Franklin County celebrated the Fourth of July in what had to be among the nation’s most elaborate and spectacular four days of fireworks.
Beginning in Eastpoint Saturday, and then lighting up the skies over the Carrabelle River Sunday and the Apalachicola River Monday, the county wrapped up the celebration of the nation’s 247th birthday on the St. George Island beach over the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday evening.
Despite scorching temperatures, without a drop of rain, locals and visitors alike flocked to the celebrations, sporting red, white and blue in every conceivable form, and enjoying food and drink from local food trucks and non-profit organizations.
At Eastpoint’s Freedom Festival, the sheriff’s office had lined U.S. 98 with orange traffic cones, helping to ensure the safety of onlookers who lined either side of the busy highway.
The house band from the Red Pirate got the ball rolling at the festival, followed by the Ashley Morgan Band, and then as darkness fell lead singer Ashley Carroll sang the Star-Spangled Banner, just as she had at so many events while still a student in the Franklin County Schools.
As the fireworks exploded overhead, the speakers blared “Freebird” and “Born in the USA” to the inspiring pyrotechnics.
“I am proud of our county,” said Jimmy Sapp afterwards, one of the key planners of the Freedom Festival. “Every restaurant, every charter fisherman, every rental company, it’s been busy. Every business pulled together to give the best we have to offer.
“I can with no doubt say I am proud to live in Franklin County,” he said. “No business is too small to make a difference.”
Carrabelle’s celebration Sunday, which is the only one of the four fireworks shows to be funded entirely by city or county funds, opened with a modest UNofficial red, white and blue golf cart and bicycle parade.
The fireworks followed as the night sky fell, and it too was spectacular, marked not by an explosive grand finale but by a colorful low-lying barrage of colorful effects that drew applause from the crowd.
On Monday in Apalachicola, retired Army Staff Sgt. William E. Scott, who served the nation proudly for 22 years, and his wife Catherine Cain Scott led the long parade from Lafayette Park to Riverfront Park.
Scott, who served four years with the Air Force with a tour of duty in Vietnam as crew chief of an F4 Phantom, returned home to Apalachicola where he joined the Florida Army National Guard and from which he retired in 1993. He served as the Franklin County Veterans Service Officer for 25 years
The couple, married for 52 years, have two children, the late Jason Scott, and Jessica Scott, of Miami Beach, and three grandchildren, Haley, Avery, and Talen Scott, all Franklin County residents.
It was a spirited parade, organized by Franklin’s Promise Coalition and the crew of the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast.
The parade was marked by what had to be the largest ever collection of supporters for a political candidate in the history of the parade, if not all of the county’s parades. Golf carts touting the candidacy of Terry Tipton, Jr., who is running next year to succeed retiring property appraiser Rhonda Skipper, stretched a huge portion of the parade.
The event at Riverfront Park, handled for the first time by the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce after a string of years where it was organized by Apalachicola Main Street, was sparse during the sweltering afternoon, but by the late afternoon, it was bustling and by early evening featured a crowd as big as ever.
This year, people of all shapes and sizes assembled on the docks, which had in the past been reserved for pricey VIP tables. Folks spread out on blankets on the grass, and a host of local non-profits served up low country boil and fried shrimp to raise money for their causes.
Dave’s Hot Dawgs and the Mellow Mullet shaved ice truck drew the longest lines but no one seemed to mind waiting for their goodies.
Following jamming performances by the Apalachicola Blues Authority and Scratch 2020, the stage gave way to remarks by U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, Apalachicola Mayor Brenda Ash and County Commissioner Ottice Amison, touched off by Gordon Adkins singing “God Bless America.”
Lea Herrera gave a moving rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, and then it was time for a spectacular show of pyrotechnics.
It was a weekend to remember, and a chance to celebrate the glory of America.