In Great Britain, they have Guy Fawkes Day, the 5th of November, when the night sky is filled with color bombs bursting in air, celebrating, as only the English can, the anniversary of a failed 17th century Catholic plot to blow up Parliament.
The American version of this tradition is, of course, Independence Day, during which we celebrate our country’s painful-but-necessary separation from Great Britain in 1776. On the 4th of July.
Of course, these days the holiday is more about not having to work on the 4th of July – fair enough, because relaxing with plenty of beer, barbeque et cetera is one of those purely-American liberties our founding fathers were fighting for. Right? Of course.
What’s never changed, over the 240-plus years since our country won its independence, is the fireworks. The annual Independence Day celebrations are just about the most family-friendly outdoor events left in our increasingly divided and divisive land.
Here’s a rundown of the pyrotechnical pageantry (i.e. fireworks shows) planned for Pinellas County; all events are free unless indicated.
Thursday, July 4
The City of St. Petersburg’s waterfront display, spreading bright colors on that oh-so-black canvas known as the sky over Tampa Bay, begins at 9 p.m. Thursday (launch spot is Spa Beach Park). According to the City, the best spots to plant your family for viewing are Albert Whitted Park, North Straub Park, South Straub Park, North Shore Park, Elva Rouse Park and Flora Wylie Park. Take note of this caveat from the official Parks and Recreation Department site: Fireworks are scheduled to start at 9 p.m. but can start as early as 8:30 p.m. and as late as 10 p.m. depending on weather.
The St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts’ 12th annual Fireworks Buffet is 6:30-9 p.m.; for a fee you get food, beverages, music from Rebekah Pulley and Rob Pastore and the ability to wander around in air-conditioned comfort ogling the artwork. Premium seating, too, for the City fireworks over the bay.
There’s family fun all day long in Gulfport, including a sand sculpture contest on the beach (10 a.m. to noon), a parade at 6 p.m., live music outside the Casino, and fireworks over the water around 9.
Rock the Beach is the St. Pete Beach celebration, starting at 2 p.m. and winding down after a sky-painting fireworks display at 9. Stormbringer and the Brian Caudill Band bring the tuneage. At Upham Beach Park, 6850 Beach Plaza.
At approximately 9 p.m., the sky over Madeira Beach will go boom; the fireworks show originates at the Madeira Beach Fundamental School, 591 Tom Stuart Causeway, and the city suggests these primo viewing locations: Causeway Park, 424 150th Ave., ROC Park, 200 Rex Place, and the Holten Property, 555 150th Ave.
In Treasure Island, the sky show also starts at 9 p.m., from TI Gulf Front Park, 10400 Gulf Blvd. Parking available on site 10 a.m.-10 p.m. for $15 per vehicle, $25 for RVs.
The town of Redington Shores recommends the beach access point at 182nd Ave and Gulf Boulevard for its 9 p.m. pyrotechnics; the police department will be selling raffle tickets near the public restrooms at the parking lot across from Candy Kitchen.
Central Park in Largo is the site of a big old-fashioned family event, with music, food and bev, kids’ activities and more starting at 6 p.m. Fireworks are scheduled for 9:15.
The marina and waterfront park in Safety Harbor are the best places to view the fireworks show that caps a full day of Independence fun, including an American Legion Auxiliary-sponsored parade through downtown (10 a.m.), a patriotic ceremony at the Gazebo (11:30) and family fun, fun, fun at the marina starting at 5 p.m.
According to Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the event known as Clearwater Celebrates America is capped off with the largest fireworks display in the county. There’s a whole family fest going on in Coachman Park, starting at 6 p.m. and concluding at 9 with … you guessed it.
There’s a Fourth of July Picnic at Craig Park in Tarpon Springs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. With a water slide, paddle boarding, inflatables, lawn games, live music and free hot dogs while supplies last. And hey, a hot dog eating contest at noon, for ages 16 and up. Fireworks launch at dusk.
Meanwhile, in Dunedin
They’re celebrating Wednesday, July 3 from 7-10 p.m. in Dunedin’s Highlander Park. Ronnie Dee and his band will perform at 7, with a laser light show – not the traditional exploding-variety fireworks – starting after dark. Concessions available.
Across the bay
Tampa’s newly-sworn mayor Jane Castor has inaugurated that city’s biggest-ever 4th of July celebration – Boom By the Bay includes four concurrent fireworks display (at 9 p.m., of course) along 2.5 miles of the Hillsborough River. Incredibly, Tampa has never before had a City-sponsored fireworks show (reads the website: “Get ready for a star-spangled celebration as we spark a new tradition in Tampa!”). There’s all kinds of other stuff going on during the day, too, which you can find out about here.