Fourth of July celebrations are coming back to the Upper Keys following a year that saw little to no festivities due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

In Key Largo, the annual procession of floats, classic vehicles and fire trucks on U.S. 1 is moving ahead. Added to the festivities is a fireworks display set for later in the evening. 

With mask restrictions and other COVID restrictions loosening came the emergence of event planning in time for the Fourth of July throughout the Keys. All approvals and permits were received for the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce’s 45th annual Fourth of July parade. Set for 10 a.m., the procession will commence from Anthony’s Clothing Store, located in the median at MM 98.2, heading north to the end point at Laguna Avenue. 

Parade goers will have the opportunity to gather along the northbound lanes of U.S. 1 as floats created by businesses and civic groups and cars pass by — some throwing candy while others cool the crowd with water. This year’s parade theme of “Celebrating Freedom” is a reminder to all what the country and the Keys endured last year and the progress made to get back to celebrations. 

Fireworks go off during the Fourth of July celebration at Founders Park in 2019. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Grand marshal for the parade is former state Rep. Holly Raschein, who will be escorted by Dennis Caltagirone, chamber board chairman. 

A picnic will not follow the parade this year, but event planners are working to add an evening fireworks display on Blackwater Sound to July 4 activities in Key Largo. The park will open around 6:30 p.m. with the display going off around 9:30 p.m. Volunteers will help with parking to ease congestion. People attending the fireworks display will need to bring a lawn chair. 

The fireworks display, which will be visible to businesses and residents in the area, is made possible thanks to sponsorships from area businesses, the Key West/Florida Keys Airports and County Commissioner Mike Forster. For years, the event was put on by the Key Largo Merchant Association, and Bobby Stoky. The chamber says it’s honored to carry on the tradition this year. 

“Now that we have this back, I’m very excited,” said Elizabeth Moscynski, Key Largo Chamber of Commerce president. “I think there’s going to be a lot of enthusiasm from not just spectators, but also businesses. I think we’re going to have just as many people as we’ve had in the past enjoying the parade.”

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Those interested in sponsorship opportunities or entries in the parade may contact Eileen Eadie, Key Largo Chamber vice president, at 305-451-1414 or at [email protected] More information is at keylargochamber.org.

In Islamorada, plans are in the works to return Fourth of July activities to Founders Park. Organized by the Upper Keys Rotary Club, the festivities include food, drinks, music and a fireworks display. 

There will be no games this year, to avoid sharing and touching of equipment. 

“We made it as appealing as we could,” said Terry Abel, incoming president of the Upper Keys Rotary Club. “There’s twice as much space for people to come and sit and chill.”

The Carousers will provide music during the festivities at Founders Park. The national anthem will be sung by 2021 Coral Shores graduate M. Belle. Fireworks will be lit once the sun sets.

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Jim McCarthy believes in community reporting, giving back and life on the water. A workout fanatic, diver and a bogey-golfer, Jim loves chicken wings, Marvel movies and sports.