Four days of celebration, three nights of fireworks, two distinguished military officers and one enormous party on the banks of the Apalachicola River marked the nation’s 241st birthday in Franklin County this past weekend.
It all began Saturday night, as mainly residents from the east end of the county gathered along the banks of the Carrabelle River to watch the city-sponsored fireworks shimmer over the waters below.
“It’s all about family,” said Alisha Woods, as she and daughter Chelsea and grandson Deion joined with the extended families of Darren and Charlotte Polous, and the Putnals and the Brannans and a whole lot of others to take in the show from their truck beds and golf carts.
The families all planned to take in Independence Day Eve celebration Monday in Apalachicola, and Woods was glad the scheduling helped make that possible. “It’s good the county came together and made accommodations for everybody,” she said.
The largest crowd on record in the six years in Main Street has organized the July 3 event gathered in Riverfront Park Monday, to chow down on beer and hot dogs served up by the more than 80 volunteers that made the event a smoothly-run, remarkable success.
The band Southern Flood got the ball rolling while the sun still shone, and then featured entertainer Johnny Hayes & the Loveseats delighted the audience until well after the moon hung high in the sky.
Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Pal Rivers, a former Apalachicola High School teacher and clerk of courts, led the enormous 13th annual Red, White and Blue Parade that took off from Lafayette Park, once again organized by Franklin’s Promise Coalition.
The parade merged into the downtown crowd, and everyone enjoyed free scoops of vanilla ice cream to take the edge off the hot, but not oppressively so, afternoon.
After Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson gave an impassioned reading of excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, retired Army Maj. Gen. James Donald, now of St. George Island, stirred the crowd with a speech that offered a salute to veterans that brought the crowd to its feet.
“Throughout this nation’s history, America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coastguardsmen have bravely answered the call to defend our freedom, to aid our friends and allies, and to turn back aggressors,” he said, dressed in uniform. “We can never fully repay our debt of gratitude to the more than 650,000 American service members who died in battle or the 1.4 million who were wounded. Yet we can, however, recognize and thank the 25 million veterans still living today.
“On behalf of a grateful nation we publicly pay tribute to you for your service and your noble sacrifices. Just like the militias who stood on Concord Bridge in 1775 and fired ‘the first shot for freedom heard around the world,’ you have also have demonstrated your love of liberty and your determination to defend freedom at all costs,” Donald said. “For your love of liberty, you answered the prophet Isaiah’s call, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ wth a simple, Here am I; Send me!"
Following a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Carol Barfield, the 18-minute firework show took flight, delighting the crowd as patriotic music played in the background.
On Tuesday, Fourth opened with the annual parade on St. George Island, led by Fire Chief Jay Abbott in the fire department’s new pick up truck. An evening fireworks display closed out the extended weekend in the county.