Family, friends, fireworks, and ......? Fill in the blank with choices ranging from high-powered entertainment to one’s own brand of old-fashioned fun.
The city of Kissimmee’s Monumental Fourth of July Festival at the Kissimmee Lakefront Park was both current and reminiscent of yesteryear. From live music to carnival-style rides, to craft and food vendors, the festival offered something for everyone, including its traditional grand finale fireworks. Some brought their own holiday fun. Situated around a square-folding table, with one player using a cooler as a makeshift chair, Tony Irizarry, a Kissimmee resident and Vietnam veteran, along with family and friends, happily whiled away the evening playing dominoes.
Situated at one end of the park was the concert stage boasting performances by The Wailers, featuring Julian Junior Marvin, Rob Base, Rico Monaco, and Mz. Marina & Lil Shawn. A good crowd gathered by the stage to enjoy the music and take a selfie or two to post - the modern version of “having a great time, wish you were here” - no stamp or postcard required. After a concert, festivalgoers could take a stroll toward the pier to find the Kissimmee Utility Authotity’s Kid’s Zone, complete with a bounce house, rock climbing wall and even a chair swing ride. Judging from the long line for tickets, this was the place to be for many of the children. But not all the fun required a ticket - just a ball and some teamwork. Some children were “kicking” it old school in a grassy area having a great time playing an informal game of soccer. A short distance away, a group of young people had arranged themselves in a loose circle and were honing their volleyball skills by taking turns hitting the ball high in the air.
Food is an essential element of most if not all celebrations, and this was no exception. Many brought their own picnic-style favorites, but there were food trucks lined up and ready to serve those who enjoy the celebration without all the preparation. Snow cones of red, white, and blue proved to be popular treats on this hot day.
The festival is popular with locals and visitors alike.
“Twenty-six years for fireworks! Oh, I love it! Every year we love it! My dog loves it!” exclaimed Kissimmee resident, Mirino Roman, who, along with his wife, Gladys, had set up their folding chairs and were relaxing with their dog, Caesar, who reportedly also enjoys the fireworks.
“And he eats the snow cones, too!” Gladys chimed in. Though there were many area attractions available to Kissimmee’s out-of-town visitors, many chose to attend its hometown festival. Among them were Ronnie Christmas from Virginia, on vacation with his grandchildren. Maria Ramos made the drive from St. Petersburg with her friend, Juanita Martinez, who was visiting from Chicago. And, all the way from Norway was Maria Sandvik, with her daughters, Hannah and Sarah, seen having fun shopping for handmade hairbows and accessories at a festival vendor’s booth.
There were people as far as the eye could see along the expansive Lakefront Park. Many expressed their Independence Day spirit by donning red, white, and blue clothing, hats, and other accessories. Some waved flags. All paid homage to the holiday with the congenial spirit evident among the festivalgoers. Law enforcement officials were on hand to help facilitate safety and order. There appeared to be enough room for everyone to claim a spot for the evening, whether for a group or an individual. Larger groups set up with blankets or even small beach-style tents. Others stood along the rail at the water’s edge, anticipating the moment when the fireworks would begin their grand display. Activities were spaciously set throughout the park so everyone could enjoy their choice of activities or just relax and enjoy the company of family and friends.
There was light rain in the area earlier in the evening, and it had even poured in surrounding areas, but the air was calm and clear as the grand finale fireworks finally filled the night sky and brought the day’s festivities to a spectacular conclusion, leaving no more blanks to be filled in.