Fireworks are practically synonymous with Fourth of July. And while there are plenty of concerns attendant to this holiday tradition — noise, trash, air pollution and fire danger among them — many people still enjoy the flash, bang and sizzling sparks of a firecracker.

Pacifica is one of the few places in the Bay Area where fireworks are still allowed, and those are strictly regulated. Only legal “safe and sane” fireworks, those marked with the state fire marshal seal of approval, are allowed. And the only place you can legally set off these fireworks at the beach is at the Pacifica State Beach in Linda Mar, just north of the Taco Bell.

Every year, crowds come from near and far to enjoy this piece of Americana on the coast. The Davis family in Moss Beach has been celebrating Independence Day there for more than 20 years. 

“I know for sure we were there in ’98,” said Jena Davis. “Chris was 3 ½, and I remember being very pregnant with Matthew.”

The couple now has four boys, the youngest of which is 13. They all love fireworks, of course, but that is not why Jena is there.

“Forget the kids, man, I like blowing things up,” she laughed. “I will still be there long after my children stop coming.” 

Fireworks are easy to buy in Pacifica, with a string of TNT Fireworks stands up and down Highway 1. Most of these are operated in partnership with nonprofits, which can bring in a significant part of their annual fundraising through fireworks sales. 

On July 4, people line up to select their favorites, which run from novelty items for a few bucks to giant fountains that can run into the hundreds.

“I always get a ‘Luck of the Irish’ and ‘Purple Rain.’ Those things are awesome,” said Davis. “I fully admit that I generally choose them based on their names.”

On the beach, people spend the day picnicking, playing in the surf, building sand castles and waiting for sunset. Kids wave sparklers and set off snakes and poppers in the parking lot, but the real action doesn’t start until the sun goes down.

As dusk gathers, people start to light up their fountains, usually starting with something small like a “Tequila Sunrise” and working their way up to the more spectacular items. 

The “Opening Show” always turns heads on the beach when it goes off. About the size of a large tub of movie popcorn, this single firework runs about $70 and weighs in at more than a pound. It shoots off a fountain of sizzling white sparks turning to purple, red and golden stars with crackles. 

“The second someone brings out something big, everybody just stops and watches,” said Davis. “You bring joy to more people.” 

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