The island's service organizations came together to create a bit of flag-waving fanfare.
This is the year without a Freedom Fest, but there’s still plenty of patriotic cheer to go around for the Fourth of July.
On June 17, the leaders of Longboat Key’s service clubs — the Garden, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs — gathered at Bicentennial Park to pre-record a Fourth of July flag-raising celebration. The video will take the place of the town’s famous “World’s Shortest Parade” that ordinarily headlines the Freedom Fest, which was canceled because of continuing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“We all regret cancelling the July 4 celebration,” Garden Club president Susan Phillips wrote in an email. “It truly is the greatest little parade in the USA. Our patriotism is celebrated every year with this event, and this is the first time I ever recall not having it.”
The clubs and the town of Longboat Key collaborated on the celebration, after town manager and former Marine Tom Harmer couldn’t accept the idea of having no patriotic pageantry after Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce president Gail Loefgren made the decision to cancel the Freedom Fest.
Other plans were tossed around, like handing out flags at Publix, but the health and safety of those who would be involved would be more at-risk than the groups were willing to take on, and the Hot Diggity Dog parade of patriotic pups, which the Rotary Club organizes, doesn’t quite lend itself to a drive-by version.
Barry Gaines, career moviemaker and the town’s IT specialist, will work his movie magic on the video, which will be released on the club and town websites, as well as social media, on the Fourth of July for citizens to watch.
“The plan was to get it done so that if we needed to change it or anything else, we had time to do it,” Rotary Club president Nancy Rozance said.
Phillips, Rozance and Kiwanis Club president Lynn Larson, dressed in red, white and blue, each played a part in the celebration. Gaines acted as the patient director as the first two women read a patriotic piece. Gaines guided them through the multiple takes it took to capture the flag raising just right. The little band of patriots met at 8 a.m. to get ahead of the heat of Longboat Key’s summer, and after only a little delay, were underway. The flag raising took a few takes, with the Stars and Stripes going partway up, then partway down, then partway up the pole so Gaines could capture the shot of Larson sending the banner up just right.
“It was a real privilege to be part of this tribute to our Country and the Flag of our Fathers, and those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” Phillips wrote in an email.
We don’t want to give away the details of the ceremony, so you’ll have to log onto one of the websites to hear what they read for the event. There are no time constraints on the video viewing, so feel free to pull it up whenever you please.
The women enjoyed the event, but Rozance hopes they don’t have to do it again. Ideally, the Freedom Fest will return next year — unless there is still a concern of the coronavirus spread.
“I think that we would go back to the Freedom Fest, because it is like an All-American Pie kind of thing,” Rozance said. “It's a real neat little thing that you don't see anymore.”