Half Moon Bay was alive with small town spirit on Sunday at the 50th annual “Ol' Fashioned Fourth of July” parade and festival.

A steady stream of visitors and locals alike poured into the town’s Main Street to enjoy an event billed as the Coastside Rising “So Happy Together.”

“We love the community here and the small-town feel,” said Leonie Wohl who came from Burlingame for the parade.

The festival marked a return to normalcy as large outdoor gatherings are now permitted under San Mateo County and state guidelines. With last year’s celebration canceled due to the pandemic, organizers aimed to highlight newfound optimism and hope at the gathering.

“This is the first normal thing we have been able to have as a community,” said Jim Benson, a Half Moon Bay local.

This year’s festival looked slightly different than years past as it expanded to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the event. A “Star Spangled” concert stage featured live entertainment from area bands and the "Stars & Stripes Mobile Eats Alley” offered Coastside favorites.

“It’s a wonderful crowd and a lot of people made it out here which is great,” said former City Councilman Mike Ferreira.

The event doubled as the 90th birthday celebration of local icon Bev Ashcraft who served as the grand marshal of the Fourth of July celebration.

Event organizers recommended all attendees be fully vaccinated or obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to attending the celebration. The event partnered with Coastside Hope to host a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up for those looking to be vaccinated. Most of the thousands of people who attended were unmasked.

“Offering attendees the opportunity to receive a vaccination at the festival helps reinforce the message of encouraging the entire community to get vaccinated so we can all safely enjoy festival gatherings once again and into the future,” said Judith Guerrero, executive director of Coastside Hope in the event advance newsletter.

The “Ol’ Fashioned 4th Of July” parade marked a celebration, not only of American freedom but of freedom from over a year of stay at home orders and mandates preventing large gatherings.

“It feels good to breathe the fresh air again,” said Luz Castillo. “We are finally free.”

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