by Bill Thomas
Kids break for the surf at a previous Ocean Festival.San Clemente’s 31st annual Ocean Festival (OF) takes place Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22, 2007 at the Pier Bowl. The two-day affair, originally a friendly competition between professional lifeguards up and down Southern California’s coast, has grown in stature, size and sophistication, becoming a mega celebration of the world of surfdom. An event that includes swimming, surfboard, body surfing, paddleboard, dory and running events, including Watermen and Waterwomen Championships; Classical Woodies; a Fishing Derby and Clinic; a Children’s Pavilion; an Ocean Art Show; Sand Sculpture Creations; the Lifeguards’ Breakfast; a Saturday nite BBQ and musical concert; and one of water sports most unique challenges - the Great Rubber Duck Race. Among the newer additions to the surfing theme is the featured tribute band, imitators of the Rolling Stones, Jumping Jack Flash.
One of the remarkable factors of this San Clemente offering, drawing over 50,000 over a two-day period, is that the Festival is entirely planned and produced by volunteers, with merely a smattering of payment for selected services. Past volunteers represent many of the current “movers and shakers,” public servants, homemakers and business people in San Clemente who began their own community service helping out at an OF food booth or handing out registration packets. Meeting throughout each year, volunteers head the various OF functions, always seeking other volunteers to assist them. Their year of service culminates in the Festival itself. Representing a cross section of San Clemente and surrounding communities, these unpaid workers, some longtime residents, others recent arrivals, from different walks of life are all caring, creative and unselfish of their time. Who are they, these willing workers? A thumbnail sketch of 20 of them follows; each of whom warmly invites you to become a part of the 31st San Clemente Ocean Festival – whether sponsor, volunteer, competitor, participant or attendee…
This year’s Ocean Festival president, who shepherds the monthly board meetings, coordinates activities, insures that promised services are delivered and greases the finely tuned OF mechanisms, is Lauren Kelly, project manager for United Health Group, working in information systems.
Promises Lauren, “This year, 2007, following the continued successes of the past 31 years; we’re bringing in new activities, changing some things around; and continuing to innovate to produce another “Greatest Show on Surf.’”
With the participation of both world class ocean-oriented athletes, as well as local amateurs, the planning and organization of the swimming, paddling, surfing and running competition is vital to the continued positive reputation of San Clemente’s Ocean Festival. The responsibility for this OF dimension is capably accepted by Barrett Tester, a Quiksilver marketing executive and former National Ocean swimmer and body surfing world champion. Barrett’s expertise in this arena of water sports competition is one of the lures that draw so many competitors to San Clemente in July.
The OF’s year-round and extremely busy Executive Director is Peggy Vance, also a San Clemente Beaches, Parks and Recreation Commissioner, who coordinates the endeavors of the OF board members, obtains various services, handles advertising and promotion, and secures the important sponsors. Moving from Phoenix, Arizona, with her family, several years ago, Peggy first served as a volunteer, became an OF board member, and, due to her dedication and proven abilities, became “head honcho.”
Gary Button, a retired fireman, and his wife Arlene will celebrate 15 years of arranging for Woodies on the Pier. This year, they’ll have 15 different cars each day, and four Woodies at the pre-OF VIP affair at the Casa Romantica.
Mike Burke, executive vice president of RBF Consulting, has been the head judge for the Sand Sculpting Contest since 1978, having been drafted by Don Steffensen who succeeded Ralph Klausson. A long time San Clemente resident, Mike states that up to 200 family members, friends and neighbors directly participate in building their always-imaginative creations.
For the last two years, Nick Azzollini, who many of us remember as a member of the local U.S. Post Office crew, has been the finish line coordinator “…insuring that contestants are given their proper finishing order and controlling crowds to prevent mishaps between participants and bystanders who may wander into their paths.” Now a substitute teacher and member of the San Clemente Golf Course Advisory Committee, Nick is looking for a cadre of younger more athletic swim and run officials.
The person conscientiously monitoring the financial aspects of the Ocean Festival machinery is Amy Reinhart, now OF Treasurer, with eight years of event volunteer experience in products and July 4th celebration organizing. A former owner of several Kinko’s stores, she now directs operations for a company that owns several ARCOs.
A person who believes “…our children are our most precious gems,” is Erin Blake who runs the OF Children’s Pavilion. Born and raised in Fiji, Erin has transferred her skills to insuring that young people are a major entertainment focus of the OF.
Usually seen at the wheel of a small truck moving throughout the OF venues, Steve Ynzunza oversees OF logistics. This means practically everything from electrical plug-ins, to banners, to booths, to set up and take down. With 25 years in construction and a home inspection business, Steve is also on the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. “I’m always looking for more volunteers,” he requested.
Heading Creative Angle, a graphic arts company, Beth Apodaca creates posters, registration forms, brochures, and postcards for the Ocean Festival.
In recognizing the essential significance of the financial support and involvement of OF sponsors such as Fisherman’s, Saddleback Hospital, SunCal, Schleppy’s, Carbonara’s and PennySaver, as well as the OF board and key volunteers, a pre-event Sponsorship Appreciation Dinner is ordinarily held at the Casa Romantica. Tamara Tatich, Director of Marketing for master planned communities, including Talega of San Clemente, is in charge of this year’s event acknowledging the talents and time spent to produce San Clemente’s major celebration.
Recognition for participants’ athletic accomplishments takes the form of medals provided to the first three places in each age group for some events, and special awards and cash prizes provided to winning Watermen and Waterwomen. Ernie Marquez, a retired data communications executive, currently a management consultant and entrepreneur, has been in charge of awards for the past three years.
The Ocean Festival requires some 250 volunteers. They work in the booths, register participants, provide directions, record names and places in events, hand out beverages or rash guards, paint children’s faces, sell rubber ducks, supply water to sandcastle builders, run errands, turn pancakes, officiate swimming events, hold flags for the 5k and contribute in a hundred other roles. Kristi Kindred, whose children started in the kid’s races 20 years ago, currently a vice president of WLA Investments, coordinates this important effort. She will be assisted by Mary Anna Anderson, a past president of the OF Committee over several years. Currently, President of the San Clemente Friends of Beaches, Parks and Recreation Foundation, she is a former member of the City’s park commission and still active with a number of other community organizations.
Co-owner of Get Reel, a local fishing supply and boat chartering company, Don Gleason has been coordinating the youth-oriented Fishing Derby for the past two years.
A key attraction drawing many to the Ocean Festival is the Art Show, an array of white covered booths featuring the works of local artists concentrated on ocean and surf-related subjects. The varying media includes paintings, photography, ceramics, and metal and glasswork. A Choinard Art Institute graduate and professional artist for 38 years, Jim Krogle has been in charge of this activity for the past several years.
Tod Bryant is the returning Tsar of the popular rubber duck race. Not only does Tod supply the ducks, but he and his aides collect upwards of 50 prizes, some valued at over $500, such as local gym memberships, dinner certificates and an occasional surfboard, to award duck race winners. A portion of the proceeds from the $5 duck purchases goes towards the OF Scholarship Fund, which provides educational scholarships to deserving local young people and organizations serving youth activities. Watching the bobbing “ducklings” floating between rushing waves and riding the whitewater crests, identified from a long distance only by their colors, is one of the memorable experiences of OF competition. Tod, who raises rubber ducks and has traveled to 78 countries, mostly in a sailing vessel, is a busy local contractor in real life.
Registering the several hundred competitors for Ironmen and Women swimming, paddling, and running events is an encompassing task. With most of her volunteer corps returning year after year, Sheila Geist Martin, who with her husband Gary, co-owns Designs by Nature on El Camino Real, has been overseeing the athletic registration component of OF for a number of years.
Added only last year to the OF, the Southern California Body Surfing Contest should attract many top body surfers attracted to San Clemente’s famous waves. Eric Yeisley, a 25-year resident and facilities manager for Quest Software, heads this popular athletic endeavor.
This will be the fourth year of the open surfing event, now known as Groms’ Rule Board Surfing Contest, according to organizer Jack Sutter, “…open from 0 to 17 year-olds.” Jack, a surfing guru, resident of nearby Dana Point and co-owner of Pacific Coast Contractors, has developed this into a premier contest for hang teners.
So mark July 21 & 22 on your calendars, and, if you want to become an involved member of the OF family, check www.oceanfestival.org