For Marco Island's Independence Day, life’s a beach

All-day party brings thousands of residents, visitors out to celebrate

Lance Shearer

For Marco Island, the Fourth of July is a day at the beach. Thousands came out to Residents’ Beach, as well as up and down the long crescent of sugar sand along the island’s western shore, and celebrated the nation’s independence by splashing, sunbathing, and hanging out.

A long line of canopies, sunshades and beach umbrellas stretched out along the water, as families claimed their piece of shoreline. With coolers, picnics and the aroma of burgers sizzling on the grills behind the beach and at the concession stand, the atmosphere resembled a giant tailgate party, minus the tailgates.

Lola Dial of the city’s Parks and Recreation Dept. painted an endless stream of faces with patriotic themed decorations and branched out to do arms as swell. DJ Ken of pumped out the tunes, doubling as emcee for competitions including the limbo, a circle of youngsters wriggling through a hula hoop and trying not to be inside it when the music stopped, and a contest to see who could plaster themselves with the most red, white and blue.

Down at the water’s edge, teams built sandcastles for the judges’ inspection, while kids splashed in tidal pools. There was a noticeable accumulation of brown seagrass just offshore and washing up on the beach, which prompted Mary Pat Palumbo to say something should be done about it.

“This is the biggest day of the summer, and the best beach – they should pick up the litter on the beach,” she said.

Ruth McCann, executive director of MICA, the Marco Island Civic Association, which administers Residents’ Beach and put on “Uncle Sam’s Sand Jam,” the Independence Day festivities, said the brown seagrass has washed up from the Keys, and is much more prevalent down there, as she saw on a recent visit.

“The county removes it, but it has to be there for two or three high tides before they do,” she said.

At the beach end of the boardwalk going to the parking lot, Alli Smith of Audubon Florida had a canopy offering burrowing owl information, with just behind her, an actual burrow containing a family of a nesting pair, plus four owlets who have grown almost as large as their parents. Marco Island, she said, is home to 252 pairs of burrowing owls this year, who will be raising over 1,000 chicks in their underground nests.

Along the boardwalk, Bob Sargent, Lee Ross, and Taylor Ogdin of the American Legion sold flags and patriotic caps.

After darkness fell, the official fireworks went off as scheduled at 9 p.m., providing a 20-minute aerial display evoking the “rockets’ red glare” of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and as families streamed off the beach, another Fourth of July was in the books.