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Charlie Ware has been the announcer at Ocean Festival for more than 40 years. This year will be his last as he passes the torch to someone else. Photo: Eric Heinz
Charlie Ware has been the announcer at Ocean Festival for more than 40 years. This year will be his last as he passes the torch to someone else. Photo: Eric Heinz

By Eric Heinz

Sound waves from Charlie Ware’s voice rolling over the massive crowds has been a natural part of Ocean Festival since its beginning.

After 40 years of being the announcer, Ware said he’s ready to pass the torch. This will be his final year.

Ware was part of the original group that put together Ocean Festival.

“I was a Laguna Beach lifeguard between the mid-’60s and the early ’70s, and they started getting into lifeguard competitions along the coast: stand-up paddleboarding, dory racing,  swimming,” Ware said. “The San Clemente lifeguards were just starting to get into that too. Sheraton Birely, who was the chief lifeguard, contacted our lifeguard captain for a friendly competition.”

The competition started to gather interest with barbecues and refreshments at Old Man’s at San Onofre State Beach. Ware said they would rush down there after everyone got off work. The next year, they decided to move their competitions to the San Clemente Pier.

“We invited more lifeguards, and they called it the Orange County Lifeguard Games,” Ware said. “Sheraton was trying to get everyone organized because the sun was going down, and none of the guys were really paying attention. So, he had a bull horn and I just happened to be standing next to him.

“He says,‘Here, see if you can get them organized.’ So I grabbed the bull horn and got everyone going. I just stood there with the bull horn in between the events I would do.”

Although he’s not sure what grabbed everyone’s attention, Ware unintentionally became Ocean Festival’s first announcer. The next year it became organized as a nonprofit event. Dorothy Fuller, another founding member of the event, told Ware they wanted to open the events up to the community.

“And Ocean Fest was born from 1976 and that point on,” Ware said. “It’s been wonderful ever since.”

Ware set up a PA system on the Pier, setting up in the corner of The Fisherman’s Restaurant. He said he would announce results and upcoming events all at the restaurant.

“It got really crowded, and it got voiceful, and it got rowdy,” Ware said. “So finally we set up on the beach and really expanded it.”

Over the past 40 years, Ware said Ocean Festival has been the epitome of “real beach fun.”

“Coming down here every year, all that beach activity and the culture that exists here, Ocean Fest embodies that,” he said. “If I could keep coming down here and continue to be a small part of it in anyway, that’s what made summer for me. It didn’t feel like summer until I was at the Ocean Festival.”

Ware is leaving his position on a round number.

“I thought 40 is a good year,” Ware said. “It’s one of those things where I thought there was a need for some young infusion. My style has always been to be more informative, to provide that steady announcement. It’s a style, but there’s also a need for a bit of color and excitement and comedy. I think it’s time for someone like that to take over.”

Ware said he will still continue to come to Ocean Festival.

“If it weren’t for the great volunteers and Peggy Vance and her crew and her team to make it so easy on us and make it run smooth, it just makes it so fun to be here,” he said. “The next announcer has to meet the expectations and make sure that everything is running, and they also have to enjoy themselves while they’re here.”

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comments (1)

  • Had the honor of announcing the last Swallows Day Parade with Charlie Ware. A great announcer, great knowledge and a great great guy.

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