworks show and the La Jolla Concerts by the Sea music series a Village reality again.

Fireworks last launched over La Jolla Cove in 2017, Concerts by the Sea took its last curtain call a year earlier. Both were canceled due to lack of funding.

About $40,000 of the fireworks’ projected $110,000 cost has been pledged so far. Real-estate developer Steve Grady of Grady Development has pledged $15,000 of his own money. And former San Diego City manager Jack McGrory told the Light he has amassed separate pledges from residents and business owners totaling $25,000 so far.

“I live here in La Jolla and I’ve been here a long time,” said Grady, a La Jolla High School graduate. “There’s something about July 4 fireworks that’s part of La Jolla’s fabric, and I felt that it was a shame that it wasn’t here anymore.”

“It’s an important event for La Jolla,” McGrory echoed, explaining that he envisions an “all-day celebration” all over town that would help revitalize restaurants and retail.

The annual fireworks show was launched in 1985 by restaurateur George Hauer, owner of George’s at the Cove, who financed it himself for more than 20 years to the tune of, as costs rose, $20,000 to $40,000.

If more of the current $80,000 gap can’t be raised, Grady said, he is willing to close it personally — “provided I can write it off.” (Grady said he doesn’t wish to be celebrated as a hero; that he’s simply in the 50-percent tax bracket and it’s in his best interest to find good causes to support.)

The fireworks show is being organized by Marengo Morton Architects co-owner Deborah Marengo, whose nonprofit La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation took over the annual show in 2010. Discussions are also underway regarding a possible role to be played by the La Jolla Village Merchants Association.

Crowds groove to cajun-blues tunes from Theo and The Zydeco Patrol during a previous La Jolla Concerts by the Sea event at Scripps Park in La Jolla Cove. The free music series will return in summer 2020 after a three-year absence.
(La Jolla Light File Photo)

La Jolla Concerts by the Sea was a summertime staple since being founded in 1983 by La Jolla Town Council and La Jolla Rotary Club member Ed Lawrence. Now, it’s being brought back thanks to $20,000 of the $50,000 raised on Sept. 8 by a revival of a different La Jolla tradition.

“We are thankful that the proceeds from the La Jolla Cove Swim can be directed to empowering underserved youth, creating cultural community engagement and enhancing the Park,” said swim chair Judy Adams Halter, explaining those same proceeds also funded an $8,333 donation to the Prevent Drowning Foundation and a $15,000 “beautification enhancement at the La Jolla Cove.”

Four free concerts — organized by Howard Zatkin — are scheduled to take place in Ellen Browning Scripps Park: La Jolla’s 11-piece Full Strength Funk Band on July 12; Top 40 band the Mighty Untouchables on July 19; Sue “Queen of Boogie Woogie” Palmer on July 26; and dance band the Heroes on Aug. 2.

“It’s a tradition that I’m delighted to see resurface,” said La Jolla resident Ron Jones, who produced and emceed most of the previous Concerts by the Sea events. “A lot of people have been missing that as community glue.”

Want to donate? To contribute and help pay for the fireworks, e-mail Jack McGrory at