Thousands of beachgoers filled the sand as the South Bay headed seaside to celebrate Independence Day on Thursday.

Tyler Ruetgen bought a handful of cheap bikes on Craigslist and decorated them in red, white and blue, joining scores of people along the Strand in Hermosa Beach on the Fourth of July.

“It’s such a social day,” he said while playing “cornhole” on the sand with Pamela Conrad. “Everyone is happy and sharing high fives, smiles and drinks.”

The South Bay was packed with festivities, all wishing America a happy birthday.

In Redondo Beach, the 4th of July 5K and Firecracker Dash runners hoofed it in the morning, with the race followed by block parties. Later, fireworks were planned from a barge just outside the harbor.

In San Pedro, a long and unique tradition was rekindled with the ringing of the Korean Friendship Bell.

At the Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration at Malaga Cove School in Palos Verdes Estates, the featured speaker and winner of the 2019 Kenneth T. Norris Heritage of Freedom Award was Gwynne Shotwell, president and COO of Hawthorne-based SpaceX.

Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates rekindled decades-long traditions by rolling out old-fashioned festivals on the peninsula.

Fireworks were also planned in El Segundo and Torrance.

In Hermosa Beach, the holiday began in the morning in the only way that a beach town with historic roots to punk rock music can, by staging a roughly 45-year tradition called the Ironman.

But this is not your standard fitness contest. In the Hermosa Beach version, more than 500 participants run, paddle a surfboard and then chug a six-pack of beer. The distances are not as important as holding down the beer for at least 15 minutes — which many people, sadly, do not.

This year’s women’s winner, securing her 15th victory, was Annie Seawright.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Seawright said before the start. “I’m a decent runner and a paddler but it’s all about the beer.”

Kevin Collins, a first-time winner and eight-time competitor in the event, took the victory for the men. Asked what was the secret to his success, Collins said, “I had a good hangover.”

The Hermosa Beach event was an anomaly in the city where the police department would be cracking down on drinking in public for the rest of the Fourth of July holiday.

After the race, beach-goers staked out their spots on the sand and reserved volleyball courts early for one of the busiest beach days of the year.

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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