On a day when Marco Island beachgoers showed patriotism with flag-patterned beach chairs, swimsuits and towels, 9-year-old Rosie Poling displayed a symbol that she hoped people would notice: a peace sign.
Rosie entered the Marco Island Kiwanis Club’s sand castle contest with a peace sign made of sand and decorated with multicolored shells that she found on the beach.
To accompany her entry, she made a paper sign that read, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with Marco Island.”
The sand castle contest was one of several events at the island’s Independence Day celebration at Residents’ Beach, sponsored by the Marco Island Civic Association (MICA).
“There’s tons to do, and the kids love it,” said Patty Poling, Rosie’s mother. “And they play Rod Stewart,” she said, acknowleding the music playing from the disc jockey booth.
Kiwanis Club President Shirlee Barcic said the club sets up at the beach each year to raise money for its children’s program. This year, the club sold T-shirts and hats, and raffled off a four-day, three-night stay at a condo in Orlando, Miami or Las Vegas.
“It’s just a great way to have fun and make money for our children’s program,” Barcic said.
Naples resident Erin Garner said she has spent the holiday on Marco Island with her grandparents, who live on the island, for about 10 years.
She was building a sand sculpture of an octopus for the contest with her husband, Loren, and their kids Isaac, Abigail and Andrew.
“We wanted to pick a sea creature. There’s really no meaning behind it but we all worked together and there are eight legs, so it was easy,” she said.
Abigail, 9, said what she likes most about celebrating Independence Day on Marco Island is participating in the contests. She won the swimsuit contest last year, she said, and planned to enter again this year.
The swimsuit contest, as well as the tug-of-war, Frisbee throw and limbo contest, was sponsored by MICA.
Executive Director Ruth McCann said celebrating Independence Day at the beach is a tradition.
“Everyone knows that on July Fourth you come to Residents’ Beach,” she said. “Everybody joins together and is here to support each other and have a good time.”
McCann watched as kids lined up for the tug-of-war contest. When they had the green light to start pulling, the crowd erupted into cheers.
“And there you go, there’s the community spirit,” McCann said.
Maria Hayden said she has been attending the event since she moved to the island in 2000.
“We love the beach,” she said. “They always have great entertainment and good friends, and hopefully we’ll meet some new friends here.”
Hayden said the fireworks are her favorite part of the celebration. Her friend, Maria Defteros, also of Marco Island, got to to the beach at 5:30 a.m. to claim a good spot.
“We always come early in the morning and stay until after the fireworks,” she said.
A year after a problem cut short the fireworks, this year the event was deemed a success by observers and came off without a hitch.
Defteros said she was prepared for any type of weather so she could stay to watch the show.
“I’ve got umbrellas, I’ve got garbage bags to put stuff in, I’ve got rain ponchos, just in case,” she said.