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Parade, open house highlight Fourth festivities

July 9, 2013
By CHUCK BALLARO ( ) , Pine Island Eagle

They all gathered at the Winn-Dixie on Stringfellow Road - the floats, cars, horses and hogs.

At first glance it looked like a lot of people had forgotten to buy buns and mustard, but they were, in fact, ready to make that 3/8 mile march down the center of town to the Elks Club in the annual Fourth of July parade last Thursday.

The parade, sponsored by the American Legion Post 136, was witnessed by thousands who lined Stringfellow Road, which saw the biggest and best parade yet.

Article Photos

Mango Queen Scarlett Player and her court wave to the crowd to promote MangoMania at the Fourth of July parade on Pine Island.


Post 136 Commander Frank Taugner was even in awe of the turnout.

"I'm amazed with the turnout. It's phenomenal this year. I really appreciate Winn-Dixie for providing breakfast and everybody is turning out," Taugner said. "Some fill out and app and don't come but they all came today."

Of course, the idea is to celebrate America's birthday and those who have served. Among those marching was Nicole Lachapelle, who brought her 5-month-old son, Justice, along in his stroller.

She marched alongside a truck with a sign that read "Daddy comes home in 178 days," in reference to her husband, Hiram, who is serving in Okinawa, Japan.

"I thought it was great to incorporate the Marines in it. He's coming home in six months, we're so excited," Lachapelle said.

Another group that came was the British Car Club of Southwest Florida, which brought several Triumphs to the parade, ironic considering it was the British we fought against in 1776.

"They're trophies," explained Dennis McKinley of Triumphs of Southwest Florida. "If they were Romans we'd be carrying off chariots."

The parade started with the boom of a cannon and proceeded down Stringfellow, with volunteers walking alongside each float throwing candy, plastic flying disks and trinkets to the parade goers of all ages.

Asia Pryor and her two boys, Donovan, 8, and Landon, 7, had piled up an impressive amount of swag on the sidewalk. All in a day's worth of fun.

"All the old cars are fun and the kids get to see their old friends from school," Pryor said. "It's been great watching the old cars."

The floats, classic cars and horses eventually reached the island center, turned left down Pine Island Road and ended their route. Those watchers at the end were also impressed by what they saw.

Marian Faulkner was happier to be here than at one of the more modern parades happening elsewhere.

"It's local, anybody can be in it, and it's what makes July 4 so fun. There's more here this year," Faulkner said. "There's so much here. Look at that little horsey!"

At the end of the route, after the parade, the Pine Island Fire Department presented an open house to celebrate its 50th anniversary as a fire district, where the kids got a chance to check out the machines, tour the facility and learn how some of Pine Island's finest live.

Fire Chief David Bradley, who has lived on Pine Island most of his life, can remember what the department, and the area, was like once upon a time.

"We've made great strides. We were a volunteer department in the '50s and soon became a fire district," Bradley said. "It was different then. We didn't have the equipment or the population. It was laid back. You planned your shopping for your trips to town once a month."

For the adults, it was touring the building, learning about how the firemen do their job and what they do during their 24-hour shifts.

For the kids, it was about getting into the trucks and pretending to be firemen.

Andrew Williamson, 5, wore his toy fire hat as he rode the truck proclaiming this was what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Darsey Smith said it was great for her kids, Aubrey, 4, and Gracie, 8, to come see their heroes.

And while they loved the truck, Aubrey was convinced she was going to grow up to be a princess, while another said he was going to be Batman.

"This is a lot of fun for them. We do it every year," Smith said.



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