150th Sparks Celebration

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Fireworks exploded over the Santa Cruz wharf and boardwalk. The show lasted about half an hour and spectators lined up along Westcliff, on the boardwalk and even spots downtown. Photo by Stephen de Ropp
Fireworks exploded over the Santa Cruz wharf and boardwalk. The show lasted about half an hour and spectators lined up along Westcliff, on the boardwalk and even spots downtown. Photo by Stephen de Ropp

The savory aroma of Paradise Dogs, a hot dog booth on Main Beach, wafted through the air, mixing with the sounds of local funk music and conversation. Throughout the day of Oct. 1, thousands of community members stood on the makeshift stage located next to the Municipal Wharf in an immense, yet intimate, celebration of the city of Santa Cruz’s 150th birthday.

“I felt a huge sense of community,” said third-year UC Santa Cruz student Kylie Valencia. “It was really nice seeing just how big of an outcome the anniversary was.”

Valencia, who attended after finding the event on Facebook, spent the finale on the Boardwalk’s Sky Glider ride, overlooking the exploding fireworks over the ocean and the community below her.

“It looked like the entire beach was filled [with spectators], and the entire boardwalk was filled — it looked like a sea of fish,” Valencia said.

Photo by Casey Amaral
Photo by Casey Amaral

Thousands of locals, students and tourists trickled in and out to explore various booths, showcasing replicas of the surfboards that Hawaiian princes traveled from Hawaii to Santa Cruz on, and a bounce house for kids.

With Main Beach typically flooded with tourists from all over the world during the summer months, having the event in October meant it was an opportunity for the Santa Cruz community, including students, to come together, celebrate and appreciate their home together.

“The event was pretty much a locals’ event,” said deputy city manager and media/community relations manager Scott Collins. “I’m sure people came from over the hill because of the weather […] which is great, but that was kind of our intention in holding the event in October and not in the middle of summer.”

In addition to the beach party, the city of Santa Cruz hosted events throughout September and into October. The entire month-long birthday celebration cost around $80,000 — with about half of the funds donated through sponsorships. That figure includes promotions, performances, set up, security and the $25,000 fireworks display.

Throughout the day there were five different local music acts representing multiple genres, an aerial dance troupe and speakers — including UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal, who spoke about the university and campus relationship.

James Durbin closed the event with a performance on the Main Beach stage before the fireworks. Other performers included Tess Dunn, The Coffis Brothers, Extra Large, Austin Shaw and Joint Chiefs. Photo by Stephen de Ropp
James Durbin closed the event with a performance on the Main Beach stage before the fireworks. Other performers included Tess Dunn, The Coffis Brothers, Extra Large, Austin Shaw and Joint Chiefs. Photo by Stephen de Ropp

“The city and the university are interdependent,” Blumenthal said. “Together we can ensure a future that is sustainable with the infrastructure, services and culture to thrive.”

To ensure the safety of all those in attendance, there was an increased police presence surrounding Main Beach. Scott Collins said the reason for this was because there was an incident two years ago at the wharf’s 100-year anniversary, in which police had a difficult time responding as quickly as they wanted to a fight, and this year they wanted to be more cautious.

“It was probably a conservative approach, but it seemed to work,” Collins said. “The nice thing about it is the police got to talk to a lot of community members.”

The firework display served as an opportunity to honor the community, Collins said, because in the past the city of Santa Cruz held shows every October, but they were cut due to cost. The city hosted fireworks, and provided space for “folks from all walks of life and many generations [to celebrate] together.” The celebration focused on how much the city has grown, which has created some obstacles within the community, but the opportunity to come together is unprecedented and welcomed.

“We do have challenges,” Collins said. “But I think by and large people are stoked to be here, and we want to see that continuing into the future.”