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Red Devil Memories

`As far back as I can remember, July 4 in Culver City was like a Norman Rockwell painting. The streets were lined with patriotic colors, American flags hung proudly from every home, and mouthwatering BBQ smells filled the air.

Every year my sisters and I could not wait for Dad to drive us to the Studio Village fireworks stand to buy our “Safe and Sane” Red Devil “Family Assortment” box filled with pyrotechnic joy. At dusk we would start with sparklers, snakes, and Smoky Joe’s Cabin. When it got dark, our driveway became a fireworks extravaganza.

In the early 1960’s, the Culver City Exchange Club and Culver City Veteran’s Organization (American Legion) collaborated, operating Culver City’s nine “Safe and Sane” fireworks stands around the city. Stand sales funded our “Independence Day Fireworks Show” at Helms Field, now Jerry Chabola Field.

Braddock and neighboring streets were filled with excited families, walking to Culver City High School, waving flags and riding decorated bikes. Young kids were pulled in wagons to enjoy a picnic, snack bar treats, music, and the best overhead fireworks in the city.

LA City and parts of LA County had now banned fireworks sales, putting pressure on their neighbor, Culver City. In 1986, our City Council voted 3-2 to ban the sale of fireworks for good. Without the sales from the stands, how would the Independence Day Fireworks Show continue? Collaboration with the City of Culver City, local sponsors, and a nominal suggested admission fee kept the show going for almost 15 more years.

This small event with complimentary admission began with about 500 spectators and grew to a tradition with over 10,000 attendees by the last show on July 4, 2012.

One of the main reasons for the show’s cancellation was the installation of artificial turf on Helms Field for student-athletes, and the subsequent concerns with fire. When that door closed, a window opened in the form of West Los Angeles College President James Limbaugh, Ph.D., also a member of the Exchange Club, who brokered a partnership with the club. The show resumes this year, on Sunday, July 3, literally lighting up the night’s sky after two dark pandemic years.

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