Independence Day uncanceled in Franklin County
Franklin County may not have had another record-breaking fireworks extravaganza but plenty of people came out to mark the nation’s 244th birthday last weekend.
Apalachicola on Friday evening held a scaled-down version of its 16th annual Red, White and Blue Parade, led by Grand Marshall William Key.
The Franklin County Health Department made sure there were plenty of masks, and Franklin’s Promise Coalition provided streamers and decorations, with placards available for participants to display the name of their honored veteran.
Bicycles, wagons, golf carts, sneakers, and of course political candidates - including Steve Lanier and Traci Yoder, candidates for superintendent of schools; Erin Griffith and Michele Maxwell, running for clerk of courts, and Amanda Wall, who is running for Circuit Court Judge - were all out as the parade mustered at Lafayette Park beginning around 6 p.m.
Joe Taylor, Franklin Promise’s director, said attendance was modest because organizers did not do much advance publicity, not wanting to attract a big crowd during this time of the coronavirus,
The parade honored retired Air Force Sgt. William Key as the Parade Grand Marshall. During his enlistment, Key was stationed at Whiteman AFB in Missouri and New Ulm, Germany, where he served with security police. While in Germany, Key served as a member of the USAF’s 351st Strategic Air Command, and among his duties, he was responsible for the security of the Air Force’s nuclear weapons.
Upon returning to Apalachicola, Key worked in the seafood industry, at The St. Joe Company paper mill and with Franklin County Animal Control, retiring in 2018.
A community-minded person, Key prides himself on being a good Samaritan. He has been a long-time member of H’COLA, a local civic organization, and has assisted with building ramps for our senior citizens. He also works in his church, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, where he serves as senior deacon and chair of the Deacons Board.
A few onlookers were on hand to grab candy and beads, as the procession will traveled Avenue D, proceeded down Water Street to Bay Avenue and then return back to Lafayette Park.
The parade was organized by Franklin’s Promise and the crew of the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast.
On Saturday morning, the traditional parade on St. George Island was held, although it was not endorsed by the St. George Island Business Association, which had assumed promotion of the event two years ago. Nor did it feature the participation of the sheriff’s office.
“It was a spontaneous thing,” said Bud Hayes, a member of the St. George Island Volunteer Fire Department, whose trucks were in force.
With squirt guns, and even small-size water cannons, dousing the crowd, the parade started at Paddy’s Raw Bear and went down East Pine Avenue and wound around side streets, past the Methodist church and back to Paddy’.
“We really didnt get to the middle of town,” said Hayes. “No harm was done and a good time was had by a lot of people.”
On July 4, people in Apalachicola were treated to two fireworks shows, of course far smaller than the one that would have greeted the thousand of attendees at the July 3 event. Main Street, organizers of that sixth annual event , were forced to cancel it due to the coronavirus, and hope to have it in place for Labor Day weekend.
There was one at Battery Park, which happened due to the efforts of Fonda Davis, Chip Sanders, James Winfield, and Rek Harris.
A second one, near the home of Harry Arnold adjacent to Riverfront Park, came courtesy of Apalachicola businessman John Lee, who personally paid for and shot off the pyrotechnics form a spot off Arnold’s dock.
"For the money he spent he had some real nice rockets up there,“ said Arnold. ”It was John F. Lee all the way.“
City officials had declined to endorse a mass event, and Arnold said he had no problem with that decision.
“If we had done a big show like before, there would have been 5,000 people and that’s not good, not now,” he said.