Fireworks show at Soboba ignites fun

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Soboba Casino Resort enlists guests to place 3,000 flags on its property in the morning July Fourth. Those who helped receive a goodie bag of patriotic items as well as the satisfaction in knowing they helped salute veterans, active duty military and first responders. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Mike Hiles, Special to Valley News

The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District teamed up to put on a firework show that lit up the San Jacinto Valley skies – and computer screens for those that livestreamed it on July 4. 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,” Michael Castello, the Soboba tribal administrator, 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.”

Angel Salazar, center, an employee of Soboba Casino Resort, helps a guest place flags. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo
The Briones and Venegas families gather with other Soboba tribal members to view the July Fourth firework show that presented as a joint effort of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District, which had to cancel its annual event. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

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 about 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 Instagram pages. There were more than 13,000 views on all social media platforms, according to Craig Shultz, public information officer for Valley-Wide.

“This is the first time we have livestreamed an event,” he said. “We have provided a free firework show in the San Jacinto Valley since 1976, drawing upward 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.”

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.

A computer screen shot shows the firework setup by Pyro Spectaculars by Souza at the far end of the old Soboba Casino Resort parking lot before its 20-minute fireworks show. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

In the past when the tribe has held fireworks’ shows at its sports complex, Antonia Venegas said her extended family would watch from the nearby church parking lot to avoid the crowds. She said it was great to be so close to the action this year, with plenty of space 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. Casino guests were invited to plant 2-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.”

A computer screen shot shows an image from the livestream broadcast of the firework show presented jointly by the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo
A computer screen shot shows an image from the livestream broadcast of the firework show presented jointly by the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo