Capitola fireworks fundraiser proposed by Monte Foundation

October event would raise money for McGregor skatepark
By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Thousands annually jammed into Seacliff State beach to attend the Monte Foundation’s Fireworks Extravaganza. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

CAPITOLA >> The Monte Foundation, which canceled its fireworks fundraiser last fall after 18 years due to skyrocketing costs of putting on the event at Seacliff State Beach, is seeking city permission to bring the show to Capitola Village on Oct. 16.

Marc Monte, president of Deluxe Foods in Aptos, started the fireworks show that raised $4 million for schools before he pulled the plug last year.

Attendance at the fireworks show topped 10,000 but costs for the state beach closure and security by the California Highway Patrol and Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office escalated to $34,000, hampering the fundraising effort.

Last year Monte proposed to come to Capitola, but found there wasn’t enough time to plan such a large event. This year, he’s planning five months ahead.

He’s garnered support from city staff, who recommend approval by the City Council, which meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall, 420 Capitola Ave.

Monte proposes to raise money for a skate park proposed at the new city park going into an empty lot on McGregor Drive. Soliciting sponsors for the park since mid-February, the city got responses from donors offering to sponsor a $15,000 bike pump track and an $8,000 dog park but until now, none for the skate park, the most expensive element.

Fireworks would be shot from a barge or from the Capitola wharf, according to Lisa Murphy, the city’s administrative services director, with the show free to attendees.

Monte, who is single and has no children, said he wanted to bring the fireworks back to Santa Cruz County this year as the all-volunteer foundation named for his father celebrates its 20th anniversary.

The idea of the show, he said, came from his memories of sitting on Capitola Beach as a child watching the fireworks, so he welcomes a return to that location to raise money to give kids recreational opportunities.

Monte said he plans to use the same approach tried in North Lake Tahoe for a fireworks show last fall. A buddy of his who owns a restaurant in Carnelian Bay added a $1 surcharge for a drink and $5 surcharge for a plate of food, raising $20,000.

“I’m looking for sponsors,” Monte said, adding that he’s gotten “pretty much all positive responses” pitching the new concept to restaurateurs in Capitola Village.

One suggestion business owners made, he said, is to present the fireworks on Friday or Saturday night, which could bring more business to restaurants and hotels during the shoulder season and could raise more money.

A Thursday night date would keep the fundraiser local.

“I don’t mind either way,” said Monte.

“Love this idea,” said Gayle Ortiz, planning commissioner, former mayor and co-owner of Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria, when asked for her opinion.

Capitola ended its fireworks shows because “they were too popular and the traffic became a nightmare,” Ortiz said. Since then, fireworks have been a special treat, with Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary officials approving a show for the city’s 50th birthday in 1999 and again for the 60th birthday in 2009.

To deal with traffic, Murphy proposed closing village streets to entering vehicles for about 60 to 90 minutes for the show, halting vehicle traffic into the village 30 minutes before the show to prevent cars from stopping in the street to watch the fireworks and blocking access for emergency vehicles, and closing streets in the Depot HIll neighborhood to nonresident traffic earlier in the evening.

As word got out, Capitola residents Emily and Rick Martin and Sean Tuttman emailed their support to the council, as did Supervisor Zach Friend.

“Cancellation of this event last year left a void of family friendly events in our county,” Friend said, noting Monte’s support for the skate park would benefit youth in Capitola.


WHAT: Capitola City Council meeting

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: City Hall, 420 Capitola Ave., Capitola


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