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Sanibel salutes America with annual parade, party

By Staff | Jul 8, 2009

Picture perfect weather greeted patriotic revelers, who lined Periwinkle Way last Saturday morning to witness the city’s annual Independence Day Parade, where a cast of red, white and blue clad marchers and wildly decorated floats brought smiles to the faces of young and old.

As temperatures soared into the upper 80’s prior to the start of the parade, islanders and visitors began to set up chairs, blankets and tents shortly after sunrise. However, nobody was complaining about the heat. All were there to enjoy the celebration of the birth of the United States, 233 years earlier.

“It was a wonderful turnout,” said Jim Jennings, a member of the Sanibel City Council. “I was really surprised by the number of out-of-towners I saw today. The island has seemed to be a little busier the past few days. I’m glad everybody came out to enjoy the parade.”

At 9 a.m., the parade began to slowly march down Periwinkle Way, led by a five flag color guard presented by American Legion Post 123. Fire trucks from Sanibel and Captiva handed out plastic fire helmets and candy to youngsters, whose collection of sweet treats by the end of the day must have rivaled Halloween.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to carry all of the candy we caught home with us,” said Debbie Sporalcic, on vacation with her family of five from Missouri. “This is one of those events that makes you think of a small town atmosphere from years ago. Sanibel should be very proud of this.”

Some of the most popular parade participants seen along the 45-minute route included the Sanibel Public Library’s float “Libraries Through The Ages,” RE/MAX’s Rainforest-themed float, Sanibel Deli & Coffee Factory’s gigantic sandwich, Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty riding Segways and The Sanibel School’s Green Team marchers.

Giveaways included candy of all sorts, beach balls, pinwheels, flags, frisbees, t-shirts, bottled water and soda as well as ice pops.

The parade wouldn’t have been as patriotic without the inclusion of three U.S. military service branches – Army, Navy and Marines – as well as more than a dozen members of the Bissell family, descendants of the island parade founder.

Immediately following the parade, the Bailey’s Center Merchants’ Association (BCMA) hosted their inaugural Fourth of July Backyard BBQ. More than 500 adults and children attended the gathering, held throughout the shopping center.

“There were constant queue lines at the Bailey’s General Store and Biddles Bucket food tables, and at the snow cone stand, face painting table, inflatable waterslide and dunk tank,” a BCMA press release stated.

Former Chicago Cubs player Julio Zuleta signed autographs at Biddles Bucket and was soaked in their dunk tank, which had a steady stream of willing volunteers. Zuleta also announced the names of 13 lucky winners, who received a prize from one of the 13 BCMA merchants, ranging from free ice cream to a complimentary oil change and tire rotation.

Other activities on the day included a Car Smash, where folks donating $2 to local charities were allowed to take five swings with a sledgehammer to a 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier. Also, the Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club staged their 30th annual Road Rally, which started and finished at Timbers. Results from that event will be available later this week.

At Jerry’s Shopping Center, Boy Scout Troop 140 hosted a Fourth of July celebration with free hot dogs, sodas and snow cones. Activities in the parking lot included an inflatable water slide, castle bounce house, face painting and a dunk tank.

Independence Day drew to a close with fireworks in the skies over San Carlos Bay at dusk.