Plans to resume the annual Freedom Festival celebration and parade are moving forward.
Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce President Gail Loefgren requested permission from the town last week to resume the festivities after canceling last year’s event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My feeling would be is it’ll be great to celebrate the Fourth of July once again the way we’ve been doing it for 18 years,” Loefgren said. “I think it will be fun to recognize our hometown heroes this year.”
Town commissioners are set to vote to approve the waiver of the $100 permit fee and the request for a temporary road closure of Bay Isles Road on Sunday, July 4. Assistant to the Town Manager Susan Phillips said the measure is expected to appear on the consent agenda for the Town Commission’s June 7 meeting. Town commissioners routinely vote to waive fees for the event.
Because Independence Day falls on a Sunday, the Chamber will work with the town, its police department and All Angels Episcopal Church to make sure religious services aren’t disrupted.
“That is something that staff would work with [the Chamber of Commerce] to make sure that we don’t impact businesses [and] church being on a Sunday and it being on Fourth of July,” Phillips said.
Churchgoers also have access to All Angels on Bay Isles Parkway. It ultimately depends on how town leaders decide is the best way to accommodate both Freedom Fest attendees and those going to church.
Loefgren said she planned to speak with Deputy Police Chief Frank Rubino and At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop to coordinate. Bishop had sent Loefgren, Mayor Ken Schneier and Town Clerk Trish Shinkle an email to make sure the Freedom Fest does not disrupt All Angels’ services.
“It’s been on Sunday before many times, but I just don’t remember what we did,” Loefgren said.
Bay Isles Road ends in a roundabout opposite the church and Temple Beth Israel. The parade typically begins its return leg there, but several opportunities to turn the parade around exist near the Post Office and satellite courts of the Public Tennis Center.
The plan is to hold the Fourth of July event from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Services at the church typically are scheduled at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Loefgren spoke about the importance of having the parade back in 2021 to recognize first responders, workers in the medical industry, frontline workers and people who work in grocery stores.
“It’s a Freedom Fest, not just the parade because the whole thing works together,” Loefgren said. "Once we get permission to host the Freedom Fest again, and I'll reach out to some people that I think can be in the parade that will be representative of those groups.”
Last year, a patriotic film was made instead of hosting the annual parade. The film featured the leaders of Longboat Key’s service clubs — the Garden, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs — gathered at Bicentennial Park for a Fourth of July flag-raising celebration.
If the town commissioners approve plans for the Freedom Fest, the Chamber of Commerce has yet to announce who will serve as the grand marshal.