Article Image

Tara Mata gets her face painted by Amber Willis during Monday’s Goleta Fireworks Festival at Girsh Park. (Mollie Helmuth / Noozhawk photo)

The Goleta Fireworks Festival, usually held July 4, showcased its community spirit at Girsh Park on Monday with music, food and a baby parade.

The event honored emergency responders, many of whom showed up, who helped protect Goleta during the recent Gap Fire.

The festival is organized by the Goleta Noontime Rotary Club and the Goleta Evening Rotary Club. Valerie Mehlschau, the 2007 Goleta Teen of the Year, volunteered at the GNRC booth and counted down the fireworks show. 

“I’ve been to a few Rotary meetings. Everybody is just so willing to give,” Mehlschau said. “It’s people from a lot of different backgrounds and professional areas coming together and working to volunteer for the community.”

As in past years, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department’s Explorer Academy barbecued for the event. The academy gives volunteer, aspiring firefighters a foot in the door at the SBCFD. 

“It’s a good way to start out to find out how the department works,” volunteer fire explorer Joseph Gutierrez said.

This year was the first time the festival worked with the fire department and Friendship Manor to donate extra food to senior citizens living at the affordable living facility in Isla Vista.

Article Image

Proud parents show off their babies during the awards presentation for the baby beauty contest. (Mollie Helmuth / Noozhawk photo)

“We cook food on site, so this will be quickly devoured by 200 seniors,” Friendship Manor marketing director Patricia Fabing said. “They will absolutely love it.”

Also among the first responders who attended the event were volunteers from the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter, who gave out information on disaster preparedness. 

“We’re asking, ‘How would you get yourself and your family ready for a disaster?’ ” said disaster relief chairman Eric McCurdy, who said the event’s emergency preparedness theme worked well with the booth.

“The Red Cross was very active (during the Gap Fire),” McCurdy said. “We ran the shelters that were open. We don’t squirt water on fires, but we help people who have to move out because of them.” 

The SBCFD also hosted an obstacle course for kids, who were eagerly weighed down by heavy firefighter gear, crawling through tubes and cheered on by Sparky, the SBCFD Dalmatian mascot.

The Reina del Mar Native Daughters of the Golden West hosted a baby beauty contest, followed by a baby parade during which award recipients were announced and moms gave short acceptance speeches.

Entertainment for the evening began with the Fuego Gitano dancers, followed by the teeny-bopper duo Johnnie and Brookie. The sister pair, who just signed with Disney, had younger guests dancing with songs from Hannah Montana and gave away free CDs.

Article Image

Javier Moreno and daughter Ruby take a ride on the inflatable slide. (Mollie Helmuth / Noozhawk photo)

Bushwood, a classic rock garage band, headlined with Beatles, Beach Boys and other covers. The band has been playing at events in Santa Barbara for more than 15 years.

Families sprawled out on the lawn to listen to music, eat picnic dinners and get ready for the fireworks. Masaye Oda, 52, says Bushwood’s performance was her favorite part of the night.

Toward the end of the evening, Daniel Hochman, grandson of Lester and Viola Girsh and president of the Foundation for Girsh Park, spoke about recent plans for synthetic grass on the park’s soccer fields.

“These synthetic products are becoming a favorite of players,” Hochman said. “They are so consistent, and they don’t feel like the Astroturf of old.

“The soccer field is the sad point of the park because it gets so much use that we can’t keep up with the landscaping of it. It’s a soccer field for all of us, so let’s make it a soccer field built by all of us,” he continued. He said the foundation is seeking community support for the plan. 

San Marcos High student Angky Budiardjono sang the national anthem, and Mehlschau counted down to the fireworks, which were accompanied by contemporary songs and patriotic anthems.

“It was awesome,” Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett said. “We had a great showing of people.”

— Noozhawk intern Mollie Helmuth can be reached at