Alachua gearing up for fireworks reboot

After a year off due to COVID-19, fireworks will light up the Alachua sky this Sunday for “the largest small town fireworks display in America.”

The gates open at 6 p.m. and the band will start tooting its horns at 8 p.m., stopping just in time for the fireworks at 9:30 p.m. This is the first year that the event will be held entirely at the 105-acre Legacy Park compound.

Mike DaRoza, assistant city manager, said the city expects a crowd. In years past, Alachua has drawn 15,000-20,000 people.

“My gut tells me we’re going to get a pretty good crowd,” DaRoza said in a phone interview.

DaRoza said a number of factors complicate the attendance for 2021. COVID-19 and people’s level of comfort is one. Another is the fact that more municipalities in the area are hosting fireworks displays than years past.

Because the planning necessary takes place months in advance, the festivities will be toned back compared to past Independence Day celebrations. The usual kid’s corner with bouncy house, climbing wall and numerous food trucks will not be on hand.

DaRoza said Alachua residents were disappointed the display didn’t happen last year, even after an attempt to host it later in the year.

“It was missed tremendously by the community,” DaRoza said.

And while the event as a whole has been shortened, he said there is nothing abbreviated about the fireworks show.

If anything there’s more fireworks that are going to be shot off than normal,” he said.

Archer is hosting its first ever “Red, White and Boom” event this year, and Keystone Heights continues its local tradition this weekend with the 53rd Our Country Day.

Up north, Lake City will have an Independence Day festival and fireworks, including a car show, at the Florida Gateway Fairgrounds.

The Freedom Festival is taking place at Millennium Park in Live Oak on July 2.

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