Red, white and BOOM! Marco hits the beach for an All-American Fourth of July

Marco Island celebrated Independence Day with beach picnics and fireworks at Residents' Beach on July 4th, with happy throngs enjoying perfect weather. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Marco Island celebrated Independence Day with beach picnics and fireworks at Residents' Beach on July 4th, with happy throngs enjoying perfect weather. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

— The snowbirds don’t get to have all the fun. One of Marco Island’s iconic events takes place long after the Ohio and Ontario license plates have vanished from city streets, and the locals have time to relax and enjoy their slice of Paradise. Fourth of July on Marco takes the shape of an all-day beach party, with activities throughout the afternoon leading up to the big finish, the fireworks display out over the Gulf of Mexico off Residents’ Beach.

MICA, the Marco Island Civic Association, hosts the affair and is the largest individual financial contributor. The “rockets’ red glare” burn up $42,000 worth of pyrotechnics in under half an hour, and makes for a spectacular show, with the fireworks reflected in the water and the boom reverberating off the beachfront condos and luxury hotels.

The show typically has several mini fanales building up to the final blowout, and has thousands of spectators giving sustained applause and cheers, plus horns from the fleet of boats anchored offshore but it wasn’t always so impressive, said Craig Woodward. The local attorney and unofficial Marco historian grew up on the Island.

“Yeah, originally it was just me and the Calusas, sitting on the beach,” he joked. The earliest organized fireworks show Woodward recalls was in the early ’80s, “and before that, it was just a few kids with sparklers.”

Ruth McCann, executive director of MICA, said the origin of the beach celebration may be “lost in the sands of time,” but it goes back a long way in Island terms, longer than the 23 years she has lived here. Sandi Reidmann, executive director of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, which help raise funds for the fireworks display, said, “every year, they get more beautiful.”

Islanders show up early at the beach, bringing caravans of luggage including coolers, chairs, beach towels and, for many, shade-giving canopies that form a line along the water’s edge. Some stay all afternoon, splashing in the water to stay cool, while others stake out their spot, go home to the air conditioning, and come back for the aerial display as the sky darkens and the sunset fades.

The city of Marco Island Parks and Recreation Department’s Lola Dial supervises games and contests for those who hang out on the beach, although in the boys versus girls tug of war, she has been known to favor one side over the other. Contestants vie in sack races, three-legged races and the “fastest kid on the beach” contest, all with various age groupings starting at 5 and under. This is also true of the “most patriotic swimsuit” contest, with a panel of judges picking the finalists, and the overall winners then chosen by crowd acclaim.

The hot dog eating contest is “come one, come all,” a big spectator event for watching people who should know better than to shovel “tubesteaks” down their gullet against the clock. In a more serene competition, teams and families compete to build the best sandcastle, and some take it very seriously.

“They start early and come prepared, with food color to dye the sand and all kinds of tools,” said McCann. “People are very proud of their work.” Hula-hoop and limbo contests, an arts and crafts tent for the kids and a DJ are all part of the mix, although McCann cautioned that activities can be added or dropped.

The hotels will be full, and the day is a great off-season party for Marco’s year-round residents. Joe Oliverio, who has spearheaded the citizen fundraising effort to help pay for the fireworks, urges anyone who would like to have an ownership stake in Marco’s Fourth of July extravaganza to make out a check to “Marco Island Fireworks Fund,” and drop it off at Joey’s Pizza on Collier Boulevard.

“I’ll make sure you get credit” for your donation, he said. “This is our party.”

IF YOU GO

What: Uncle Sam’s Sand Jam presented by the Marco Island Civic Association

When: Noon until 9:30 p.m.

Where: Residents’ Beach, 130 S. Collier Blvd. (parking and entrance restricted); Marco Island

4th of July Fireworks

When: 9 p.m.

Where: Location: Residents’ Beach

Where: Residents’ Beach, 130 S. Collier Blvd. (parking and entrance restricted); Marco Island

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 1

2themoon writes:

This is perhaps the funniest article i have ever ever seen.
I am sending this one into Leno!

The Eagle writes this article on a beach blast on 4th of July..even telling the public "Come one come all"

Then down at the bottom of the story

Where: Residents’ Beach, 130 S. Collier Blvd. (parking and entrance restricted); Marco Island

Hahaaahaa ...only on Marco...

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