Thousands of fireworks shells lit up the skies during the 26th annual Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Fourth of July celebration — a tradition the organization is working to maintain for the long-term.
Elizabeth and Paul Khin arrived at Siesta Key Beach at 4 p.m. Monday with their 2-year-old son, Austin Khin. They set up their open faced tent, unloaded Austin's toys, played with bubbles and waited for the main event.
The fireworks started just after 9 p.m. Austin Khin pointed and yelled, identifying the colors of the fireworks bursting near enough that ash fell on the Khin’s tent.
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce was able to maintain the show’s size from its 25th anniversary last year, and Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce membership director Suzanne Roberge says fundraising is on track for next year.
As it adjusts to a new model to pay for the event, the organization hopes the show will continue as is.
“People love the show, and we don't want to regress in the show that we're having,” said Chamber member Michael Gatz. “As long as we can see the same kind of fundraising every year, why not?”
The show's orchestrator, Craig Merrill, led a crew that shot off 2,800 shells for a chanting crowd on Siesta Key.
His assistant, Andrew Thompson, said Merrill had a cheesy grin on his face as Merrill attempted to trick the audience.
“We gave everybody a little false finale to make them think it's over, and then we really light it up,” Merrill said.
Merrill has been Siesta Key's lead pyrotechnician 14 of the last 15 years. The only time he missed the fireworks show was the year his daughter was born. He says the crowd’s cheers after the finale is what keeps him going year after year.
This year, Elizabeth and Paul Khin were two of the people cheering as the show came to a close. It was their first year watching Siesta Key’s fireworks, but Elizabeth Khin says it won't be their last.
“This will be a family tradition,” she said.
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