By Matthew Lewis, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – America’s holiday, a celebration in red, white and blue will look very different this year across the country, and in Delray Beach as well. The coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancelation of city’s fireworks shows and large public events, but there is still plenty of celebrating to do.
The alarming spread of the virus across Florida in June has recently lead to Palm Beach County issuing a mask mandate, and closing all public and private beaches, but that doesn’t mean residents won’t enjoy the long holiday weekend starting tomorrow, Friday July 3rd.
One of the main ways that the City of Delray Beach is sponsoring celebrations this year is with “Decorate Delray”, a contest adorn resident’s businesses, homes and yards with red, white, and blue and compete for the “Most patriotic house (or business) in Delray Beach”.
Registration was required by July 1st, by submitting 1-3 photos of a home, front of house (or business) and front yard only and then judges will award the top three homes, and winners will be announced on July 4th.
Two other virtual events are a scrapbook of favorite patriotic family or pet photos, and family recipes that may be added to the City’s digital scrapbook for all to see. Also a virtual parade, with residents submitting a 15 second video of their decorated wagon, wheel chair, bike or vehicle along the street or sidewalk.
The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is also promoting in conjunction with the 4th of July weekend, the ‘SPARKtacular Sidewalk Sale‘ on Friday, July 3rd from 11AM to 4PM. For everyone’s safety, face coverings are required.
The DDA says there will be big sales like kOKONUTS offering 25 to 50 percent off on select items, and the ‘Up to fifty percent off sale rack’ at the Surf District Surf Shop or Delray Hideaway’s ten percent off lunch menu and one free beer when mentioning ‘Summer Sidewalk Sale’.
On July 4th, the City is also providing the “American Party Pack”, which the Delray Beach Parks and Recreation department is creating. They are making 600, free activity to-go kits (which is also sensory friendly) for Delray Beach Residents, including ‘activities and patriotic accessories to help you celebrate Independence Day’.
The American Party Packs will be available for drive through only on a first come first serve basis, (up to two bags per car) while supplies last, on July 4th from 10AM until 12 Noon at the following locations: Pompey Park, “505” Teen Center and Hobbit Skate Park, Barwick Park and Catherine Strong Park.
Most of the area restaurants will be running promotions all weekend, with live music at favorites like Tin Roof and Johnnie Browns. Not to mention all the eateries from the outer edges of Greater Delray to the beachfront, although parking along the beach will be prohibited after 7PM on Thursday, July 2nd until Monday morning.
The observance on July 4th all started when the ‘Continental Congress’ formally declared independence from Great Britain. On July 2, 1776, the congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, leading to war that continued until 1783.
The tradition of setting off fireworks began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized celebration of Independence Day. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday; in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees.
Fast forward to modern times and the usual City-sponsored celebrations bring an estimated 80,000 people together in Delray Beach for an all-day line-up of live music, sand-sculpture and cheeseburger eating contests, flag raising ceremonies and of course fireworks.
The City of Delray Beach has issued several warnings about the dangers of fireworks at home, as well as shooting guns in the air with a “What goes Up, Must Come Down – Do not fire your gun into the air this July 4th. Let’s work together to keep our community safe!” message.
Regarding the County’s beach closure, Delray Beach Fire Chief, Keith Tomey, said earlier this week, “I do feel like it was the right decision and the best for Delray Beach. As we entered into Phase 1, people started going to the beach, started going out, and we’ve noticed a sharp increase in new cases.”
Adding, “We want to discourage people from congregating and gathering, even if it’s outside in the sun with the wind blowing. The 4th of July is usually a huge beach day for Delray Beach. When we have fireworks displays, we’ve had up to 80,000 people on the beach.”