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Fourth of July festivities subdued in Santa Barbara

Stearns Wharf
Alex Zauner/KEYT
Foot traffic was steady at Stearns Wharf on Saturday afternoon.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — During this year’s Fourth of July, Santa Barbara’s shoreline was relatively quiet. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Santa Barbara City Council canceled this year's Independence Day fireworks display.

On Thursday, the Santa Barbara County Health Department closed all city and county beaches. 

Prior July Fourth celebrations have attracted tens of thousands of people to our beaches and waterfront neighborhoods.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d see a day where there would be no beach fireworks,” Santa Barbara local Kevin Kaden said. “Let alone the entire beach closed on the Fourth of July.”

“This empty beach right now is really unprecedented for us,” Santa Barbara City aquatic supervisor Tony Sholl said. “It’s weird to see.”

For the most part, local beaches were relatively abandoned other than people participating in active recreation.

This included running, walking and even frisbee. The ocean was also available for those swimming or water sports. 

People who sat or sunbathed were warned by lifeguards to vacate the area.

“We’ll go out and make contact with people who are doing passive recreation,” Sholl said. “We’ll let them know what the rules are and then they could be cited.”

“I have seen lifeguards on the beach and it’s pretty much okay if people are moving about,” Kaden said. “They just didn’t want any sitting, chairs, blankets or things like that.”

Some tourists were disappointed with the countywide beach closure. 

“Our plan was to go to the beach, hangout and get a tan,” Oregon resident Shayna Nowell said. “But they closed the beaches, so we took up boogie boarding.”

Others attempted to make the most out of the holiday. 

“It is unfortunate that the beach is closed and it’s a little sad,” Kaden said. “You have to move on and make the best of things as you can.”

Throughout the day, State Street was packed with tourists dining outdoors at restaurants. 

“I’ve never been to Santa Barbara, this is amazing,” Washington resident Gleb Aronsky said. “I love that you guys closed the entire street down, this has been amazing.”

This Independence Day wasn’t as festive for some, yet it still symbolized hope for better days to come.

“Everyone probably thinks it’s the worst day in recent memory,” Aronsky said. “I’m optimistic in November, it’ll be the best year in a long time.” 

City officials and the Santa Barbara County Health Department remain optimistic that cancelling this year’s Fourth of July festivities will help slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Blake DeVine

Blake DeVine is a multimedia journalist and sports anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Blake, click here.


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