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  • Writer's pictureRay Sanford

Sandy Purdon: The Visionary Behind the San Diego Big Bay Boom

Sandy Purdon and I were classmates at The Basic School in Quantico, VA after being commissioned into the Marine Corps. We had a few things in common. Both of us had originally enlisted prior to being commissioned as officers. And we both had a love for sailing; although Sandy was a far better sailor than I was. After he left the Marines, he settled in the San Diego area where set up a real estate company doing sales and development. He also managed the Sail America syndicate to help Dennis Conner win back the America’s Cup. And he joined San Diego Rotary where he became involved in efforts to support veterans in a truly unique way - Fireworks!

San Diego, the sun-soaked Southern California city, is known for its stunning beaches, friendly locals, and world-class attractions like Balboa Park, the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, and the Historic Old Town. Yet, every Fourth of July, the city's sparkling bay plays host to a spectacle that has become an integral part of the local fabric - the San Diego Big Bay Boom. This dazzling display of fireworks, which attracts nearly half a million spectators annually, owes its existence to Sandy Purdon, a former Marine, member of the San Diego Rotary, and a man whose vision and perseverance have lit up San Diego's skyline for over two decades.

Sandy Purdon, an entrepreneur, respected community leader, and committed Rotarian, is known for his deep roots in San Diego's maritime industry. His passion for the city's waterfront, coupled with the discipline and leadership qualities instilled in him during his time as a Marine, led him to establish the San Diego Big Bay Boom in 2001. His aim was to create an event that would not only entertain locals and tourists but also contribute significantly to the broader community.

Purdon’s idea for the Big Bay Boom sparked after attending a Fourth of July fireworks display in Florida. Inspired by the spectacle and camaraderie, he envisioned creating a similar event in San Diego, taking advantage of the city’s stunning bay. As a port tenant with H&M Landing, and with the strategic thinking honed as a Marine, Purdon was well-positioned to bring his idea to life.

The inaugural Big Bay Boom was a humble affair compared to the spectacle it has grown into today, but it nonetheless exceeded expectations. From that point, the event rapidly grew, evolving into the largest Fourth of July fireworks show in Southern California and one of the most prominent in the United States.

As a committed member of the San Diego Rotary, Purdon ensured that the Big Bay Boom had a positive impact on the community. The event generates considerable revenue through sponsorships, portions of which go to benefit the Armed Services YMCA and other local charities. Additionally, it brings a considerable influx of tourists to San Diego every year, benefiting local businesses and boosting the city's economy.

With the event's grandeur and popularity, orchestrating the Big Bay Boom became an increasingly complex task. Logistical and safety measures had to be meticulously planned and executed. However, under Purdon's astute guidance, strengthened by his military background and Rotarian commitment to service, the event has continually managed to deliver a show that captures the spirit of Independence Day year after year.

The San Diego Big Bay Boom is more than just a fireworks display. It is a testament to Sandy Purdon's dedication, leadership, and commitment to the San Diego community. As a Marine, he learned the value of discipline, teamwork, and strategic planning. As a Rotarian, he embraced the commitment to service above self. These experiences laid the foundation for the creation and sustained success of the Big Bay Boom.

So when the night sky of San Diego lights up in a spectacular array of colors and shapes during the Big Bay Boom, the spectacle will be a testament to the vision of Sandy Purdon. His dream of bringing a community together in celebration has transformed into a beloved tradition that continues to inspire and captivate the hearts of San Diego’s residents and visitors alike. Through the Big Bay Boom, Purdon’s love for San Diego, his commitment to service, and his Marine spirit are felt by all, and his legacy shines as brightly as the fireworks that light up the bay every Fourth of July.


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