Eager children with bags in their hands gathered along Stringfellow Road Wednesday morning to watch the Fourth of July parade roll past them while waiving and patiently waiting for candy to be thrown their way.
Tom Ruscik, a member of the American Legion and organizer of the event, said this year was the largest parade they have had, which included a lot of new participants.
"I think the people really carried out the theme of welcoming our soldiers' home from war," he said.
Many horses walked along Stringfellow Road
during the parade Wednesday
The theme of the parade was "Welcome Home to our Veterans from Afghanistan."
Those involved in the parade gathered at the Winn-Dixie plaza around 9 a.m. to put the finishing touches on their floats. At 10 a.m. the parade began led by an ambulance traveling north up Stringfellow Road with many other emergency vehicles and floats behind them showcasing red, white and blue.
This year the parade also featured the Sheriff's Office's first swamp buggy for Pine Island. MangoMania Queen Cassy Skau rode upon it waving to the crowd. She said the finishing touches were made to the buggy on Tuesday, just in time for the parade.
The parade also included two grand marshals, who are brothers - Jeff and Jake Lutz.
Jeff enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006. During his four years of service he went to Iraq, Japan and Southeast Asia.
His brother, Jake, who is also a Marine, returned home May 12 after four years of service. Jake did two tours in Afghanistan with the 1st Marine Division. He worked with canines and the bomb detection dogs.
The first place winner for floats in the parade went to the Olde Fish House, second place went to the American Legion and third place went to the Pine Island Moose Lodge.
Once it ended, the youngsters who rode their bicycles in the parade, along with some adults, gathered at the Elks Lodge to enjoy some hot dogs and chips.
Ethan Hoover, 8, watched the parade for the first time Wednesday with his immediate and extended family. He said his favorite float in the parade was the Sheriff's swamp buggy. Ethan said he also enjoyed collecting a good amount of candy.
"It was very nice," Jane Chaney said.
She said although she did not have a favorite float, she had a favorite motorcycle.
Marian Kite, Jane's mother and Ethan's grandmother, has lived on Pine Island since 1982. Her family was down visiting from Texas and Illinois to celebrate her 90th birthday June 2, along with spending the holiday with her.
Kite said she has watched the parade on Pine Island for 20 out of the 27 years she has lived out here.
"It was a nice parade and the Methodist Church had a nice float," she said smiling. "Definitely my favorite."
Kite also shared that she thought all of the parade was very good and the kids really enjoyed watching.
Zoe and her mother Pamela Vadas also found a spot near Fisher's of Men Lutheran Church to watch the parade. Pamela said although they no longer live on Pine Island, they come out and watch the parade and spend time with Zoe's grandparents.
"I thought it was great," she said. "It seems to be getting bigger every year."
Zoe, 6, said she enjoyed catching all the necklaces that were thrown to her during the parade. The youngster also enjoyed watching the ponies and horses walk by.
This year's parade was Zoe's favorite because of all the horses.