Thunder and rain put a damper on county celebrations last week.
Tourists who arrived last Saturday for a week of patriotic fun got more than they bargained for when rain bands from a tropical depression in the southern Gulf of Mexico inundated the area and stirred up blustery winds and occasional thunder and lightning.
During the first week of July, the county received more than four inches of rain. The deluge began with more than a half- inch of rain on Wednesday evening, July 3.
The Apalachicola Maritime Museum cancelled its planned celebration, but Main Street Apalachicola, organizers of the Apalachicola Independence Day parade and fete opted to carry on in spite of dire weather predictions.
Bill Grimes, who loaned a barge for use in the fireworks display, spent 24 hours on a solo voyage bringing it from St. Marks. With the exception of a drenching shower as the last of the decorated vehicles in the Red, White and Blue Parade arrived at Riverside Park, the event came off without a hitch.
Jim Bachrach, spokesman for Main Street, said 5,000 people attended the celebration with many spectators watching from the John Gorrie Bridge. The pyrotechnic display was truly spectacular, and could be viewed from all over town.
Bachrach thank all of the Main Street volunteers and sponsors who made this year’s event a success.
“Everybody’s enthusiasm was unbelievable,” said Bachrach. “We already have donations toward next year’s Independence Day celebration. The musical performers were tremendous. Apalachicola Community Choir blew people away. We really appreciate Project Impact for their part in the children’s celebration as well. We are already in the planning stages for next year and our goal is to double the size of the fireworks display.”
St. George Island and Carrabelle had both set July 4 as the date for their celebrations but it turned out to be the wettest day in a sodden week with more than an inch and a half of rain. This was nowhere near the record for that date, 2.59 inches set in 1958, but both venues postponed their festivities in the face of the stormy weather.
The traditional island parade took place on Friday morning, July 5, which was still blustery but free of thunder and lightning on the island. Abundant precipitations lead to a few changes in the usual island pageant. The route was shortened to avoid deep puddles of standing water.
Only about 40 floats lined up, as opposed to 120 last year. The crowd lining the parade route was also much smaller than in previous years. Vickie Frost, of Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar, organized this year’s island spectacle.
In spite of the iffy weather, hundreds of gallons of water - both encased in balloons, shot from water guns and hsoes and even tossed from buckets and plastic cups - passed between onlookers and participants in the procession this year.
A notable new entry was a golf cart rigged to squirt streams of water from clandestine jets in the canopy. Not on hand this year was Miss Liberty and the island ladder truck.
Winner of the competition for the best float was Capt. Clint Taylor and Team Big Fish.
Fann Construction planted more than 1,000 American flags to mark the parade route. Elliot Fann said he hopes to make this an annual tradition.
Parks and Recreation Director Nikki Millender, who had not experienced an island parade in the past, said she plans to enter a float next year. “That’s good, clean fun,” she said.
Friday night, Carrabelle launched a successful fireworks display to the delight of the community. Renee Brannan, a spokesperson for Carrabelle, said the display came off with no problems.
“Marine Street and 98 were lined with people watching the show,” she said. “It was awesome.”
St. George Island finished the week’s festivities with a 30-minute fireworks display in front of the Blue Parrot on Saturday night, July 6.