The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians teamed up with Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District to put on a fireworks show that lit up the San Jacinto Valley skies – and computer screens for those that livestreamed it. Both entities are well known for their annual spectacular pyrotechnic displays but due to COVID-19 limits on public gatherings, things were done differently this year.
“Having the restrictions has been challenging in trying to coordinate the show,” Soboba Tribal Administrator Michael Castello said. “Our goal from the beginning has been to provide the tribe and community an event that everyone can enjoy but always maintain the safest environment possible.”
Soboba tribal members could watch the show in person from the comfort of their cars or tailgates in the parking lot of the old casino. Only a certain number of entry tickets were provided, and check-in was done at an access gate near the Soboba Fire Station to ensure the crowd didn’t get too large. No amenities, such as food vendors, were allowed as in years past. About 40 vehicles containing upwards of 150 people attended in person.
Valley-Wide staff and personnel from Hemet Eye News were at the Soboba Reservation site to transmit the nearly 20-minute show over Valley-Wide’s Facebook and Instragram pages. There were more 13,000 views on all social media platforms, according to Valley-Wide’s Public Information Officer Craig Shultz.
“This is the first time we have livestreamed an event,” he said. “We have provided a free fireworks show in the San Jacinto Valley since 1976, drawing upwards of 15,000 visitors each year. And even though we couldn’t invite people to our park this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still wanted to provide a show.”
In the past, revenue from vendors at Valley-Wide’s Regional Park helped offset some of the costs that won’t be incurred this year, such as police and portable restrooms.
“The cost of the fireworks comes from the generosity of our Board of Directors, who forgo any compensation for serving with those funds going toward special events,” Shultz said. “Partnering with Soboba was an easy decision. The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians have been great partners over the years and the Soboba Foundation was recently honored as the Outstanding Community Organization/Partner in the California Association of Recreation and Park District’s annual Awards of Distinction Program for its work with Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District. The Outstanding Community Organization/Partner Award honors any public or private club, special interest group, or public agency that has made a significant contribution to a District recreation or park program.”
The show was operated by Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, which has been the Valley-Wide vendor for fireworks since 1976. Shultz said Pyro Spectaculars is one of the few remaining fireworks professionals who light fireworks by hand.
Soboba tribal member Antonia Venegas and her extended family arrived about 7:30 p.m. in six different vehicles to find a good spot for the show.
“There were about 25 of us all together, including kids,” Venegas said.
In the past when the tribe has held fireworks’ shows at its sports complex she said it was too crowded, so her family would watch from the nearby church parking lot. She said it was really nice this year to be able to get up close and personal to the action with all the space that was available for parking while still being able to safely social distance from others.
Earlier in the day, 3,000 flags were placed at the Soboba Casino Resort to honor veterans, first responders and active duty military personnel who have served their country. As the celebration and commemoration of this nation’s independence, those who protect our freedoms – past and present – were honored by this show of patriotism. Casino guests were invited to plant two-foot high flags around the exterior of the buildings and received a goodie bag full of patriotic items in return, as well as a $10 free slot play voucher.
“As all of us know, due to the pandemic so many events have been postponed or canceled, including holiday celebrations, birthday parties, graduation ceremonies and more,” Castello said. “The Tribe felt this would be a great opportunity to provide something to the community that is a safe but fun event that families can enjoy.”
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians