The Cambrian

Volunteers are backbone of Cambria Fourth of July

A statue reproducing the iconic 1945 photo of Marines raising the U.S. flag during the battle of Iwo Jima stands near Rabobank in Cambria. The statue, created by Cambria veteran Jay Burbank, was placed there just in time for Independence Day.
A statue reproducing the iconic 1945 photo of Marines raising the U.S. flag during the battle of Iwo Jima stands near Rabobank in Cambria. The statue, created by Cambria veteran Jay Burbank, was placed there just in time for Independence Day. Special to The Cambrian

As is the case with all North Coast events and fundraisers, many unpaid (and often unlauded) organizers and workers are the backbone of Cambria’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

While the group’s efforts reach frenzy level now, volunteers have been working on the event since last August, and they have been focusing on it in earnest since early this year.

The celebration might appear seamless — flowing from event to event. But that’s because so many talented, dedicated individuals have put so much thought and labor into making it so.

Most are members of the sponsoring American Legion Post No. 432, Sons of the American Legion or Legion Auxiliary. Over the decades, names and faces of the leaders and participants may have changed, but the heart and enthusiasm level have not.

The volunteers work singly and in concert, each in their own specialty, most behind the scenes.

They say they need little in the way of accolades (and tend to get embarrassed when they are thanked) because they get the highest praise of all. There’s the pleasure of the crowds — from giggling youngsters in sack races or people gobbling pie, to dancers who rock out by the gazebo to the soaring music leading up to the conclusion: The $12,500 fireworks show that celebrates the founding of the U.S. 240 years ago.

Fourth of July heroes

Here, then, are some of the many event heroes behind the scenes at Cambria’s July Fourth celebrations and other Legion events, with selection and comments by Brian Griffin, a past commandant of the post:

▪  Nancy Taylor is the celebration’s food czar. She’s also a ranch wife and mom who works at the Cookie Crock deli and used to be a Cambria school bus driver. The Independence Day menu at the park will include “homemade pulled-pork sandwiches, barbecued chicken halves, sirloin burgers with or without cheese, jumbo beef hot dogs, mild sausage sandwiches, corn on the cob and nachos.”

▪  Kids games, the pie-eating contest and such are the purview of restaurant worker Mike Shanley. “He has been doing it for many years and knows all the players.”

▪  Post Chaplain John Angel has opened the day with prayer for more than a decade. Griffin said, Angel “is always willing to help in other areas like selling raffle tickets. Not bad for a WWII veteran.”

▪  Ellie Brown from the auxiliary “is in her 80s and still works hard every year in the food booths.”

▪  Retired Air Force couple John and Donna Argonti have participated “in the food prep and service departments for many years.”

▪  George Gray is the Legion’s Fourth of July Otter Music Company DJ, announcer and sound man for a long time, “who does a great job.” As always, sound mixing is by Steve Crimmel of Painted Sky Studios (which recently relocated to Cambria).

▪  Past Commander Terry Farrell handles contributions and “is always there to lend his experience and wisdom to the new folks, and he doesn't mind getting his hands dirty to help.”

Griffin added that “Servers and food preparers include a host of volunteers from the Legion family, including former Judge Roger Randall … who’s coming from Los Osos to help.”

Legion Auxiliary President Shelly Woeste is assisting Taylor with food prep, Griffin said. “Jerry Bodine is in charge of beer, wine and music, and he has a great lineup of bands and booze. John Ehlers, John Angel and Hugh Scott will be hawking lottery tickets for a $1,000 grand prize and a new iPad.

“There will be face painting for the kids and young at heart.” Brian and Dale Griffin will sell “Support the Troops” items and take donations for the Legion Troop Support program for local people serving in the military.


Griffin said donations have increased in the past week, but he stressed that more are needed to help pay for the fireworks and other expenses for putting on the daylong party.

Fireworks Fund collection cans have been placed all around town, so people can donate at Cookie Crock Market, service stations, Cambria Hardware, the Chamber of Commerce, Coffee Den and other locations.

Donation checks can be sent directly to the post’s Fireworks Fund at P.O. Box 697, Cambria CA 93428, or taken to the post’s club at the rear of the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St., after 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

For details, call Farrell at 805-924-1814.

Fourth of July at Shamel Park

The Legion’s Independence Day schedule, according to Brian Griffin. Shamel Park, on the curve at 5455 Windsor Blvd., a couple of blocks off Highway 1, between the Windsor intersection with Moonstone Beach Drive and the Pacific.

All day: Lions Club bounce house; food, beverages, music, lawn dancing and other activities.

9 to 10 a.m.: Tula yoga.

11 a.m.: Opening.

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Old-fashioned kids races and games; start of radio station KTEA’s remote broadcasts from the park, to happen periodically throughout the day, according to Shanley.

1:15 p.m.: Waiter/waitress relay race.

2:30 p.m.: Seventh annual Linn’s pie-eating contest, with categories for women, men and children who can chow down quickly.

3 to 4:30 p.m.: Music by Stellar.

5 to 6:30 p.m.: Music by Jukebox Heroes.

7 p.m. to the fireworks: Music by Rough House.

Dusk (8:45 to 9 p.m.): Fireworks begins, lasting at least a half-hour.

Patience time: Celebration participants are asked to be tolerant, patient and careful as they exit the park area. It will take time for all vehicles to wend their way out of the small locale and onto the highway.