By Wendy Dixon
The Seaside Independence Day celebration — Seaside’s most anticipated annual event — was washed out in 2013, due to one of the worst rainstorms on record. This year, the July 4th festivities are expected to draw thousands, doubly eager to celebrate the holiday as only Seaside can — with whimsically decorated golf carts and vehicles; red, white and blue streamer-adorned bicycles; and creative America-themed floats for the morning’s parade that travels along Scenic Highway 30A. In the evening, revelers gather with blankets on the Seaside Amphitheater lawn as the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra performs Stars & Stripes in Seaside. The day’s events come to a dramatic ending in a patriotic boom of fireworks in the sky after sunset with the Seaside Fireworks Spectacular.
No one really knows the origins of the South Walton 4th of July parade, which begins at Seagrove Plaza and heads west to Seaside. It started out in either 1986 or ’87 as a rather unorganized way for the few people who were here in the 1980s to celebrate the birth of our nation. “One part of the parade started in Grayton Beach and the other part would start in Seagrove and they would eventually converge in Seaside. And then it would be like the battle of parades. It was hysterical,” says Erica Pierce, general manager of Seaside Associated Stores and annual parade participant. “When they met in the middle they would just pass each other. There was no formality to it. I don’t even think the road was closed.”
During its early years, the parade was made up mostly of some local businesses and politicians. “Then people on vacation eventually got into it,” says Pierce. “Now it’s the most eagerly anticipated event of the year.”
The Seaside Style began a tradition of creating a new design for each year’s July 4th T-shirt. Its latest design is a nod to the first shirt design, featuring the famous Seaside post office on it.
Now, nearly 100 vehicles participate in the parade, including bicycles, scooters, vintage automobiles, even an antique fire truck.
As a special treat during the Stars & Stripes concert, Sen. Don Gaetz will join the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra to narrate Jim Beckel’s piece, “Liberty for All.” The patriotic piece quotes Patrick Henry, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and closes with the immortal first verse from the American favorite, “My Country ‘tis of Thee.”
“It is the great American tradition: The 4th of July, fireworks, and a full symphony orchestra,” says Pensacola Symphony Orchestra music director Peter Rubardt of the Stars & Stripes in Seaside concert. “From Sousa marches to big band jazz to favorites from the silver screen, this concert will have something for every member of the family. I can’t wait to hit the 1812 Overture in the spectacular setting of the Seaside Amphitheater.”