July 3, 2018 — “Stars and Stripes Forever” will be the centerpiece of Florence’s Fourth of July Fireworks Show at sundown Wednesday, with other songs by famous American composer John Philip Sousa the American Heritage Orchestra playing in time with a synchronized fireworks show. People can view the show from the Port of Siuslaw Boardwalk, areas in Historic Old Town and across the river in Glenada.
“The old-fashioned Fourth of July is one of the nicer family-oriented events we do here,” said Chamber Executive Director Bettina Hannigan. “It’s a wonderful family event with a lot of people coming in and hanging out around the Port of Siuslaw.”
Banner Bank is this year’s “Big Bang” sponsor of the 30-minute show, leading contributions from community members and organizations in supporting the chamber’s annual fireworks display. In addition, KCST 106.9 FM morning show host Wayne Sharpe will broadcast Sousa’s and patriotic music from the port parking lot from 8 to 10 p.m.
“The Fourth of July is a big deal in town,” said Chamber Assistant Director Terry Abeyta. “In my previous years in Florence, it feels very Americana and small town. It’s a very special feeling when you’re walking down Bay Street and around the area.”
The pyrotechnics will be launched from a barge on the Siuslaw River near the Port of Siuslaw.
“It’s exciting to be able to do it off the barge this year,” Hannigan said. “It will be very special place to do it, as this is not something that happens in other communities.”
“Our show will be really beautiful on the river,” Abeyta said.
Florence has Independence Day activities throughout the week, hosted by community groups and area businesses.
Today, Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Banner Bank, 777 Highway 101, is hosting its annual free barbecue.
On Wednesday, the old-fashioned fun continues in Historic Old Town with the annual pie and watermelon eating contests, sponsored this year by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The contests are free and open to all ages. Participants will be split into age groups for 0 to 12 years, 13 to 20 years and 21 years and up, with prizes for each group.
The contests will be staged on the corner of Bay and Nopal streets in front of Bay Street Bling from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration starts at 11 a.m.
Across town, the Florence Senior Center, 1570 Kingwood St., will host its Fourth of July barbecue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All ages are welcome to enjoy grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. Hamburgers will be $5 and hot dogs will be $4, with chips and drink included. There is also the option to buy ice cream or a banana split.
Also starting at 11 a.m., there will be an Independence Day Celebration at Patriot Place, 175 Nopal St. People are welcome to stop by for hot dogs and a barbecue pot luck all day — and stay through the fireworks. Just bring a lawn chair and food to share. This event is free to the public.
Northwest Reflections Health and Wellness also wants to celebrate Independence Day with the community and show its support for Florence. As such, it will have a booth set up at Patriot Place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and give out snow cones and information about its new medical practice office.
“We’re not responsible for all the activities in town, but we just encourage people to share what they’re doing,” Abeyta said. “There’s plenty to do all week long to celebrate, so stick around.”
Historic Old Town is often a destination for people to enjoy the shops, restaurants and an unbeatable view of the Siuslaw River Bridge and the area wildlife. In addition, the Antiques District, Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, Hukilau Restaurant and Krab Kettle are all in walking distance of Old Town. For people unfamiliar to the area, the Passport to the Arts and the Florence Charm Trail encourage people to leave the Old Town area and venture into the Antiques District and Uptown Highway 101.
“We just encourage people to enjoy the restaurants, visit the shops and that experience downtown all day, and then stake their spot and settle down for the fireworks that night,” Abeyta said. “There are so many things to do in town, for everyone. The antiquing is great, and our shops are wonderful.”
Hannigan said, “It’s a lot of fun for the shops that are open around town because people can go and shop. It’s a day off, it’s in the middle of the week, so people are going to be coming into the area and overnighting. … We’re going to see people coming in for the whole week, rather than just coming in for one night.”
She added that though business can be slow for the area after peaking during the Rhododendron Festival and Memorial Day Weekend, “There has been no slump this year. It has been busy nonstop.”
It’s a sign that the chamber and its partners’ efforts in advancing the Siuslaw region are paying off — to the tune of $136.9 million.
“Our transient room tax revenue for the last 12 months is up 12.9 percent. That’s much higher than the other places in Lane County,” Hannigan said. “Our tourism numbers are now $136.9 million, and that’s up from last year. That means 1,900 jobs.”
Abeyta added, “We’re definitely a destination that is being recognized.”
From their vantage at the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center, 290 Highway 101, the directors and volunteers see people visiting from all over the world.
“People are rolling into town to celebrate the Fourth of July here, and making that choice,” Abeyta said. “It’s a big deal to have the place packed. Just go to Driftwood Shores at sunset — there have been so many people on the beach, which is just neat.”
People are coming through specifically for the holiday, but also because Florence is gaining recognition as the “second-best small town for adventure,” according to a poll from USA Today’s 10Best.com.
“When we think of tourism in Florence, a lot of times our emphasis is on adults. It’s nice to have something going that is more family oriented,” Hannigan said. “People are looking for family activities. We have the sandboards, the fishing, the lakes — and it’s nice to have something in Old Town.”
“There are so many different things you can do to fill a one, three or five-day itinerary to really get a whole taste of Florence. We have something to hit all interest levels,” she said.
For more information, visit the Visitor’s Center or florencechamber.com.