Momentum for our sixth annual Independence Eve Celebration on July 3 at Riverfront Park continues to build. Despite rainy weather, our volunteer sign-up event at Tamara’s Tapas Bar was a great success, resulting in a record-breaking number of volunteers committing their time. The H’COLA group is once again coming through with a strong contingent of volunteer support to staff the food tent. From setting up tables to dipping ice cream or serving beverages, dozens of community members pitch in to make this event possible. We’re truly grateful to all our volunteers - and it’s not too late to sign up if you want to join the ranks! We currently have more than 80 volunteers signed up, but we can always use additional support.

This event is something that anyone can be a part of – by becoming a sponsor, being in the Red, White, and Blue parade, or just showing up and helping us celebrate our community and country with patriotic spirit. This award-winning event’s success is due to strong support from members of the community, businesses, the city, and partner organizations.

Danny Itzkovitz of Tamara’s Café provides all the necessary equipment for food preparation and cooking, and helps coordinate the overall food tent operations. Project Impact staff welcome children to the kids’ activities tent for face painting, art, games, and prizes.

Our speaker for the veteran’s tribute will be retired Army Maj. Gen. James Donald, who makes his home on St. George Island. His many noteworthy achievements include earning the Bronze Star for his leadership as a task force commander with the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” during Gulf War I, his successes as deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, and two tours of duty in the Pentagon. Following his military career, he also served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections and chairman of the Georgia Department of Pardons & Paroles. In his retirement, he is getting involved in the community in ways such as giving presentations at the Franklin County School and working with a prison ministry program. We’re honored to have him as our speaker for this event.

Mike Cates, owner of Cates Electric Services, and his crew donate their time to set up and fire the pyrotechnics. Mike is fond of saying, “When you own a successful business in a community, I think you owe something back.” His 25-plus years of experience working with pyrotechnics enable him to give back in a very unique way.

The fireworks are loaded on a barge loaned to the event by Bill Grimes. Next, Tommy Ward of 13 Mile Seafood positions the barge in the river for optimal viewing opposite the park. The display of lights reflected in the water makes the effect of the fireworks all the more stunning. The event has already established itself as the best fireworks show on the Forgotten Coast. This year we’re promising our biggest, best fireworks display ever!

Last year’s fireworks show boasted a new and special element that made it truly memorable. City Attorney Pat Floyd is once again making a donation to cover the cost of a patriotic soundtrack which will play as the pyrotechnics go off. It begins with a medley of popular songs from artists like John Mellencamp, the Beatles, and the Zac Brown Band, then segues into several classic pieces performed by the U.S. Air Force Band such as the “Marine Hymn.” The “Stars and Stripes Forever,” composed by John Philip Sousa, will play as the fireworks reach the finale.

As always, lawn chairs and picnic blankets are welcome. We don’t charge admission. But, all the fun isn’t free to produce. That’s the main reason we have a VIP section with table and chair seating right along the river, as a way of saying “thank you” to those that give $500 or more. But the contribution isn’t just about a table in the VIP section. It’s a sponsorship that helps make this event possible. Checks are coming in from businesses and individuals who want to support the event, starting at $35 and going all the way up to our title sponsor at $5,000. We welcome your financial support in any amount. Sponsorships and donations can be made online at www.july3fireworks.com, or by mail to Apalachicola Main Street at 1 Avenue E, Apalachicola, FL 32320. You can also contact Harry Arnold at 850-524-0770 or me at the number below.

Special thanks to our partners: the City of Apalachicola, Franklin’s Promise Coalition, Buddy Ward Seafood, Tommy Ward & 13 Mile Seafood, Piggly Wiggly, Project Impact, Cates Electric, Bill Grimes, Bay Media, and Harry Arnold for providing tables and chairs.

For more information on the event, including the schedule, photos, video, list of sponsors, and more, please visit www.july3fireworks.com.

Augusta West is executive director of Apalachicola Main Street, a non-profit organization dedicated to downtown economic development and historic preservation. She can be reached at awest@apalachicolamainstreet.org or (850) 274-1321. Main Street’s mailing address is 1 Avenue E, Apalachicola, FL 32320