It all started with a casual conversation in 2011. Jim Bachrach, board chair of Apalachicola Main Street, was talking with a few friends downtown when someone asked why the town no longer had fireworks on the Fourth of July. Within minutes, Jim and a small group of volunteers had decided to bring the fireworks back, and the beginnings of a plan were set in motion. Jim brought the idea to the Apalachicola Main Street board, which voted to embrace the idea.

There was some concern about competing for attendance with fireworks shows in nearby cities. At the same time, we recognized that thousands of visitors come into Franklin County for the week of July 4 and are looking for things to do. A creative idea emerged; celebrate on July 3. Celebrating a day early would allow us to add to the area’s calendar of activities without competing with other events. In doing so, it would attract more people downtown to patronize local businesses.

Fast forward to 2018, and the event has become Franklin County’s largest single-day event. It is the winner of a Florida Secretary of State’s Main Street award for Outstanding Special Event and has earned a reputation as a high-quality, family-friendly celebration that boasts the best fireworks show on the Forgotten Coast.

The event is free and begins at 5 p.m. at Riverfront Park with live music, food trucks offering American favorites and delicious international options, cold beverages, and bouncy houses for the kids. Bring your lawn chairs or picnic blankets and enjoy performances by Southern Flood and the Bo Springs Band. The Center for History, Culture, and Art will offer free kids’ art activities in its facility just across the street. The Red, White, and Blue Parade begins at 6:30 p.m. at Lafayette Park and ends at Riverfront Park with a free ice cream social for everyone to enjoy.

We’re particularly proud that this is the most patriotic celebration around. In the lead-up to the fireworks, our program includes a Veterans Tribute, and this year we are honored to have State Representative Halsey Beshears speak. This will be followed by a performance of the National Anthem by Angela Stanley. Another prominent patriotic touch is that a medley of patriotic music plays during the 20-minute fireworks show. A montage of popular songs gives way to several traditional selections performed by the U.S. Air Force Band such as the “Marines’ Hymn.” The closing song during the fireworks crescendo this year will be “Stars and Stripes Forever,” performed by the Boston Pops.

Our sponsors make this event possible. As a special thank you for supporters at the $500 level and above, we offer reserved tables in the VIP section on the docks complete with complimentary beverages from a private bar and the perfect seats for the fireworks show.

Although the event attracts thousands, it’s community-oriented at heart. As Jim looks back on how it has grown over the years, he says, “This is for us, as citizens of Apalachicola. The energy and the focus has always been to do something for the community and then invite everyone else to join us.” And they do. Residents and visitors from near and far come downtown together to celebrate our independence.

Here in Apalachicola we enjoy a slow pace of life and aren’t usually in too much of a hurry. But on July 3, we’re ahead of schedule. I hope you’ll join us for our seventh year of our signature event--a celebration like no other on the Forgotten Coast—a celebration we call “Independence Eve.”

For more information, visit www.july3fireworks.com or call 844-272-2523.

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.