Apalachicola’s award-winning Independence Eve celebration, featuring live music, food trucks, kids’ activities, parade, free ice cream social, vendors, a veterans’ tribute, the National Anthem, and a spectacular fireworks show, is held each year on July 3 at Riverfront Park.

Almost 100 volunteers come together to make this event possible. Whether setting up tables and chairs, dipping ice cream, selling t-shirts, or working behind the scenes, each volunteer plays a role in making the celebration a success.

Main Street’s Volunteer Coordinator Connie Finneran reflected on why so many people pitch in. “Volunteering is a good chance to make connections and for neighbors to become friends,” she said. “This event attracts thousands of visitors, but it’s also really for local families and residents. It’s a time when everyone in the community gets together to celebrate—and it’s a lot of fun.”

Last year, community spirit led us to take up a collection for the Eastpoint fire survivors. Donations from the crowd, the Bo Spring Band, and the Main Street Board totaled more than $4,000. This year, we’ve identified another community need. Volunteers will be collecting donations to assist the Apalachicola Police Department in purchasing two more defibrillators so that each patrol car will have this life-saving equipment.

“Sometimes our police officers are the first to arrive on scene and would love to have the equipment needed to do all that is necessary and possible to save a life,” said Chief Bobby Varnes. “Having this equipment in every patrol car will save lives.”

Ever wondered what happens behind the scenes to make the fireworks light up the sky? A strong sense of community unites several residents and business owners together on a mission. First, Fonda Davis and a group of volunteers build wooden racks and set up the framing for the fireworks on a barge, loaned to us by Tommy Ward of 13 Mile Seafood.

After the framing is set up, Mike Cates, owner of Cates Electric Services, and his crew do the electrical work. Mike’s philosophy is, “When you own a successful business in a community, you owe something back.” His more than 25 years of experience working with pyrotechnics enable Mike to give back in this unique way.

Next, Ward positions the barge in the river just off of Riverfront Park. The display of lights reflected in the water makes the spectacular fireworks show all the more stunning.

City Attorney Pat Floyd is once again volunteering to cover the cost of a patriotic soundtrack which will play during the show. It begins with a medley of popular songs, then turns to several classic pieces performed by the U.S. Air Force Band. Listen for the “Marine Hymn” and “Stars and Stripes Forever” as the pyrotechnics reach the finale.

“The Independence Eve Celebration has definitely earned a reputation as the best fireworks show on the Forgotten Coast,” said Lisa Johnston, Main Street board member and promotions committee chair. “In fact, it was ranked as one of the Top 12 Independence events in Florida. But it just couldn’t happen without volunteers. It feels good to be part of such a patriotic event that benefits the entire community like this.”

For more information on the event, photos, a list of sponsors, or to reserve a table, please visit www.july3fireworks.com.

Augusta West is executive director of Apalachicola Main Street, a non-profit organization dedicated to downtown economic development in the context of historic preservation. She can be reached at awest@apalachicolamainstreet.org or (850) 274-1321. Main Street’s mailing address is 192 Coach Wagoner Blvd., Apalachicola, FL 32320.