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Fourth Of July Celebrations Continue Across Tampa Bay

Tampa fireworks show
iStock
Many communities in the Tampa Bay area are coming up with creative alternatives to the normal fireworks display.

Fourth of July celebrations across the country are being cancelled amidst the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, and most of the Tampa Bay region is following suit.

But some communities have found alternative ways to keep their events going while still following social distancing and other coronavirus prevention guidelines.

In Sarasota County, North Port’s Freedom Festival and Nathan Benderson Park’s Fireworks on the Lake have become drive-in events.

Each car at the Benderson event Friday night will have a designated area to park and, with lots at only 50% capacity, parking passes are limited and must be purchased in advance.

“When you come, please just follow the rules. It's not just for yourself, but it's for everybody else around you. So wear a mask and stay in your area,” said Stephen Rodriguez, CEO of Benderson Park’s management company. “And let's keep this a fun and safe evening. And again, remember that we're here celebrating our nation's independence.”

The annual fireworks at Largo Central Park have been cancelled, so the city is hosting a Drive-By Salute to Neighbors instead.

City officials and members of the police and fire departments will be driving through neighborhoods behind a patriotic float Saturday morning, starting at 10 a.m.

“We will be socially distancing and wearing our masks, encouraging people to stand on their front porches and do not approach the vehicles,” said Kara Piehl, Largo’s special events coordinator. “We won't be passing out anything. It's just spreading cheer and joy.”

According to the National Fireworks Association, cancellations have also caused a major increase in the purchase of fireworks for personal enjoyment.

Under legislation passed and signed into law earlier this year, Floridians can now legally buy stronger fireworks for use on three holidays, including Independence Day.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who doubles as the state fire marshal, says people need to be careful if using the higher-powered explosives.

“Fireworks used in the wrong way are deadly. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby. Make sure your pets are in a safe place,” he said. “There are just a number of things that, left unchecked, could lead to disastrous outcomes.”

Here’s a list of 4th of July celebrations still happening in the Tampa Bay area:

Hillsborough

  • Wtr at The Godfrey Hotel in Tampa is hosting an all-day pool party and BBQ with live DJs Saturday. CDC guidelines for safe serving will be followed. Reservations can be made here.
  • Busch Gardens will have extended hours on July 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but there won’t be any fireworks display. Busch Gardens safety measures are available here.

Pinellas

  • The St. Pete Beach Recreation Department is hosting a Rock the Block competition for “Most Patriotic (while staying safe).” Neighborhoods are invited to post a video to Facebook and the winner will be determined by a public vote. More information is available here.
  • Safety Harbor Resort & Spa will still have their waterfront BBQ Saturday and tickets are no longer required to attend. The event, which starts at 6 p.m., is first-come, first-serve and will feature live music from Bus Stop Band.
  • The City of Largo will present its Drive-By Salute to Neighbors from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Residents are encouraged to stand in their driveways, wave their flags, and dance to a patriotic themed playlist.

Pasco

  • Starkey Market in New Port Richey will have food trucks and live music. The event starts at 5 p.m. Saturday with a private firework display starting around 9 p.m. Ticket sales are limited to ensure social distancing.

Polk

  • The city of Davenport boasts the largest firework display in Polk County, starting at 9:15 p.m. Saturday along Davenport Blvd. Social distancing measures can be found on the city's Facebook page.
  • Dundee will host a drive-in fireworks celebration from Lake Marie around 9:20 p.m. Saturday. The event will not be ticketed, so people may park wherever they’d like but must remain in their cars.
  • LEGOLAND will continue their 4th of July event, with special viewing glasses that will transform fireworks into LEGO bricks. LEGOLAND safety measures are available here.

Sarasota

  • Nathan Benderson Park’s event, NBP Fireworks on the Lake, is at 7 p.m. Friday, and is now a drive-in fireworks display. For those wanting to watch from home, the show will be aired as the finale of WWSB ABC7’s Independence Day special the following day. Tickets are available here.
  • The North Port Freedom Festival has been changed to a drive-in fireworks show from North Port High School, starting at 8 p.m. Saturday. It will be available to watch from home or people wanting to attend can register for a free parking pass. Only one parking pass per address is allowed and city residents get first rights.

Hernando

Additional reporting by Tom Urban, News Service of Florida