Florida Finds: Fourth of July celebrations

City of Alachua fireworks at Legacy Park.

The Fourth of July is coming up, but in Gainesville, the celebration kicks off on July 3, something that is a Gainesville tradition.

What this means is that everyone who lives in or near Gainesville can enjoy at least two fireworks displays for the Independence Day holiday, which could include WUFT’S Fanfares & Fireworks event and the light-up-the-sky July 4 party the next day in Alachua. Combined, both should make for enough celebration for anyone.

“Previously, the City of Gainesville has an Independence Day event on July 4, so WUFT’s Fanfares & Fireworks became an Independence Eve celebration and was held on July 3,” said Sue Wagner, UF College of Journalism community relations coordinator.

But somewhere along the way, Gainesville officials decided it made sense to have just one event, that which is offered by UF. Now the City of Gainesville is simply one of the annual sponsors.

This year’s event will be held as always at the UF Bandshell at Flavet Field, which Wagner describes as “the perfect venue for outdoor musical performances and it has a covered stage.”

The lineup includes Band, Bears and Lions, the Sooza Brass Band, the Martin Family, the Gainesville Community Band, and the Gainesville Pops under the direction of Gary Langford. Food trucks will be on site as well as LifeSouth Bloodmobiles.

The Gainesville Community Band performs at the Fanfares & Fireworks at the UF Bandshell at Flavet Field.

“The field is large enough to accommodate individuals and families and food trucks. Hume Field is the approved location for fireworks on the UF campus, and it is visible from Flavet Field,” Wagner said.

Fireworks go off at 9:40 p.m., but that doesn’t have to be the end of your fireworks viewing. Go home, get a little sleep, and the next day think about heading to the City of Alachua’s 22nd Annual Fourth of July Celebration.

This event has been billed as “the biggest small town July Fourth celebration in America,” and Alachua city manager Mike DaRoza says this still holds true.

“We are very passionate about providing a kid-friendly quality music-filled event with a fireworks show that rivals that of larger venues and municipalities,” he said.

DaRoza said the event began as something that was a community affair but soon took off. 

“As other venues stopped holding Fourth of July events, not to mention other Fourth of July events are held on weekends instead of the actual July 4 date, our event grew exponentially over two decades, becoming a regional event, “ he said.

The Alachua event will be held at Legacy Field and will also feature live music, food trucks, and a Kids Corner that will be functioning from 4 to 7 p.m. Parking is free.

The UF event began in the early ’90s in partnership with UF Student Government Productions, Wagner said. 

“Since then, the public broadcasting stations, WUFT-TV, WUFT-FM and WUFT Classic, coordinate the free family-friendly event and consider it a gift to the community for their support of the stations,” he said.

Thousands of people are expected to attend both events. Wagner said the UF crowd is usually around 10,000 but may attract more people this year because the event is on a Sunday. 

In the City of Alachua, DaRoza said their event is already on many people’s calendars. 

“Because our Fourth of July celebration has become a tradition for so many in our area, the only true marketing we employ is on our website and social media,” he said.

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