City Beefs Up Safety Plan for July 4th Festivities

Gulfport’s first poet laureate Peter Hargitai, standing, and a friend, participate in the city’s July 4, 2016 parade.

Correction 6/29/17, 3:40 p.m.: Boaters are welcome to dock at Gulfport Marina for a fee on July 4. An earlier version of this article, as well as the print version, stated that boaters could dock at the marina for free. 

Gulfport Vice Mayor Dan Liedtke will preside over the city’s Independence Day parade, which kicks off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4.

Liedtke, who represents Ward 1, will be stationed on the steps of the Gulfport Casino during the parade. Using a PA sound system, he’ll announce the names of the people and organizations as their floats pass by the Casino, said Justin Shea, Gulfport’s cultural facilities and events supervisor, who added that Mayor Sam Henderson will be out of town on July 4 and unable to attend the Independence Day festivities.

Unlike last year, there will be no stage set up in front of the Casino, Shea said. “Guests will be able to view the parade directly from the sidewalk, just like the Heroes Weekend parade in November,” he said.

“Also, the open container ordinance is relaxed during the event; however, we ask downtown businesses not to sell alcohol on public property or in glass containers.”

Shea said the city is making public safety even more of a priority for this year’s Independence Day festivities because the holiday falls on a Tuesday, when the city’s Fresh Market is in full swing and downtown Gulfport is already full of vendors and visitors. That means parking is going to be a major challenge thanks to more street closings than usual.

“I envision the downtown parking spots and beach lot will fill up fast,” he said.

The Casino will serve as a command area, of sorts, for police, first responders, and other emergency personnel.

“We have a good strategic plan put in place for public safety,” Shea said. “We will also have a first aid area set up inside the Casino for anyone dealing with heat exhaustion” or other medical emergencies.

For parade-goers who miss out on a prime spot on Beach Boulevard south of 28th Ave. S. or the Shore Boulevard beach parking area, Shea recommends parking at Chase Park, the Gulfport Marina, Gulfport Senior Center, Wood Ibis Park or Gulfport Public Library and catching a ride downtown via the Gulfport Free Waterfront Trolley, which will be making frequent stops at those offsite parking locations on July 4. Shea said the trolley will also be making stops at Tomlinson Park and Hoyt Field, as well as Most Holy Name Church at 5800 15th Ave. S. and the Michael J. Yakes Recreation Complex at 5730 Shore Blvd. S.

Also, “I believe the Gulfport Get GO shuttle will be running both of its vehicles on Tuesday,” Shea added. To request a Get GO ride anywhere within Gulfport city limits, call 727-542-7757.

If you would like to be in the parade but are not affiliated with a group or organization that has a vehicle or float, be at the library by 5:30 p.m. to board the trolley, which will be taking part in the procession before resuming its pick-up/drop-off route.

Weather permitting, the fireworks display will begin at 9 p.m. at Williams Pier. Orlando-based Creative Pyrotechnics will be providing the fireworks display for the third consecutive year; Shea said Williams Pier will be closed to the public the day before for security reasons. The Casino pier will also be closed to the public on July 4. Boaters are welcome to dock at Gulfport Marina free of charge on July 4.

For a complete list of street closures and schedule of events on July 4, visit mygulfport.us/july_4th_celebration.

 

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