July 4 event returns to park

By Steve Estes

What is being billed as the “Greatest Show on Big Pine” kicks off next Friday at 5 p.m.

The annual Independence Day celebration for the Lower Keys will be held this year at the Big Pine Key Community Park at the north end of Sands Rd.

It will be the second time in the 20-plus year history of the event that it has been held at the park on Big Pine Key, with the show grounds in the open field at the park between the tennis courts and the ball field.

The event starts at 5 p.m. The annual fireworks show is slated to go off just after dark, usually about 9:15 or 9:20 p.m. this time of year.

The event is sponsored by the Big Pine and Lower Keys Rotary Club and the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, with production assistance from the Big Pine Volunteer Fire Department.

Several different food vendors will be offering up holiday fare. Soft drinks, water, beer, wine and rum punch will be available on site. Artisans will be on hand.

The stage will be manned by the rock-n-roll talents of the Ray West Band. The national anthem will be performed by local favorite Shastina.

Event organizers apologize in advance to the residents of the Avenues subdivision because the crowd is expected to pretty much take over the streets there for parking.

Parking inside the park gates will be limited to event staff, volunteers, emergency personnel and handicap parking. The gates will be shut off at 3 p.m for event parking unless you are one of those groups.

Organizers also ask that no personal fireworks, no coolers and no pets be brought to the event grounds for everyone’s safety.

Parking will be the biggest issue, so Rotary staff is asking that all locals who can walk or bike to the event do so. The bike racks inside the park will be available for those who decide to two-wheel to the event.

Sheriff’s Office deputies ask that all cars park in a manner so that when they leave at the end of the evening, they are facing outbound, either in the direction of a feeder road out of the subdivision, such as Sands Rd. or County Rd., or are parked facing US 1. There are several streets that lead out of the subdivision so traffic outbound shouldn’t be too bad.

Officials at Vineyard Christian Church have opened up their parking lot to the festivities, as have most of the businesses along Avenue A.

Revelers are asked to park only on the right-of-way, in a single-line so as not to block emergency vehicle access, and to make sure they are not blocking in a residential driveway.

Boaters are encouraged to come out and watch the event from the water in Bogie Channel. The fireworks will be shot from a barge in that channel, with a patrol boat manned by Monroe County deputies to ensure the safety of all participants.

Monies raised at the event will be used to fund future Independence Day celebrations. There will be donation buckets on the grounds and a 50/50 drawing will be held near the end of the evening. Other raffle drawings using the same tickets will be held throughout the course of the evening for gift certificates and prizes.

This year the Rtary Club is also selling tickets to win a genuine Atocha coin, donated to the club by Dr. Duncan Mathewson, who served as an archeologist for the Fisher family during the search for the sunken ship.

The Rotary Club wishes to thank Monroe County for allowing the use of the park for this event.

Vendor slots are still available and can be reserved by contacting Sheila Cantler at Centennial Bank on Big Pine Key.

Volunteers are always welcomed and should contact event coordinator Danny Coll at 872-1111.

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