For many South Floridians, the word freedom is something held close to the heart, coming from homelands where “the land of the free” was nonexistent or quashed.
Given South Florida’s unique cultural tapestry, Fourth of July celebrations are as diverse as the community. Picnics, parades, concerts, history lessons and, yes, fireworks are all ahead on Friday, the 238th birthday of our nation.
Here is sample of the star-spangled festivities:
The Fourth of July is often a day of parades, with flags, floats and kids on bikes with baseball cards thrumming in their spokes.
In several cities — Cutler Bay, Key Biscayne and Miami Springs, among them — the parades are a community tradition, passed down through the decades.
“It’s something that the city has always done,” said Pat Bradley, who has worked for Miami Springs for 35 years and has helped plan the parade for 29 years. “My oldest daughter is 40, and she participated in the parade when she was a little kid.”
The Miami Springs parade begins at 10 a.m. from its community center at Chippewa Avenue and Westward Drive, and ends at the Miami Springs Country Club, where there will be two giant water slides, obstacle courses for the older kids and bounce houses for the younger ones. Fireworks start at dusk.
“It’s very small-town America,” said Bradley. “People start parking their cars the night before.” An estimated 3,000 people show up every year.www.miamisprings-fl.gov
The Key Biscayne parade is equally popular, and celebrating its 55th year. It starts at 11 a.m. on Crandon Boulevard and includes homemade floats, bands and a picnic on the Village Green afterward. Fireworks over the water are planned for the evening.
“You don’t want to come after 10 a.m.,” said Rafael Momeñe, president of the village’s Fourth of July parade committee. “It will be impossible to maneuver a car around the island and find parking.”
“This is the lifeline of Key Biscayne,” said Momeñe. “It’s just a good time. The whole community comes out. Everyone is walking the street. That just doesn’t happen anymore.”kb4.org
Cutler Bay is home to another longstanding parade. Its 47th annual Fourth of July parade will begin at Whispering Pines Park on Ridgeland Drive and weave along the lake. Those who wish to participate can show up at 8:15 a.m. to register.
“There are all kinds of floats in the parade, and also just about anything that you can decorate, push or pedal, including go-carts, bicycles, scooters and skates,” said Alan Ricke, parks and recreation director.
The parade begins at 9 a.m. and ends at Whispering Pines Park, where there will be bounce houses, water slides, food and entertainment.
“July Fourth is one of the few opportunities that everyone has to get together at the same place and the same time,” Ricke said.
Country music fans will want to head to Jungle Island for the KISS Country Music Freedom Fest.
The backdrop to the festival may be the bird sanctuary, but the staples of a classic Independence Day will are be there: patriotic tunes, barbecue and even two-step dance lessons. Featured performers include country artists Craig Campbell and Casey James, third-place finalist on the ninth season of American Idol.
“With this event, we are able to provide our visitors with an experience that is going to last all day,” said Eddie Maza, marketing director. “There is something for everyone to do.”
In addition to watching the show, visitors can check out Jungle Island’s recently reopened private beach and new water park, in addition to watching the bird shows. At night, they can watch the fireworks over the Miami skyline.www.jungleisland.com/july4
MIAMI CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
When looking for indoor family-friendly activities, there’s Miami Children’s Museum on Watson Island.
The museum will host an Independence Day Extravaganza that begins at 10 a.m. The day will be filled with a Declaration of Independence signing, balloon fireworks, flag decorating, and end with a parade in which kids will get musical instruments and march around the museum.
“We’ve been here since 2003,” said marketing director Laura Asbjornsen. “We really know and figured out what the children like to do.”
The activities are intended to be fun and interactive, but more importantly educational.
“Certain activities will promote creativity or sensory learning,” said Asbjornsen, “It’s so much fun that the children don’t even realize they are in a high-learning environment.”305-373-5437 miamichildrensmuseum.org
GLW AND PARTNERS
Take a nostalgic trip through the past 238 years.
At GLW and Partners’ Freedom for the Family picnic, the festivities will transport guests through the nation’s path to racial justice, from the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights movement.
For Gail Laverne Willingham, there was no better place to illustrate how much progress the country has made than the historic dance pavilion at Virginia Key Beach. As a child in the 1950s, she used to visit the beach with her sister.
“It was for coloreds only at the time,” said Willingham, the event’s coordinator.
Willingham and her sister revisited the beach recently and knew their Independence Day would have great significance if it were celebrated there. She believes the activities planned for the picnic, such as the music and poetry, will help guests reflect on the path to racial equality.
“We want to recreate these times with everything from historic dances to speeches that people have given in the past, like Frederick Douglass,” Willingham email@example.com
The Barnacle Society will celebrate the old-fashioned way with a historic-themed picnic at The Barnacle, built in 1891 as the home of Ralph Middleton Munroe, one of Coconut Grove´s most influential pioneers.
Each Fourth of July, activities begin with a reading of the Declaration of Independence at the historic house. The picnic will feature live music, old-fashioned crafts and a scavenger hunt.
“It is a good time at a pretty fabulous place,” said James Pate, park ranger at The Barnacle.
Guests are invited to bring their own picnic baskets or purchase food.
For the first time, Palmetto Bay residents will have a celebration to call their own.
The city’s inaugural Independence Day fair will bring the fun to Franjo Triangle just east of Village Hall, along Franjo Road.
“Residents have always asked for this,” said city spokesman Bill Kress. “We are also trying to get the people accustomed to the emerging downtown Palmetto Bay.”
The day will feature sack races, face-painting and a hot dog eating contest. There will be food vendors and a beer garden for adults. A fireworks show will begin at 9 p.m.
Thousands gather on the lawn of The Biltmore for the annual Coral Gables’ Fourth of July celebration.
With an expected 30,000 guests, “The community comes out in full force,” said Michelle Cash, city marketing manager.
The free extravaganza, which begins at 5 p.m., includes a performance by the Greater Miami Symphonic Band followed by fireworks. People bring their own food, drink, blankets and chairs.
“It is incredible that the celebration has such a draw and has been so longstanding,” Cash said.
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