For anyone in Englewood, Florida hoping to spend July 4th enjoying a dramatic fireworks display the only game in town is the Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary Club’s fireworks extravaganza over the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, it’s worth the trip and should be extra special this year as the celebration has been extended to include an entire afternoon of fun.
Two years ago Englewood’s traditional fireworks display was canceled due to lack of funding.For a long time the Englewood Jaycees had sponsored the annual event, which was entirely funded through private donations. But the 2009 economy claimed yet another casualty that year. Charlie Bush, who had organized the planned display, summed it up this way:”If you’re struggling to buy groceries and pay the rent, fireworks are pretty low on your list, I guess.”
The fireworks, which make no money, cost about $30,000 for 40 minutes of entertainment. It’s a difficult task to find donors and get everything organized, and the Jaycees could no longer deal with it. But last year the Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary Club, with about 100 members, stepped up and announced they would take over sponsoring the event. That 2010 display lasted almost 45 minutes and featured 2,400 shells. It was reported to be the longest show on Florida’s entire West coast.
So locals are certainly happy to see the Rotary Club again heading up the collection campaign for 2011. Since there is no admission charge to see the display, donations from local families and businesses are still the sole means of paying for the celebration, and the Club is asking for donations in a unique way.
Rotary volunteers made more than 50 little “donation rockets” to collect donations from a variety of locations throughout Englewood. The little tubes are about 4 feet tall and decorated with red, white and blue to look like miniature rockets. The outside has details of the firework display planned for the 4th, and an opening to receive donations — all of which are tax deductible.
So how is this year’s event different and extra special? The public is invited to start their celebration of America’s birthday with a Cajun festival and craft fair on Dearborn Street in Olde Englewood. The festivities start at 11 am and run till 7 pm, leaving just enough time to get to a good viewing spot on the beach for the fireworks display.
The Cajun Fest will feature Cajun music, a water slide and bounce house for the children, and traditional games for the whole family. Food, always a big feature of any 4th of July celebration, will include Cajun favorites like gumbo, crawfish and red beans and rice.
The evening will, of course, be capped off with a 30-minute fireworks display, which will begin at 9 p.m. World Champion Garden State Fireworks will be launching shells from Jefferson Cove on Middle Beach. Admission is free, and the best viewing areas are: Blind Pass Beach (Middle Beach) on Manasota Key Road; Indian Mound Park off Winson Avenue; Lemon Bay Park just off Dearborn Street;and the Royal Palm Marina at779 W. Wentworth Street.
If you have access to a boat, the display looks great from the water in those areas, too. To add to the viewing pleasure, patriotic music will be simulcast by local radio station WENG. Dress code is very casual, with shorts, tee shirts and flip flops encouraged. Colors of the day are, of course, red, white and blue. So plan now to join the people of Englewood enjoying a Florida tradition: fireworks over the water.
Here are a few glimpses of the 2010 fireworks display over the Gulf:
This is a link to video of last year’s finale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otQ7yXCuz3I This one, too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbKdaEfLEmA
Some great photos from the 2010 fireworks: http://www.englewoodbay.com/fireworks-2005-3.html