Issue 102 - August 2020
San Juan Capistrano Hosts Drive-In Fireworks, Films
This July, the City of San Juan Capistrano embraced social distancing protocols with a drive-in 4th of July fireworks display and a series of drive-in movie events.
“Events like the Fourth of July and the drive-in movies serve as great examples of what can be done,” said Sam Penrod, human resources and risk manager for the City of San Juan Capistrano. “When people realize that successful events can occur within the socially distanced world—and how risk management can be a partner in the process—they become more receptive to creative solutions.”
The mission city’s 4th of July fireworks took place at the San Juan Sports Park, one of six main athletic field areas in the community. The facility includes four soccer fields, two baseball fields, and ample parking that allowed staff to ensure that social distancing was practical and achievable. Pre-registration for the fireworks display was mandatory, with in-person attendance limited to San Juan Capistrano residents. Attendees parked their vehicles in every other space to safely view the fireworks and were required to stay in their vehicles for the duration of the display, which also was livestreamed on the city’s website for those who were unable or preferred not to attend in person.
Penrod says that planning and executing the event truly was a team effort.
“We had representatives from risk management to law enforcement to public works,” said Penrod. “Everyone’s input was important; there was a free flow of information.”
For the drive-in movie summer series, which took place at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park, the community partnered with a drive-in operator to show films including The Lego Movie and Ready Player One. The safe, social-distanced theater was operated by a smartphone-based system that allowed attendees to enjoy the experience without ever leaving their cars. Vehicles were parked in spaces at least eight feet apart, ensuring ample distance.
California JPIA Senior Risk Manager Alex Mellor, who acted as a sounding board and encouraged city staff to follow all applicable public health guidance, offers this advice for other member agencies planning similar events:
- Early in the planning process, recognize and embrace the fact that these non-traditional events will require creative solutions to be successful.
- Use applicable guidance from public health authorities as a framework for the events, rather than trying to get around the recommendations.
- Leverage expertise and resources inside and outside the organization. Successful events depend on effective collaboration between city departments, public health authorities, and the California JPIA.
All these strategies, he said, allowed San Juan Capistrano to continue the annual tradition of a July 4th fireworks event while many other Orange County cities cancelled their celebrations.
Penrod added that both of the events were team efforts initiated by council, implemented by staff who were willing to adapt to changing circumstances, collaborate, and listen—and supported by the California JPIA.
“The California JPIA is a tremendous resource,” said Penrod. “They always have been a terrific strategic partner and a resource to help make things happen.”< Back to Full Issue Print Article