Dream team works for festive Fourth

Everyone should enjoy a “dream team” experience — the alliance of ordinary people working together to achieve a common, yet extraordinary, goal. When efforts exceed expectations, the feeling is golden.

Two years ago, the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce tried a laser show instead of fireworks for the annual local Fourth of July celebration at Tidelands Park.

It didn’t work.

Locals and visitors trashed it. At a community forum, a group of people demanded fireworks, but the chamber couldn’t afford to lose money every year on the event.

“We’ll create our own event,” concluded Neil Farrell, a longtime local journalist who has been involved in organizing Fourth of July activities and is known for his annual appearances as Uncle Sam.

Financial management consultant Jeff Eckles was drafted chairman of this new group. A core committee of Chris Christensen, Peter Behman, Trina Dougherty, Christine Johnson and a few friends began meeting to unleash their individual talents.

Collectively, they managed in one year to incorporate the nonprofit organization Morro Bay 4th, expand the established structure for a family fun day and raise the money needed to produce a splendid fireworks show.

Flash-in-the-pan or sustainable dream team?

“The team is still together,” Christensen, the group’s vice president of operations, confirmed. “The community wanted this to happen. The businesses needed a strong Fourth of July.

“We’re working to build a two-day event to keep visitors overnight. Others are bringing fresh ideas to help,” Christensen added. “On Sunday afternoon (July 3), Jack Smith scheduled a potential Guinness World Record event, the Morro Bay Mile Skateboard Push Race on the Harbor Walk.

“The stage is up at Tidelands (Park), so they’ll do awards, then Jim Davis coaxed (the) Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band to give a free concert.”

Christensen cited two innovations that enhanced their efforts.

“Peter Behman is a mortgage lender and owns Bay Front Inn. He’s also a creative fundraiser,” Christensen said. “He worked with Tognazzini’s Dockside on an Oyster barbecue, Harbor Hut on a Luau, and (the) Giovanni’s Stax Wine Raffle.

“These (business) owners stepped up donating their time and resources to fund the fireworks,” Christensen added. “Last year, Christine Johnson suggested the Red, White & Blue Bike Parade from the Harbor Walk to Tidelands (Park).

“We hoped for 150 and got 350. We’re thinking 750 will decorate and join us this year. It’s free. Flying Dutchman’s Paul Van Beurden liked this event, so (he) became a major sponsor to help us.

“I love working with the right people to make magic happen. Everyone volunteers,” Christensen said. “Dan Podesto chairs. I work with all the details, but Trina Dougherty of AGP Video is my right and left arm.

“Morro Bay Beautiful volunteered to encourage businesses to display our Independence Day colors.”

Find the games and music schedule at www.morrobay4th.org. Fireworks are set for 9:15 p.m.

Reach Judy Salamacha at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.