Hangin’ with la gente in the Soboba Casino parking lot

Where’s the best view to see the fireworks? Not in the bleachers

Dennis Fletcher
Country Artist’s Tribute band was awesome; if only I had heard them play.

■ By Chris Smith / Advisory Editor

As a member of the press, oftentimes you get to go places for free that you might otherwise have to pay to enter. The Soboba Casino fireworks display was the exception: everyone gets in for free.

Chris Smith/The Valley Chronicle
You can fit a whole family in the back of a pickup truck – and some people did.

In this day and age, you might think that entertainment in the form of a first-rate country western band and a glitzy fireworks display would set you back $40-50. Not if you live in the San Jacinto Valley and can find your way over to the Soboba Casino on July 3.
Last year I watched the fireworks the day prior to July 4 from my rooftop, which is on the other side of town from the Soboba Casino. This year, I got a little closer – the casino parking lot. Although my friends were waiting for me in the stadium bleachers, I had a deadline I had to meet to get the newspaper out and simply couldn’t leave in time to arrive when they did. Apparently a lot of other people had a similar problem because I was stuck in a very long line of cars heading into the casino parking lot just as the fireworks began. Ok, so I missed the live concert. Sorry guys.

Dennis Fletcher
A view of the fireworks from the stadium.

The parking lot, as it turned out, was a great place to see the fireworks show. At the time, I thought that all the people watching from the beds of their pickup trucks were there because it was free and they wouldn’t have to pay to get into the stadium. Wrong. They were in the parking lot because they wanted to be. This is where the action is man!
One guy had set up a pop-up tent trailer in the lot, who knows how many days in advance. He had his own little Shangri-La out there in the west 40. Another group had a canopy, a bunch of tables and a big ol’ Weber grill churning out smoke. People who obviously like beer were doing a kind of dance that would have been illegal in my conservative neighborhood. This is where la gente are, baby! Gimme the high sign!
Then there were moms, dads, and the kids bundled up in the back of the pickup, the little ones riding on dad’s shoulders to get a better view. The very little ones were more interested in their electric Star Wars weapons than the actual fireworks, which were awesome, by the way. There were people in lawn chairs taking up a whole parking place that didn’t seem to bother anyone except me. “You should pay double if you’re going to take up two spaces!” I thought. But wait – it’s all free!
The explosions began just as I parked my car, and I admit I was disappointed that I had missed hearing the band, but I wasn’t about to distract myself from watching the skies by walking over to the stadium just as the fireworks got underway. As it turned out, la-gente-of-the-lot had a better view of the super dooper novas than did those in the stadium.
It was an awesome display, and a great roar of applause swelled up from la gente when it was over, horns blared and the kids made little guttural noises that only dogs make on occasion.
So I made it from the rooftop last year to the parking lot this year…who knows what next year might hold – a front-row seat in the stadium? And yes, I did eventually hook up with my friends in the casino coffee shop to sample a little funnel cake they had smuggled in. Can’t do that in Vegas, folks.

Dennis Fletcher
Hopefully the South Coast Air Quality Management District people aren’t concerned about all the smoke.
Chris Smith/The Valley Chronicle
If you park in a parking space, where do you set up your lawn chairs? In another parking space, of course.
Chris Smith/The Valley Chronicle
The best seats were from the rooftops of the pickup trucks.
Chris Smith/The Valley Chronicle
It doesn’t get any better than this.

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