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Chamber promises old-fashioned fun at 21st annual Freedom Fest

Longboat Key Garden Club led Longboat Key's 2023 Freedom fest parade as the Grand Marshal.
Longboat Key Garden Club led Longboat Key's 2023 Freedom fest parade as the Grand Marshal.
Photo by Petra Rivera
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Longboat Key’s Freedom Fest and the “shortest parade in America” are just around the corner.

The 21st Annual Freedom Fest will be on Thursday, July 4, starting with the parade at 9 a.m. Following the parade will be all of the same traditions the community expects from the celebration, including the Hot Diggity Dog Contest and butterfly release.

This will be the first Freedom Fest for new Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce President Kim Verreault. Verreault became president of the Chamber in October 2023, succeeding longtime president Gail Loefgren.

Verreault said she heard Freedom Fest is a “good old-fashioned celebration” and looks forward to seeing how the event brings out Longboat’s community spirit.

Also keeping with tradition, a grand marshal was selected for the short parade around Bay Isles Road.

Hal Christensen, general manager of Harry’s Continental Kitchens, will lead the parade this year. He is the son of Harry and Lynn Christensen, who opened the business in 1979.

When choosing a grand marshal, Verreault said the Chamber team thought of people and businesses that are pillars of the Longboat Key community. This year, Harry’s celebrated its 45th anniversary, which made the Christensen family a top choice.

Cannons Marina will again sponsor a $500 prize for the most patriotic parade group.

After the parade will be the butterfly release sponsored by the Longboat Key Garden Club. People will gather in Bicentennial Park and receive a package with an individually wrapped butterfly to release altogether.

Dogs Bisou and Tinkerbell at Longboat Key's Freedom Fest on July 4, 2023.
Photo by Petra Rivera

The Rotary Club of Longboat Key’s Hot Diggity Dog Contest has been a fan favorite for more than a decade since it started and will return this year.

Last year, 23 dogs and families vied for the awards of Most Patriotic Dog, Most Creative Dog and Best Owner & Dog Combination.

Around Bicentennial Park there will be face painting, arts and crafts and some games for kids that Verreault said will be different from last year.

Overall, Verreault said the Freedom Fest is all about community spirit and will be a great way to create lasting memories as it has been for more than two decades.



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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