For years there was the Coronado Glorietta Bay July 4th Fireworks Show but no fireworks on San Diego’s “Big Bay” to celebrate our nation’s birthday. In 2001, Sandy Purdon, the owner of Shelter Cove Marina and a San Diego Port District tenant, was concerned that July 4th was not a typical celebration on San Diego Bay. Having taken his boat to Glorietta Bay and having to struggle with the huge boat parking lot to view the fireworks, he decided to see if a fireworks show could happen off Shelter Island and Harbor Island in San Diego Bay. The natural amphitheater of the “Big Bay” seemed ideal for fireworks. Over 500,000 people now attend.
Sandy had been the chairman of the Port Tenants Association in the mid 1990’s. He knew the other business owners and managers on the tidelands around the bay. This included the hotels, restaurants, marinas, shipyards, etc. He thought “if we bring more people down to our waterfront on July 4th, these businesses would benefit.” He thought these businesses might be open to a fireworks event to help their businesses which were experiencing lack luster activity on July 4th.
The first person in 2001 to step up was Joe Terzi, then the General Manager of the Sheraton Hotels on Harbor Island. Other tenants responded positively with financial support and the first show with just two barges was organized. The San Diego Port District came on board with a “Title Sponsorship” of financial support and “in kind” support for traffic control, portable toilets and park cleanup among other support on the water with the Harbor Police.
The event grew in 2002 to a 3 location event but dropped back to a 2 location event in 2003. In 2004 it went back to a 3 location event and grew to a 4 location event in 2005. It stayed a 4 location event each year until 2010 when the Imperial Beach Pier was added as a 5th location. The locations include a barge off Shelter Island, Harbor Island, North Embarcadero, South Embarcadero/Seaport Village/Coronado Landing and a pier location in Imperial Beach. For 2013, the Imperial Beach City Council elected to drop their participation as the cost for the security of police, fire and EMT was outside their budge limits. The four barges in North San Diego Bay remain strong and popular venues.
In 2001 when the sponsors and the Port were on board to finance the event, Mr. Purdon realized that the event needed to give back in some fashion. It was the idea of Capt. Paul J. Hartley, Jr., USN (Ret.) to suggest to Sandy that an ideal charity would be the San Diego Armed Services YMCA as they have over 40 free programs to help military families in the San Diego region. Since 2001, approximately $400,000 has been contributed to the charity from the Big Bay Boom.
San Diego’s Big Bay Boom fireworks show, conducted each July 4th, generates approximately $6.0 million in incremental sales for the local area’s hotels, restaurants, retail shops, tour operators, museums, charter cruise firms, boat rental companies, and other businesses. Adding the various ripple or multiplier effects produced through the supply chain and additional consumer spending, the fireworks event creates an additional $4.2 million in revenues for the local economy. Including the estimated $370,000 value of media exposure, the Big Bay Boom thus delivers a total gross economic value of $10.6 million.
The SDASYMCA charity accepts the sponsorship funds and the personal contributions from the public. Production, administration, event & environmental permitting, technical oversight, television & radio production, development, fund raising, grants writing and overall control of the event is managed by Sandy Purdon as the events Executive Producer. The event continues to grow in exposure to the world for the benefit of the San Diego business community and ultimately our military families in San Diego. Visitors particularly from the Southern California and Arizona regions plan their annual visit to San Diego for this event often taking the best view hotel rooms and reserving the best restaurant or dinner cruise vessels seats for the evening.