Celebrating Independence, Gulfport Style

Beginning at 7:30 p.m., the Gulfport New Horizons Band entertained on the exterior deck of the Casino as the sun set over Boca Ciega Bay while visitors found their place in the sand for the fireworks.

As if they were stepping out of a Norman Rockwell painting of Americana, participants enveloped themselves in red, white and blue bunting for a parade then they let their eyes sparkle in the night with exploding streams of light to celebrate the Fourth-of-July national holiday Gulfport style.

In this welcoming small town, residents and visitors are all Gulfportians. That means they enjoyed geckos, tutus, a Gecko Queen, a trolley, a local marching band on parade as well as the traditional fire trucks, floats, a convertible with a dog and veteran, and lollypops handed out to the appreciative crowd.

The parade began at 6 p.m. cascading down Beach Boulevard from the municipal library to the Casino then it turned west onto Shore Boulevard. Mayor Sam Henderson emceed and his wife Laura sang the national anthem.

The only injury during the entire collection of events that ran from 8 a.m. to about 9:30 p.m. required a Band-Aid, said Fire Chief James V. Marenkovic.

“That’s my kind of slow day,” he said, smiling.

Community Emergency Response Team volunteer Bobby Craig of Gulfport, right in yellow shirt and vest, led the parade down Beach Boulevard on his birthday.

Members of the Movement Sanctuary of St. Petersburg, a circus-training center, demonstrate their balancing and acrobatic skills as part of the parade.

Local dignitaries who participated in the parade included, from left, Vice Mayor Paul Ray, Mayor Sam Henderson, “Star Spangled Banner” singer Laura Henderson, Councilmember Michael Fridovich and Councilmember Christine Brown.

A few sprinkles did not dampen the spirits of Gulfport Police Commander Mary Farrand, center, or members of the onlooking parade crowd.

Reigning Gecko Queen Jon Ziegler, left, leads local events promoter Suzie King driving her pirate-themed golf cart during the parade in front of cheering crowds on the street and the observation deck of a local restaurant and bar.

For the parade, past Gecko Queen Brian Liggins was wearing his signature tutu, a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Born to Sparkle” and he was riding a bicycle festooned with pink flamingos along with traditional red, white and blue accessories.

Fireworks began at 9 p.m. from the end of Williams Pier. Shrieks of glee along with approving oohs and ahhs punctuated patriotic music that was playing through an app on cell phones, a feature provided by the city’s new pyrotechnics vendor. Pictured is a portion of the grand finale.


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