July 7, 2021 — When Lane County was designated at lower risk for the community spread of COVID-19, the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Florence and Port of Siuslaw decided to move forward with Florence’s annual Fourth of July fireworks and other festivities. This was soon followed by activities organized by Florence Habitat for Humanity, Oregon Coast Military Museum, Darlings Marina & RV Resort, Florence Elks Lodge #1858 and more.
Darlings Marina began local Fourth of July festivities on Saturday night with a July 3 fireworks display that took place over Siltcoos Lake. The popular restaurant and campground has been sponsoring its own Independence Day celebration for the past few years, and the event often brings together a different crowd than the bigger fireworks in Florence. This year, Darlings was the site of a private party which required a wristband for entrance, but the fireworks were visible from numerous public locations around the lake.
On Sunday, Florence Habitat for Humanity led the activities for all ages at the Port of Siuslaw Boardwalk. This included a Bike Parade, pie and watermelon eating contests and kids games.
Habitat Board Member Aric Sneddon coordinated the first annual Independence Day Bike Parade.
"Habitat decided the community does so much for us that we wanted to do something for the community, and a parade is a fun way, especially with all the kids. They could decorate their bikes and families could have a chance to get creative,” Sneddon said. “We're hoping it will be the first of many, and it's one of the ways that Habitat can give back to the community that supports us without having to spend our donor dollars — it doesn't really cost anything to do a parade, but it's a brings a lot of fun. Plus, coming out of COVID, we knew that Florence was ready to do something.”
The parade route started at First and Hemlock streets, continued down to Bay Street through Historic Old Town and finished at the Boardwalk, where Habitat had games for the kids set up, as well as the watermelon and pie-eating contests.
“We were able to give our Future First Citizen, Jessica South, a parade to ride in because we didn't have a Rhody Parade this year, so we invited her to come ride with us as well. And we had Uncle Sam as the Grand Marshal," Sneddon said.
In addition, 2019 Queen Rhododendra Madison Reynolds — the reigning Rhododendron Festival monarch due to COVID-19 — also presided over the parade.
At the Boardwalk, everyone between 5 to 105 were invited to showcase their eating competition skills. Registration began at 11 a.m. and over 40 children and adults participated to smother their faces in slices of watermelon and pie, using no hands.
Family and friends gathered around the white tables to cheer contestant on, while snapping photos along the way. After each round, the sounds of clapping and laughter filled the lawn.
Kiwanis Club of Florence provided some of its lawn activities from the Rhody Kids Games, as well as putting American flags along Highway 101, around town and in Historic Old Town.
That evening, the chamber’s fireworks show came together at the Port of Siuslaw. The show’s producer, Western Display Fireworks, launched pyrotechnics from the port campground over the Siuslaw River.
This drew thousands of people who gathered in the early evening before the display with blankets, chairs and ice cream along Bay Street, the Boardwalk, the port and across the river to watch the 30-minute show.
The sounds of beaming rockets set off laughter, whistling and cheers for all to hear. This was coupled with DJ Al Rojas, who provided music throughout the day at the Boardwalk.
People could be seen all weekend sporting red, white and blue and waving the American flag as they recreated in the area and visited Florence businesses.
It was a welcome return to Florence’s all-American Fourth of July.