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Flagler Beach’s Independence Day Fireworks No Longer a Solo Act

| July 3, 2010

The sky is big enough for more.

For the 2011 schedule of the Flagler Beach fireworks and parade, go here.

On July 10, 1955—several days late reporting from Flagler County, as its undying tradition requires—the News-Journal in Daytona Beach wrote that 2,000 people in Flagler Beach “swarmed the beach, filled all available motels and apartments and cleaned the local grocery stores to the bare shelves over the long Independence Day weekend.” That was when the county’s entire population was less than 4,500. The “climax of the three-day holiday,” the paper went on, “was a brilliant display of fireworks set off by George E. Wickline and his assistants from the east end of the Pier.”

So it’s been for a quarter of the Republic’s history: The July 4th fireworks are, to use Flagler Beach City Commissioner Joy McGrew’s words, “as iconic as our pier, as our ocean.” But no longer as unique.

Flagler Beach’s fireworks evening draws 15,000 people. But it was a matter of time, in a county that grew as fast as it did and piled up boosters as much as it did since the 1980s, that one or a few of them would eventually give the Flagler Beach fireworks some competition. Or company, depending on whom you ask.

Flagler Beach will set off its fireworks on July 3rd. The following evening, there’ll be another major display in Palm Coast’s Central Park in Town Center. The dual displays (on adjoining dates) may, and likely will, become an annual tradition.

This year’s display was spearheaded by the co-owned WNZF and Beach 92.7 FM, along with the Palm Coast Observer. The broadcaster and the paper tried to get the Palm Coast City Council to pay for the event and make it an annual thing, as a follow-up to Beach 92’s Rock-n-Rib Fest last spring. But the city didn’t have the original estimate of about $20,000 to spend, nor were council members too interested in drawing away from Flagler Beach’s event. At least not this year. (They are intrigued about possibilities for coming years.) So WNZF and the Palm Coast Observer turned to the Flagler County Rotary, which picked up the fund-raising charge. As of today (June 21), the Rotary raised almost $12,000 of the needed $13,000, according to Bill Butler, the Rotary’s vice president and point man on the fireworks event.

“I don’t think this is a very good thing for the businesses of Flagler Beach,” Flagler Beach City Commissioner Jane Mealy said earlier this month, when the Flagler Rotary’s fund-raising had been announced, “and for another business oriented organization to take people away, I’m a little upset about that. But, they’re doing it.” She added later: “I guess another group has the right to do whatever they want to do, but July 4th has always been a Flagler Beach thing and in my mind should remain so.”

Flagler Beach has little to worry about. Tonight, the Flagler Beach County Commission will approve a $15,000 contribution for the Flagler Beach fireworks, which the commission has done every year. The commission has no intention of stopping that contribution. Palm Coast is also contributing $1,500 to Flagler Beach. And, for that matter, WNZF and Beach 92 are contributing as well: the radio stations will be broadcasting all day from Flagler Beach on the 3rd, and promoting the town’s iconic event up until then. The stations will also promote the Town Center fireworks, which they’re planning as a big, two to three-hour tail-gate party (coolers allowed).

To make the point, the Flagler Beach Rotary’s Kim Carney and the Flagler County Rotary’s Butler cut a joint, 60-second radio ad, to be aired on WNZF and The Beach FM, promoting both fireworks displays (they each got 30 seconds).

WNZF’s and Beach 92’s David Ayers Talks Up the Year’s Dual Fireworks Shows
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

“Nobody feels in the Rotary club and us that there will be any harm done to Flagler Beach on it, and if we did I wouldn’t even be participating in it, but I feel like it’s going to be good for Flagler Beach, and we’re there for Flagler Beach, we’re putting in 110 percent into Flagler Beach. It’s not a competitive thing,” WNZF General Manager David Ayers said. “If Flagler Beach says, OK, next year we’re doing ours on the 4th, then the Rotary club says OK, we’ll do ours on the 5th or we’ll do ours on the 3rd. We’ll take a different day. And that happens in communities all over the place. So it’s not anything new. It’s new for Flagler Beach, but it’s not new in communities anywhere else.”

Flagler Beach itself unwittingly opened the door to the Palm Coast initiative. Flagler Beach traditionally holds a two-day celebration around July 4th, with a parade one day and the fireworks the next. This year, the city combined the two events, ostensibly to save money, and is holding them on July 3rd rather than on the 4th, because the 4th is a Sunday, and the parade needs the parking lot at Santa Maria del Mar, the Catholic church, as a staging area. The lot isn’t available on Sunday. So the whole thing was moved to Saturday.

“I understand that it’s Sunday, but we’ve had July 4th on Sunday before, when I planned it, and we always worked through it,” said Zoee Forehand, owner of Flagler Beach’s Z Wave Surf Shop and one of the town’s more active voices on behalf of local commerce. “But I really believe that our nation’s birthday is celebrated on July 4th, and that’s when the celebration should be.”

Either way, Flagler Beach isn’t about to lose one of its signature events. But as much as Palm Coast wants to continue supporting Flagler Beach’s fireworks, Palm Coast also knows that it can nurture its own signature event.

“I’d hate to rain on their parade,” Palm Coast City Council member Frank Meeker said, but he also suggested that combining efforts could be a possibility. Fellow-council member Mary DiStefano said: “Flagler Beach has had it for years. We’ve been building consensus with all of our municipalities and I just, OK, in another year we can think about it but right now I just think that we ought to support Flagler Beach. But the councilwoman also recommended that when Palm Coast draws up its plans for Town Center events in next year’s budgets, it should outline various possibilities and pl;an for them ahead of time. Palm Coast’s own Independence Day fireworks may well be part of that planning.

[This story was originally published on June 21. It is being reposted on the front page because of its relevance over the July 4 weekend.]

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18 Responses for “Flagler Beach’s Independence Day Fireworks No Longer a Solo Act”

  1. elaygee says:

    Flagler Beach OWNS the Fourth of July holiday and that everyone else better butt out says Jane Mealy.
    Sorry, Palm Coast has 20 times as many people and if they want to do it, they’re going to do it and in a nicer place than the pier of Flagler Beach.

  2. sheila says:

    It is silly for PC to puton their own show in this economy. The PC leaders need to focus more on bringing in viable business with decent salaries. It is so depressing to drive in neighborhoods and see 5+ houses for sale on one block alone. The leaders seem to be blind. The demographics have drastically changed from what was originally envisioned for the city of PC — no longer just a sleepy little retirement community. We have a half dozen schools and a large ‘younger’ population. It is time to get some new leaders that have their priorities more in line with the pulse of the community.

  3. Michelle says:

    Sheila, please note: The City of Palm Coast did not donate nor sponsor this event on the Fourth of July at Town Center Central Park. The Council was approached at their meeting by a representative of the Rotary Club of Flagler County to see if they had any interest in a sponsorship, they turned it down. This event is being held by a joint effort of WNZF/The Beach, Palm Coast Observer and The Rotary Club of Flagler County in response to citizens of the county who felt that there should be some celebration on the actual holiday. It will be like a big tail-gate party, coolers welcome, and there will be some vendors at the park selling drinks for charity. They are still looking for sponsorships/donations for this event. Most folks see this as a win-win for the community, especially those that do not want to fight the traffic and those that don’t ‘drive over the bridge’.

  4. tina says:

    I have to say 33 years…..yes 33 years I have watched the fireworks from the beach in Flagler…I think the power struggle between Palm Coast and Flagler Beach shouldve ended when businesses started closing. Maybe some people should stop being so concerned about where they are going to spend the 4th of July in a nicer place than the Beach because of driving over the bridge; and start paying attenetion the the local hard working businesses this will have an impact on. Its about our community helping one and other, not about fighting over fireworks. They belong at Flagler Beach, because thats where they have always been.Not only that it is just as bad trying to get out of town center road as driving over the bridge. I have watched the 4th of July change over the past few years because of those in charge who are not long time residents, nor do they care about the local commuinty. It has been a tradition for those of us who grew up here, something to come home for, for those that left. It is an unexpained feeling when you are walking around flagler with your kids, just as you did when you were a kid. Hometown 4th of July everyone knows everyone. Not anymore…. I would also like to point out at the CCR concert when the fireworks went off chunks of hot ashes were falling on our heads as we sat and watched, so for those who are going to be attending that fireworks display just a heads up.

  5. sheila says:

    Michelle: understood. However, I have not heard alot of residents begging for a celebration here in PC. Even the Rotary Club should be more concerned about lobbying for substantial businesses to come to PC instead of worrying about fireworks.

  6. dilligaf says:

    Good let palm coast pick up after the pigs.After the fireworks are over the pigs just get up leave their trash on the beach and go back to palm coast .It is a pig fest— that is why the city has cut the event back!!!! they trash the beach and just leave .

  7. Frankie says:

    This is just great….now the residents of Flagler Beach will probably have to celebrate Christmas Day on Dec. 26th and New Year’s Day on Jan. 2. We’ve celebrated the fourth on Sunday’s it fell on for decades. This is sooo absurd, just like the politicians.

  8. says:

    Crackercoast members are planning to have a tailgate party to watch the fireworks togather.

  9. Dawn says:

    I think Palm Coast having their own fireworks display is ridiculous. I grew up in Palm Coast and graduated from school at FPC. When I think about the 4th of July at Flagler Beach it brings a sense of homecoming to me. Everyone for one day celebrates together. There is no divide between PC, Flagler, and Bunnell. We are all one and to divide the celebration by providing choices because of a bridge and parking is the destruction of our community. We have to help each other and promote good will among the cities. We are celebrating our beach and our neighbors.

  10. Jimmy says:

    Just the thought of Flagler Beach not celabrating the 4th, (the actual holiday) is absurd!! It is also an awful thing to do to the Flagler Beach merchants who already have to deal with the most unreasonable and rediculous politicians with their ignorant rules. For some reason, Flagler Beach seems to push harder and harder to eliminate small business. Now this! I remember when Flagler Beach would have a 3 day celebration which in turn would benifit the local business’s and the local economy greatly. I truely believe that one day the only thing that will be left in Flagler Beach will be a few homes, for sale of course, and the pier ! Anyone wanna bet?

  11. Joe says:

    I just moved here (as it seems a lot of folks have) and think it’s wonderful that I have an opportunity to take my 3 year old son to 2 different fireworks displays. I understand that the purpose of July 4th is to celebrate our independence, but anyone who says they aren’t truly looking forward to the BBQ’s and fireworks is just lying. The looks on the faces of the small children seeing fireworks for one of the first times in their lives is priceless.
    Yes, the economy in this area is struggling. And yes I’m sure there are better things to spend money on then putting on a fireworks show. But think back to when you were younger and had none of the concerns about the economy, politics and the sort. The fireworks shows on the 4th of July (or the 3rd for that matter), should give us all a chance to remember a time when life seemed to be a little easier and smiling was the one thing that was important to us all.

  12. Get Over It says:

    Everyone needs to step back and take a deep breath. Just because Flagler Beach has always done it on the 4th doesn’t mean this has to be done each year. The businesses in Flagler Beach aren’t going to suffer. It’s a fireworks display at night, that is all. People are still going to go to the beach during the day and spend money. Quite frankly, while businesses appreciate the business they don’t appreciate the rude and obnoxious people that come down to Flagler Beach on these holidays (usually they are piss drunk).

    The fact of the matter is that times are changing. It’s really as simple as next year Flagler Beach does it on the 4th and Palm Coast does it on the 3rd or the 5th. You alternate every year. There is nothing wrong with having multiple celebrations. Everyone seems to get their panties in a wad over the dumbest things around here. Take a deep breath and enjoy this holiday. You don’t need to have a celebration in Flagler Beach to actually celebrate. Enjoy the day, go out to the beach and support the local businesses.

  13. eileen says:

    I can’t seem to forget ALL the complaints about how crowded it is, there is no parking and how horrible the traffic is…….yada yada yada
    this year there is a Plan B……

  14. AACHMED says:

    “How to enjoy Independence Day “, Option 1: Take the Family into Flagler Beach, Check out the vendors who are set up across the street from the Beach and maybe grab a Bite to eat from some of them or the Local restaurants\Deli’s that are open up and Down the Beachside. Or Bring our Own Food and Drink and enjoy the Awsome Beach that We here in Flagler are so LUCKY to Have! To sum up Option #1, Kids on the Beach all Day, A Variety of Food, Drinks,and Entertainment all within Walking Distance and Not a Bad Spot on the Beach for a View of the Fantastic Fireworks Show put on by Santore and Sons! Lets See Option #2: Pack up the Family and Head out to the Town Center in Palm Coast. Not Sure What the Kids are Going to do for Entertainment, Make Sure you have Your Own Food and Drink, Did Someone Have to Use the Bathroom? Not to Worry , Look at all the Woods Around You! There is the Perfect Combination, Party in a Parking Lot and Fireworks over a Heavily Wooded Area, Not to mention that Large Building Just to the East, Called the Flagler Hospital, That Fireworks Finale should Wake up those Paitents Trying to REST! Thank You City of Flagler Beach for the Many Great Years of a Fantastic 4th of July Celebration, We will continue to Support You, and We live in Palm Coast! The one issue needing to be Addressed is The Beanhead who Changed the 4th Celebration to the 3rd? Are they any Relation to the Beanhead who wants to get Rid of your Fire Dept.? If they are not Related, they Must Work Together! Hey Maybe We will have Easter Sunday on Tuesday next Year with an Easter Egg Hunt in Palm Coast, on the Land that Carrabbas was going to Build that Resturant on, as Long as the sign isnt an inch Too High!!

  15. Strling09 says:

    Does anyone remember when Marineland used to have there fireworks the night before Flaglers. I am not talking about Ginns I am talking about Marineland. SO whats the difference. Fireworks are just fireworks get over it. Just enjoy the day off. I DO.

  16. anon says:

    I traveled from out of state to see the Flagler Beach fireworks tonight and missed them. What a shame that such a great tradition has been stolen.

  17. I can see why this issue would oblige others to write about it often

  18. Richard R says:

    Fireworks DO NOT BELONG on Flagler Beach in July!! The entire east coast of Florida has strict regulations to protect SEA TURTLES from the harmfull affects of beachside lighting during the seat turle nesting season. Folks who love nature, and in this case sea turtles, should be up in arms to prevent such adisruptive and trash generating event. I dont understand why Flagler Beach officials allow this to take place on our beach, especially now that Palm Coast provides a great show for the county. The Palm Coast event is just the reason that FlAGLER BEACH needs to end fireworks of our beach,
    Of couse the cost saving by having only one fireworks is much needed at this time.

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