Marco Island celebrates the Fourth in style

Fireworks lit up the night sky above Marco Island on Tuesday to the delight of an Independence Day crowd.

The 20-minute show started at 9 p.m. and went off, seemingly without a hitch, with patriotic music and U.S.-themed rock 'n' roll and country songs blaring from loudspeakers on the beach.

Spectators craned their necks as the rockets zoomed skyward from a barge offshore.

The windows of the condominiums behind Residents Beach reflected the explosions, and the booms echoed off the walls.

"I like the colors," said Bridgette Sullivan, 7, of North Carolina, seeing her first fireworks display at the beach.

Organizers predicted a crowd of 7,000 along Marco's southern beaches, but less than an hour before the display, police guessed the crowd looked smaller than in past years.

The city of Marco picked up the $38,000 tab for the display by Fireworks Display Unlimited. The barge, which was loaded in Fort Myers, took up its position in late afternoon, tantalizing the growing crowd.

Couples, young and old, along with families and groups of teenagers sat in beach chairs or stood on the sand to wait for the show.

Children drew in the sand with sticks or played soccer in the waning light. A disc jockey played oldies music. Scores of lighted boats bobbed in the Gulf of Mexico.

A spectacular orange sunset delivered a perfect prelude to the display, which was rivaled at times by a lightning storm among ominous dark clouds offshore.

The fireworks were the main attraction, though, for Margaret Maack, 71, of Marco Island.

"It's almost like they're coming right down on top of you," she said.

The fireworks capped a day of holiday activity at Residents Beach, where anticipation of the fireworks started ramping up about 5 p.m.

Walter and Faye Graefe, 26-year Marco residents, know the drill: As the afternoon crowd leaves the beach, parking spaces get easier.

"Marco on the Fourth is always the same," said Faye, 81, sporting a red, white and blue bow around her neck.

Walter, 82, agreed: "We wouldn't be anywhere else."

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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