Those who have lived in Atascadero for at least 40 years may remember the spectacular Fourth of July celebrations held at Atascadero Lake Park. Atascadero Jaycees were the prime movers along with reserve firefighters in lighting off fireworks on the far side of the lake. The lake became a giant reflecting pool, highlighting the aerial displays.
Thousands of people from throughout the Central Coast came to Atascadero, many times hours early to secure a place on the grass at the lake park. Every hillside road with a view of the lake became jammed with cars as darkness approached. For a brief time Atascadero experienced traffic gridlock after the fireworks were finished.
In addition to the fireworks, there was swimming in Atascadero Lake and even some boating allowed.
But there was also danger, as people who had consumed too much alcohol were reckless with fireworks, lighting off firecrackers and simply tossing them into the crowds to watch people jump. Fights broke out. An open field caught on fire from an aerial rocket that went astray. Many of us “locals” refused to take our children to the lake; it was unsafe.
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Atascadero became a legal city in 1979, and within three years the City Council put an end to fireworks displays and disallowed swimming in the lake. Now fireworks of any kind are prohibited within the city limits.
There have been several attempts to revive some kind of Independence Day celebration at the lake. The last major effort was made by Gary Brill and Atascadero Rotary Club. Last year a new movement was started to once again have a Fourth of July celebration in Atascadero.
It will be held again this Thursday. Atascadero’s celebration gets underway at 7:30 a.m. with the unveiling and ribbon-cutting of the sign at the Faces of Freedom memorial. There will be activities in the park, music and hotdogs available at noon.
Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. will be another dedication ceremony, this one at the Your American Heritage Monument in front of Galaxy Theater. U.S. Rep. Lois Capps is expected to hand out awards to the authors of patriotic-themed essays, and the keynote speaker will be Sam Blakeslee. The purpose of the monument, according to Chuck Ward, chairman of the project, is to foster an awareness and appreciation of our nation’s founding fathers and the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
Tuesday night, the Atascadero Community Band will be playing in the Centennial Bandstand, entertaining everyone with what is always a great selection of patriotic music.
In and around these activities you can still attend Templeton’s popular Fourth of July Parade as well.