It doesn’t have the crowds, the noise, the booze and the bounce of Flagler Beach’s July 4 celebration. But Palm Coast’s By Dawn’s Early Light commemoration at Heroes Memorial Park Thursday morning had something no other local event offered: a complete reading of the Declaration of Independence that gave the nation its birthday.
City council members, county commissioners, a sheriff, a judge and a clerk of court all took turns to read segments of the Declaration that Thomas Jefferson wrote 237 years ago and that members of the Continental Congress “mangled” (his word, not ours) in editing draft after editing draft. A condemnation of the slave trade and Jefferson’s bilious valentine to Brits were among the passages cut—not much, in retrospect, but enough for the hypersensitive Jefferson to disavow responsibility for the version Congress approved on July 2 (not July 4). At least until the Declaration over the years took on the aura of the only sort of scriptures Jefferson would believe in. By the time he died in 1826 reading the Declaration on the nation’s anniversary, along with July 4 Orations, had become a tradition.
Reviving that tradition in Palm Coast was the idea of Patrick Juliano, a firefighter-paramedic now responsible for the city’s ceremonies.
“On a warm, humid, Philadelphia morning,” Palm Coast Mayor Jon nets said before beginning the reading, “the members of the second Continental Congress gathered together and pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. As they signed their names to this Declaration, the sun began to rise on a new nation, an American nation. Thomas Jefferson wrote with such incredible passion and eloquence about human liberation and the promise of a democratic republic.”
He then began reading the first few of the 1,323 words that made the country. The reading took place after a performance by young musicians of the Flagler Youth Orchestra, who played the National Anthem, followed, ironically, by a piece anyone who’s heard Britain’s national anthem would recognize. The group Nevaeh also performed the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
And almost as quickly as it had begun at 8 a.m., the ceremony was over, giving people time enough to shake hands or embrace and rush off to the barrier island, where Flagler Beach’s parade floats were getting ready to roll at 10 a.m. From words of oppression, petitions for redress and declarations of the right to be free and independent states, the morning turned to majorettes and midriffs, candy-firing floats and tricolor revelers.
The morning also turned on Trevor Carl. No July 4th –no parade really—is ever complete with Trevor, the now-16-year-old ex-cellist, Matanzas High student and eternal fisherman who’s made an art of scooping horse manure on the fly, as his mother and others ride the horses of the Florida Agricultural Museum down A1A.
He started when he was 12. “I do it now because mostly people enjoy it, I guess, but mainly my mom usually expects me to do it, so I always do it for her,” he said. “The only hard part is the heart, because I’m not used to wearing jeans. I’m always wearing shirts, fishing. That’s probably the only hard part, and keeping up with the parade. You’ve got to be fast.” But horses can be well-contained. Last year he only had to scoop once on July 4. Christmas was a different story. It was one scoop after another. (All that eggnog the horses must’ve had beforehand.)
What about the smell? “Imagine baby poop times five. It’s pretty bad,” Trevor says. “You just live with it and get used to it. There are some that your eyes just start to tear up and burn. It gets kind of bad.” But he’s also getting paid.
So off went the parade at 10 a.m., finishing up, for once, in just 51 minutes, a remarkable achievement compared with the previous two years’ 75-minute editions. The difference this year: hardly anyone is running for office, which helps keep the fluff out of the parade. The only politicians spotted were Flagler Beach’s city commissioners, who generally can’t afford to miss their own parade, and a few Bunnell city commissioners, who rode along their enormous cake-like float celebrating Bunnell’s centennial (which happens to fall on Monday).
The Democratic and Republican clubs each had a presence, as did the doddering tea party, along with one new face for Democrats: David Cox, a candidate for Congress in 2014 who may possibly break the tiresome streak of unserious Democratic candidates for that seat.
By 11 a.m. A1A was back to its slow-crawl self, a mass of visitors flooded the vendor stands a block in and Veterans Park, the food and the booze started flowing, and it wasn’t long before the fights began. There were a few to keep the 30-some cops from Flagler Beach, Bunnell and the sheriff’s office busy, but in the end no one was arrested for fighting. Just one man was arrested for a minor drug possession. He wasn’t even taken to jail. He was given a notice to appear, Flagler Beach Police Chief Dan Cody said. The Flagler Beach and Palm Coast Fire Police also had their manpower on the street, as did Flagler County REACT.
“We only had a couple of fights,” Cody said, “one major fight, subject had to be taken to Halifax Hospital. He drank so much and he had to be Baker Acted. We took him down there and he had to be treated too. He had some facial injuries. Other than that we had typical drunks, helping them get home an. That was about it. It was a pretty good crowd.”
The fireworks went off at 9 p.m., with Fireworks by Santore stage-managing the show as always—as Santore will this evening at Palm Coast’s Town Center, where the celebration continues.
A gallery of the day’s events appears below shortly.
Independence Day 2013: A Gallery