As quick as a burst of fireworks, the Fourth of July holiday weekend seemed to come and go this year. With the deadly coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country and following weeks of social justice protests, the holiday carried a somber tone for many.
Leading up to the holiday, California health officials reported a steady increase of COVID-19 cases. The messaging from the governor’s office to local government agencies was clear: The best protection against the virus is to limit crowds and urge people to stay home.
Days before the holiday, state and Half Moon Bay City officials announced the closure of all state and city beaches and parking lots as an attempt to deter visitors from traveling far and locals from congregating in nearby open space. City staff assisted over the weekend by standing post at beach entrances to turn away people who did not get the message. San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office deputies were on hand to enforce the measures as well.
“The weekend did go well overall. People got the message,” said Half Moon Bay Director of Communications Jessica Blair. “A few people wanted to argue it, but that percentage was very small. Most people complied.”
Despite sunny skies making it an ideal day to gather with friends and family, the holiday was different in almost every aspect. There was no parade down Main Street. No picnics at the beach. No backyard parties to attend. Unlike earlier years, there was no organized fireworks display on the coast either.
Though celebrations were mostly subdued, some Coastsiders made the best of the situation. Residents living on Pinehurst Lane in the Ocean Colony neighborhood organized a socially distant parade. While participants never left the block, local residents watched the 15-minute event from the comfort of their driveways.
Half Moon Bay resident Casey Munck was one of the eager spectators. She said under normal circumstances the neighborhood typically organizes something fun and festive for the Fourth. Since the shelter-in-place orders, some residents on the street have been working to create socially distant activities, such as drawing chalk art, to keep people feeling connected and spirits high.
The parade, while short-lived, was a community effort. Some people drove around in vintage cars, others played music. Munck threw biodegradable confetti in the air.
“I struggled with celebrating the Fourth this year with everything going on, but this was nice to have for a moment,” she said.
After the parade commenced, people brought their barbecues down to the end of their driveways.
“So it was nice to enjoy time together, but still be socially distant,” she said.
With no formal fireworks scheduled for the Bay Area, some people in the county took to shooting off their own. On Monday,
San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Stephanie Josephson said there were just two citations for possession of illegal fireworks on the coast.
The city did not get many complaints about fireworks or social distancing violators, according to Blair. She said there are no plans at this point to completely close beaches or the Coastal Trail again anytime soon.
“It was a much quieter weekend, but we want our out-of-towners to know we welcome them back at another time to enjoy the coastline,” she said.