Thousands gathered at Ala Moana Beach Park hours before Friday’s Fourth of July fireworks as canopies covered much of the available ground, and grills sizzled with chicken wings and kalbi.
Gina Sambrano, of Mililani, said the crowd appears to grow every year. She said the grass on the mauka side of the sidewalk used to be empty, but people were already setting up tents before 11 a.m.
“It seems like every year we have to leave earlier and earlier (to get a spot),” she said.
Philip Tabion, of Ewa, arrived about 3 a.m. Thursday, but the spot he wanted had been taken. He found another nearby that was close enough to take his paddleboards into the water and provide a good view of the fireworks.
Tabion, who was cooking chicken wings on a grill, said he woke up about 4 a.m. Friday and walked to his car outside the park to drive it in when the park opened.
“It was packed already,” he said. “People were crawling in.”
For those arriving after sunrise at Ala Moana Beach Park, plans to spend a day at the beach and watch the fireworks at night quickly became a frustrating ordeal to find parking.
“Sucks,” said Maria Mark, of Makiki, who pulled up to a red curb because there was no other parking at the Magic Island lot. She just got her car back after a tow truck driver tried to tow it away.
She said a police officer told her she couldn’t park in a white-striped area and told the tow truck driver to let her have her vehicle back at no cost.
“He was kind of mad,” she said of the officer. “Now were stuck here to look for parking.”
Mark had arrived at the beach about 7 a.m., planning to spend the day with her husband and young daughter, but was still looking for parking at 11 a.m.
Merty Muritok, of Kalihi, double parked her car in the same lot and got out because her back was hurting.
“I’ve been looking for parking for two to three hours,” she said. “Hard to find.”
Parking filled up across the street at Ala Moana Center as the morning went on.
About 11 a.m. there were a few stalls left on the top level of the makai side of the center.
There are about two thousand fewer parking spaces at the mall because of construction at Ala Moana Center.
There is also no viewing area on the makai parking lot as in previous years. The mall, which sponsors the fireworks, told people to enjoy a day of shopping and dining and then watch the show across the street at Ala Moana Beach Park.
The parking woes extended to Waikiki, where others hoped for a view of the fireworks.
Honolulu Police issued a notice at about 4:30 p.m. saying the parking lot at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor is full.
Some people were lucky, like Nella To, who happened to be in the right spot when another driver pulled out of a stall at Ala Moana Beach Park.
“We’re going to be walking to the store,” she said. “We’re not giving up that parking.”