San Diego’s Big Bay Boom is back for the Fourth of July

Fireworks explode above the San Diego downtown waterfront during the Big Bay Boom Fourth of July fireworks show in 2015.
Fireworks explode above the San Diego downtown waterfront during the Big Bay Boom Fourth of July fireworks show in 2015, viewed here from Shelter Island.
(Hayne Palmour IV /The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Waterfront extravaganza returns for a 20-minute show with $250,000 worth of pyrotechnics


After taking a year off, San Diego’s most-famous fireworks show, known as the Big Bay Boom, will once again light up the skies over San Diego Bay on the Fourth of July.

Wednesday, the show’s title sponsor, the Port of San Diego, announced the return of the waterfront extravaganza. As in years past, the 20-minute show will start at 9 p.m., with fireworks visible from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Spanish Landing, North Embarcadero, South Embarcadero, Cesar E. Chavez Park and Coronado Tidelands Park.

It will also be televised live on Fox 5 San Diego, and affiliates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and Bakersfield. A musical simulcast will air on KGB 101.5 FM radio.

A lawsuit seeks to stop La Jolla’s planned Fourth of July fireworks display, citing harm that could come to local marine life.

“The Big Bay Boom this year will be our 20th and we hope it welcomes everyone back from a year under COVID,” Sandy Purdon, who is the executive producer of the event, said in a statement. “Besides being one of the largest July 4 fireworks shows in America, it supports the Armed Services YMCA and our military families in San Diego.”

Started in 2001, the Big Bay Boom is produced by Purdon with operational and financial support from the Port of San Diego. Over the years, the show has grown substantially with fireworks now launched from four barges around the bay. The show made international headlines in 2012 when a computer glitch resulted in the Big Bay bust as 7,000 fireworks launched in a 30-second period.

The 2021 version will include $250,000 worth of pyrotechnics and a few special surprises to celebrate its 20th year, Purdon said. All told, the show costs $600,000 to put on, with the port pitching in $190,000 in cash. The district is also is contributing $145,000 worth of services. Thanks to sponsor donations, the Big Bay Boom typically generates a profit that is passed on to the Armed Services YMCA. Since its start, the Big Bay Boom has raised more than $1 million for the charity, the producer said.

The Fourth of July fireworks special is also a boon for the local economy. In 2018, the event generated $1 million in tax revenue for the city of San Diego, according to a report prepared by Point Loma Nazarene University’s Fermanian Business & Economic Institute. It also added more than $10 million in incremental sales to San Diego businesses, and resulted in net proceeds of $257,000 for the port, the analysis determined.

This year’s event could draw as many as a half-million people to the waterfront. The port is coordinating with state and county health officials to follow pandemic-related protocols, a spokeswoman said. It’s unclear what state guidelines will apply for the non-ticketed affair where crowds will be dispersed across several locations. For so-called mega events with controlled access, the state recommends that attendees be fully vaccinated, obtain a negative COVID-19 test or wear a mask.