Marina del Rey celebrates Independence Day with its annual fireworks show and dinghy parade

By Michael Aushenker

Come Friday, two annual Marina del Rey events — one volunteer-run, the other sponsored by L.A. County — deliver both fun and meaning to mark Independence Day.

Before the county’s 9 p.m. fireworks spectacular over the harbor, the Marina del Rey Dinghy Parade offers an inventive way to salute military and public safety officers and veterans.

The dinghy parade, launched eight years ago by Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade co-chairman Lowell Safier, is just what it sounds like: a procession of decorated small boats moving in solidarity through the harbor, in this case trailing behind a water-squirting county fireboat.

The dinghy parade starts at 3 p.m. and follows the Holiday Boat Parade’s familiar path, starting out at Del Rey Yacht Club and heading along the harbor peninsula before turning around and retracing the route.

Last year’s dinghy parade drew some 50 dinghies, but Safier said the event is more about honoring people who serve the country and their communities than making a big spectacle.

“I don’t want to make this a commercial venture. It’s not that kind of a function, he said. “There’s no booze, this is a function like going to church. We’re showing our respect.”

Less solemn but also powerful is the evening’s annual fireworks show, when as many as 10,000 people are expected to converge around the harbor, according to Los Angeles County Dept. of Beaches and Harbors spokeswoman Carol Baker.

Zambelli Fireworks Internationale conducts the 20-minute display, shot from a barge from the main channel, and KXLU 88.9 FM coordinates a radio program including music by John Phillip Souza and other patriotism-appropriate works.

“We don’t usually have security issues. People are well-behaved,” said Baker, who contends the real challenge has historically been safely shepherding people out of the marina after the display is over, when most attendees are trying to leave simultaneously.

“We’re asking motorists to be patient,” Baker said. “We have been working with Caltrans and local law enforcement on traffic mitigation. Our traffic plan will be better and make sure people can get out as soon as possible. If they can take other modes of transportation to come in, we recommend it.”

That’s where the water bus and beach shuttles come in. Marina del Rey’s water bus service around the marina runs from 11 a.m. to midnight, and the beach shuttle runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Another encouragement to take public transportation: parking costs at county lots are $7 to $10 for the evening.

However one chooses to arrive, Baker promises the journey is worth the effort.

“It’s one of the most beautiful fireworks displays and locations to watch from, right on the marina. It’s very hard to beat.”

The Marina del Rey Fourth of July Dinghy Parade runs from 3 to 4 p.m., starting from the main channel opposite Burton Chace Park. Call (310) 650-0000 for information.

The fireworks display begins at 9 p.m. Call (310) 305-9545 or visit beaches.lacounty.gov.