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Goleta Fireworks Festival to Light Up Labor Day

The event, postponed because of the Gap Fire, will be held in honor of the blaze's first responders.

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The Goleta Fireworks Festival, usually held July 4 but postponed until Monday because of the Gap Fire, will feature activities such as live entertainment. (Walt Stevens photo)

The 12th annual Goleta Fireworks Festival is arriving fashionably late this year, putting a new twist on an old favorite.

The event will be Monday, Labor Day, in honor of the first responders who protected the Goleta community during the recent Gap Fire.

“We feel the citizens of Goleta deserve to have this celebration,” committee chairman Bruce Holms said. “It’s a tribute to the firefighters. That thing (the Gap Fire) was way out of control. None of us would be here having this celebration without them.”

The GFF is usually held July 4 but was postponed this year when fire broke out in Goleta just days before the festival.

Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett, who announced the GFF cancellation at a Gap Fire news conference, has sent letters of invitation to each department that sent crews to battle the flames, reaching responders as far as Idaho.

“The atmosphere wasn’t healthy, all things considered,” Bennett said. “It would have been inappropriate to be celebrating while people are going through a tremendous impact in their lives.” 

The GFF committee spends all year organizing what is normally the biggest fundraiser for the Goleta Noontime Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Goleta. When cancellation became inevitable, the committee scheduled an emergency meeting July 3 to discuss options.

“We discussed postponing to Sept. 1 vs. canceling, but the city wanted to work with us and make it happen for the community,” GNRC member Barbara Klein said.

At the first meeting after July 4, Klein says everyone was on board to honor the crews who were protecting the community. “Almost every member of the committee had to evacuate,” she said. “Everyone just stepped up to the plate.”

Facing the challenge of canceling and rescheduling many vendors and performers, the committee was pleasantly surprised at how everything “just fell into place,” Klein said.

GNRC member Walt Stevens, who has been working with Pyro Spectaculars in organizing the fireworks show, said the company waived its $5,000 rescheduling fee and will provide an extended display to show its support for the first responders. 

The festival will begin at 4 p.m. at Girsch Park and includes family friendly activities such as face painting, inflatable jumpers, food and live entertainment. In the lineup are popular kids’ group Jonnie and Brookie, Fuego Gitano flamenco dancers and classic rock band Bushwood as headliners.

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Pyro Spectaculars waived its $5,000 rescheduling fee and will offer an extended display on Monday to show its support for the Gap Fire’s first responders. (Walt Stevens photo)
As the sun begins to lower, 2007 Goleta Teen of the Year Valerie Mehlschau will speak, and San Marcos High School student Angky Budiardjono will get the crowd ready for the fireworks by singing the national anthem.

Monday is a school night, and it will be dark earlier than in July, so the show will begin at 8 p.m.

Raffle prizes with a combined value of $5,000 also will be raffled off, including a 42-inch HD flat-screen television and an automatic transmission Buddy Scooter. Raffle tickets are $5, and winners do not need to be present to win.

Tickets to the GFF are $6 for adults and $3 for children up to age 12. Children older than 12 can bring a student ID and get in for half price. A portion of the gate proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross, and all first responders who show up in uniform or with a badge get in for free with their families.

Free parking will be available in the Camino Real Marketplace, and tickets for the event are being pre-sold on weekends at the CRM, as well as at the gate on Monday. Proceeds go toward local community programs put on by the Rotary clubs in Goleta.

On Tuesday, youths from Los Prietos Boys Camp will be at Girsch Park to help clean up.

“The boys who are allowed to go help at the event are those who have earned it,” senior deputy probation officer Jim Clark said. “The Rotarians are always so grateful and full of praise for the boys making good decisions.”

It’s a circular partnership. The GNRC collaborates with the Santa Maria Rotary Club in providing scholarships for LPBC graduates, who in turn help out with many local Rotary events.

“This event isn’t underwritten by any city official,” Holms said. “It’s a unique fireworks event in that it is funded entirely by the community, enjoyed by the community and all proceeds go circularly back into the community.”

Noozhawk intern Mollie Helmuth can be reached at [email protected]

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