MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island got lucky for the Fourth of July. All day, massive thunderstorms played chicken with the crowd at Residents’ Beach, causing many to pack up their coolers and chairs and scurry off, but the storms, clearly visible off the beach, soaked areas all around the island without ever dampening the Independence Day festivities.
In fact, for those spending the day at the beach, the SPF 30 cloud cover provided a welcome sunscreen, and the lightning and eventually, a beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, showed that nature has some fireworks of its own. When the actual fireworks display commenced, the “rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air” were a spectacular climax to the day.
The aerial show went on and on, with several seeming finales before the final all-out crescendo. The entire beach broke into a heartfelt round of applause. Even after that, the crew on the barge fired off a few more missiles, as though they had found some unexploded ordinance and figured they may as well shoot those up, too.
Ken and Diane Honecker, sitting with ringside seats, said the fireworks were definitely worth their tax dollars, not to mention the private matching fund donations spearheaded by Joe Oliverio.
“This was an awesome display. We loved it,” said Diane. Doug and Sharon Curnutte, homeowners and part-time residents, agreed.
“The whole day was spectacular. Just a wonderful celebration of the nation,” said Doug Curnutte, down for the Fourth with some of his children and grandchildren.
The party started hours before the fireworks, with a full day of activities and festivity at Uncle Sam’s Sand Jam, the official name of the celebration headquartered at Residents’ Beach. Organized events kicked off at 1 p.m., with the Boys vs. Girls Tug O’ War.
“It was girls, hands down,” said the Parks & Rec Department’s Lola Dial, organizing the activities but not above favoring one side over the other. “We totally kicked their rears.”
In the Fastest Kid on the Beach races, Daniel Marsh won in the 5 to 8 age group, Christian Yamulla won the 9 to 12 division, and Carson McCullars triumphed in the 13 to 17 age category. The winner of the 18 and up group was too fast for the judges to catch his name. That was also the case for the “top dog” in the hotdog eating contest, a non-Marco ringer in the unprecedented field of 18 entrants. Island resident Bobbie Jean Furman was the runner up.
Team Liberty from Pennsylvania took Best Overall in the sandcastle contest, for their rendition of a couple sunning on the beach, as judged by Lezlie Kelly. Brian and Linda Roberts went patriotic with their entry, sculpting an enormous red, white and blue flag, plus the letters USA spelled out in colored sand.
Sisters Ally Espy and Kelsy Espy were both winners in their respective age groups in the Most Patriotic Swimsuit contest. Michael Wyzorek, the “U” in a gaggle of guys spelling out USA!, won in the 15 to 17 bracket.
Lee Rubenstein manned a booth soliciting donations for the continuing project of outfitting the memorial in Veterans’ Community Park. They have raised over $200,000, he said, but need additional funds to add the planned fountain to the site. The Marco Police Foundation had the scooter they are raffling off available for inspection.
Jim Prange had the upwind side of his canopy lowered in anticipation of the coming storms, and Joe D’Esposito dropped his family’s entire canopy to hobbit size, weighing down the legs with sandbags, but in the end, none of the precautions were required, as the showers dodged around the patriotic force field apparently surrounding the beach, and Marco enjoyed a picture-perfect Fourth of July.