Everglades City starts celebrating Fourth of July early
Everglades City celebrated Fourth of July Saturday.
Everglades City kicked off the Fourth of July weekend in its own down-home way — with swamp buggy floats, a cannon firing and festive red, white and blue costumes.
Families and city officials, including Mayor Sammy Hamilton, came together at Everglades City Hall at 10 a.m. Saturday to celebrate America's independence with a flag-raising ceremony, live music and prayer.
Everglades City was the first community in Southwest Florida to celebrate the Fourth of July, starting with its morning parade. The city also planned a fireworks display Saturday night.
Celebrating the holiday before the actual date is tradition, said Elaine Middelstaedt, who helped organize the event.
"We always do it the Saturday before the Fourth of July," she said. "We're a little town that does things differently. Those who want to go up to Naples can still do that, but we have our little itty-bitty fireworks."
After the ceremony, a parade of about two dozen floats — swamp buggies, classic cars, sedans, golf carts and Flintstones-themed carts — drove past City Hall. Float riders tossed out buckets of candy, which led children and even adults to jump up or kneel down to catch the sugary treats.
Piper Foss, an 18-month-old girl, ran around excitedly to get candy and captured the attention of her family and nearby parade-goers. She wore a red, white and blue outfit with beaded necklaces around her neck.
This was her first Fourth of July, said her mother, Carol Foss.
An Everglades City native, Foss owns two restaurants in town with her family. She said she wants to give her daughter the experiences she had growing up, including the Fourth of July parade.
"We come (to the parade) every year," Foss said. "It's grown and has gotten a little better each year."
A community celebration with more than 100 people followed the parade in McLeod Park with free food provided by the Lions Club, face painting, a bake sale and a "Little Firecracker" contest for the best-costumed children.
From as young as 10 months to as old as 7, some contestants twirled confidently while others needed assistance from their parents.
Brandon Bagley Jr., 6, won in his age group. His costume screamed America from head to toe. His hair was spray-painted red, white and blue, and his shoes were a bright red.
"It took us probably 15 minutes to do his hair when we got him to stay still," said his mother, Jeanne Bagley.
Chris Branston, 71, and hiw wife Jenny, 70, of Naples, had never been to the celebration before.
"We like parades," Chris Branston said.
They have gone to the Naples Fourth of July event in recent years.
"We also like Everglades City," Jenny chimed in.