Crowds pack Cove for Fourth festivities

It was the Fourth of July fireworks that almost wasn’t.

But by most accounts, this year’s display at the Cove may well have topped anything that’s come before.

“It went exceedingly well, the military band playing right up to the fireworks, which was really neat to hear,” said La Jolla restaurateur George Hauer. He had co-sponsored the event the last 24 years but canceled it at the end of May because of the recession and rising permitting costs.

“It was fantastic - the Cove was completely packed,” said Adam Harris, a La Jolla businessman who spearheaded the event’s revival this year. “Everyone was just in high spirits the entire day. It was the best Fourth of July I ever had. I was proud to be a La Jollan.”

The tang of barbecue, saltwater and smoke filled the Village on Saturday night as around 15,000 people from La Jolla and surrounding communities gathered at the Cove to watch the fireworks display and enjoy a live performance by the Marine Corps Aircraft Wing band.

Overflow crowd

Ellen Browning Scripps Park overflowed with picnickers, tourists and other revelers, and Coast Boulevard was closed for the evening to accommodate the flood of foot traffic.

Deborah Marengo, who did much of the social networking in raising awareness that an 11th-hour online fundraising drive was on to save the fireworks, said, “It was a great event, perfect weather that evening, and the band was amazing.”

Hauer said the event went on with nary a hitch.

“We coordinated with Krista Baroudi of La Jolla Cove Suites and her lighting and everything for the music was all coordinated,” he said. “Police said there were very few cars towed. The show had good power and was very entertaining.”

Hauer only had one reservation: He thinks it may be possible the fireworks display can be improved upon.

Bigger next time?

“We could expand the show and make it a little bigger,” he said. This year’s pyrotechnics cost $16,000 to stage. “But what the community needs to determine is, how big a show do they want? If they want more fireworks, they need to raise more funds.”

Marengo said the Marine Aircraft Wing 40-piece band that was added to the event a week ago was more than pleased.

“It was a great venue for them,” she said, noting that the band has already committed to doing future shows.

The total amount raised thus far for the Fourth of July fireworks from individual and corporate donations stands at $45,000.

“The extra money is being rolled over into the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, and that money will be used solely for ensuring the Fourth of July Fireworks display continues in La Jolla,” Marengo said, adding the foundation’s nonprofit status officially took effect July 4.

Planning for 2010

Marengo said organizers will be getting together in the next couple of weeks to lay the groundwork for establishing a board of directors for the new foundation.

Harris said T-shirt sales went well and those sales will continue for next year’s event on a new and improved Web site, which also will be up and running in a couple of weeks.

Harris said the effort to revive - and perpetuate - the event was well worth it.

“I’m just thrilled I was able to be a part of it along with Deborah and Krista and George,” he said. “I’m sad the event is over. I look forward to years to come.”

On a negative note, at least one shop attendant on Girard Avenue said business was slower than usual on Saturday, suggesting Cove guests may have been barbecuing rather than eating in restaurants or shopping in the Village.

Beachgoers behaved

San Diego Police Department Northern Division Capt. Shelly Zimmerman said she was pleased by how people conducted themselves over the holiday weekend.

“Fourth of July went absolutely fantastic,” she said. “The vast majority of the more than 1.2 million people who visited the city’s beaches were extremely well behaved, stayed within the law, and had a wonderful time.”

She added 340 parking citations and 277 traffic citations were meted out to beachgoers during the three-day holiday. She did not have a breakdown for La Jolla beaches.