Hundreds gather to watch island’s Independence Day parade
Candy and water from toy guns sprayed a jubilant crowd of holiday revelers during the 20th Annual Sanibel Independence Day Parade on Saturday morning.
Though grey clouds hung above the crowd, there was no rain on the parade. It seemed like the moody, overcast day could not dampen the spirits of scores of families and folks out to see the “Freedom Rocks” theme-based parade. In fact, the greyish weather seemed to make the revelers and parade staff brighter.
“It’s got to be the coolest parade,” said Julie DeBord, a parade volunteer. “Normally, we’re baking.”
Ryan and Nancy Mullens, visiting with their four children — Kasey, Abigael,
Gus and Tucker — as well as the children’s grandfather, Dan Keys from Indianapolis, Ind. were not phased by the sunless summer morning. Their daughter’s sported matching Americana themed-skirts and dashed about the
grass waiting for the parade to start.
“It’s surprising how many people are coming,” said Ryan Mullens.
But parade organizers and volunteers did not seem rattled by the clouds.
“We always get a great turn-out,” DeBord said.
And this year was not any different.
People of all ages waved tiny American flags, sported patriotic garb and funky red, white and blue hats. Even the pooches showed their patriotic side as many dogs there were spotted wearing flag-themed collars and bandanas.
Part-time Sanibel residents Dennis and Shari LaFrance said they couldn’t resist bringing their West Highland terriers named Candy and Tuney to the parade.
“They like to watch the people,” Shari LaFrance said.
The air electrified with excitement as the about 30 floats made their entrance into the parade, which ran from Tarpon Bay Road, down Periwinkle Way to Casa Ybel Road. Screeches, laughter and squeals of delight pierced the air as a caravan of patriotically-decorated cars, trucks, vans, Segways and floats rolled by.
Island standards such as Sam Bailey driving his antique Model-T automobile and the Grand Marshal, Ralph Woodring, zipping by in his four-wheeler drew smiles and lots of hand clapping.
“It’s Mayberry by the Sea,” said Sanibel author and realtor Charlie Sobczak.
The homespun community feel is what most come — some from many miles away — every year to see in person.
“It’s just small town Americana,” said Eleanor Darlton.
Darlton has been coming to the parade with her husband, Corky, for at least 15 years. She used to bring her grandchildren until they grew up. However, she still carries a bag to collect goodies tossed from the people on the floats. She then gives away the treats to children passing by.
Her friend and fellow Sanibel resident, Ada Shissler, said that she loves all of the small town things that comprise a parade like Sanibel’s.
“It’s just like life passing you by,” she said.
One by one, floats moved by the spectators. All of the floats earned a round of applause and smiles, but some seemed grab the attention of the crowd a bit more.
R.S. Walsh Landscaping’s entry drew admiration for its blossom and plant-filled float. And there was plenty of hooting and hollering for the Tarpon Bay Explorers’s float named "Born To Be Wild." The tram turned wild safari-like machine enchanted the crowd with its copious palm fronds jutting out of it and costume snakes woven about the windows.
And the action on the sidelines appeared to be no less than processional of floats.
“Shoot me!” hollered a little girl along the side hoping to get sprayed by one of the many super soaker water guns donned by float passengers. Getting sprayed with water and collecting as much candy and other stash as you can from the floats as they move by is one of the parade traditions that many — including McKenna Houston — look forward to.
Ellie and Addy Rundquist, visiting from Atlanta, Ga., flashed toothy smiles as they held up bags of treats they collected from the floats including balls, beads and lots of sweet goodies. Their parents, Magnus and Laurie Rundquist, just smiled and shook their heads at their grinning children.
“I think it showcases America,” Laurie said of the Sanibel parade as they turned to leave.