ELLEN BOUKARI/Alachua County Today
A birdseye view as thousands of spectators listen to a performancy by Natalie Nicole Green leading up to the annual fireworks display.
ALACHUA - Communities throughout Alachua County celebrated the 4th of July, and thousands of people joined in the festivities. Alachua, Gainesville, Micanopy and Waldo all had public events, some offering up fireworks displays in addition to parades, activities and refreshments.
In Alachua, an estimated crowd of 40,000 residents and visitors descended on Alachua’s Hal Brady Recreation Complex Monday and surrounding viewing areas to celebrate the 4th of July.
Dubbed the “largest small-town fireworks display in America,” Alachua’s 17th Annual July 4th celebration attracted folks from near and far. Starting at 3 p.m. on Monday, the recreation center became the site of an all-day party as the crowds grew in anticipation of the explosive show
For those who couldn’t make their way down to the Hal Brady Recreation Complex, the epicenter of the 4th of July show and festivities, the roadside and parking lots throughout the city proved more than adequate for catching the grand display. As the city’s population more than quadrupled for the night, it was clear that the fireworks buzz had garnered significant attention, and an annual following from surrounding areas.
The event was emceed by Alachua City Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr. who welcomed everyone to the “Largest Small-Town Fireworks Display in America.” Entertainment included live music and activities for children such as bounce houses, waterslides, rock climbing and more – and all free. The Alachua spray park was a popular spot as children splashed in the refreshing water. A variety of vendors were set up offering all types of carnival type fare from BBQ to hotdogs and hamburgers to funnel cakes and refreshing slushies and ice cream cones.
The annual event offers opportunities for many local charities, clubs and non-for-profits to raise funds for their programs, and dozens of vendors and concessionaires were at the event offering food, crafts and other items to visitors.
Out by the stage, bands entertained the ever-growing crowd, who were spread out on blankets and seated in lawn chairs on the expansive soccer fields. Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper welcomed Alachua residents and visitors alike.
Little Mike and the Tornadoes took to the stage first followed by the Aunt Jackie Band.
Then the event headliner Natalie Nicole Green worked her way around the stage warming up the crowd gathered around the stage, singing a variety of crowd favorites.
As the sunlight began to fade Antoinette Hunt took the microphone to offer a medley of patriotic tunes followed by Green who performed the National Anthem.
As anticipation builds, the 50 by 30 foot American flag, rolled up and suspended 50 feet in the air to the right of the stage, is unfurled. Powerful spotlights catch the stars and stripes billowing in a gentle breeze.
Fireworks began under the darkened sky and for 30 minutes it was a masterful display of light and sound, only surpassed by the grand finale, which by all accounts was the most powerful fireworks show the city has seen.
The annual event is coordinated by the Alachua 4th of July committee, which is made up of City of Alachua staff, elected officials and community partners. “The event was a tremendous success,” said Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari. “Overall the day went smoothly and families were able to enjoy a beautiful day celebrating the 4th. Of course, the fireworks were spectacular and the best around.”
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