By Natalie Strom
Every year, the Fourth of July celebration on Marco Island simply gets better and better. The community comes together throughout the year to raise money towards the spectacular fireworks display and the Marco Island Civic Association (MICA) puts on a grand celebration throughout the day. The following is a guide to the day’s events as well as a list of beach access points.
This year, MICA’s patriotic day of fun – dubbed Uncle Sam’s Sand Jam – begins at noon at Residents’ Beach. Music by DJ Dominick of Mobile Sound Entertainment will accompany the many games and contests planned.
Games for kids of all ages include tug-o-war, hula hoops, cone toss, foot races, long jump, frisbee throwing and the always exciting limbo contest.
The Most Patriotic Swimsuit Contest will follow the games and a Hot Dog Eating Contest will begin at 3 PM (must be 18 or older to participate). A Sandcastle Contest will take place throughout the day, with judging beginning at 3 PM. A registration tent will be on site for the Sandcastle Contest, and members of the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island will judge the creations.
Prizes for all the games and contests have been donated by island businesses.
Food will be available at Residents’ Beach through its stand, Paradise Grill, and MICA will be selling ice cold beer and wine under a large tent on the beach.
All the excitement at Residents’ Beach will surely draw a large crowd, but some may be more interested in spending their Fourth at other locations along the beach with family or with friends. Regardless of where one is at on the beach, it is certain that the grand fireworks display will be seen as they are lit from a barge out in the Gulf.
In order to enter through Residents’ Beach, whether it be by car, walking or biking, one must have paid for a Residents’ Beach ID card. It must be present and on the person regardless of mode of transportation in order to gain beach access.
Residents’ Beach pass members may also park at the Sarazen Park lot across from the public access point at South Beach. There is a public parking lot just past the Sarazen lot where those with Collier County Beach Parking Stickers can park for free, and those without can pay $8 for the day.
In years past, many have chosen to park in the swales along streets near the South Beach entrance. DO NOT DO THIS. A recent ordinance no longer allows for this type of parking which could result in a fine or a tow.
The Crystal Shores, which also features Stilt’s Restaurant, allows pedestrian access to the beach. According to staff, it will also offer day parking at $20 per car and $10 parking per car after 7 PM, a courtesy to those specifically coming to watch the fireworks.
Tigertail Beach will also be open on the Fourth, and according to Tony Smith, “A lot of people come here to watch the fireworks.” Smith operates the hut and rental operations at Tigertail, stating that rentals such as kayaks, paddleboards, water trikes, beach chairs and cabanas and more will be available until sunset on the Fourth as well as throughout the Holiday Weekend. The Beachside Cafe will also be open, providing both breakfast and lunch options. Those with a Collier County Beach Parking Sticker may park for free. Those without pay $8 to park.
Another access point to the big show is through the pedestrian only path located on South Collier Boulevard between the Madeira building (350 S. Collier) and The Royal Seafarer Condominium (300 S. Collier). Parking, however, is not available at this location.
There is nearby parking free of charge and graciously donated at the San Marco Catholic Church (851 San Marco Rd.). Following the 8 AM Mass, the parking lot will be open to Fourth of July parking for the pedestrian beach access. Father Tim states, “We are happy to accommodate the people of Marco Island on our nation’s birthday.” He does note that the church hall will be closed.
With all these options, the city still sees an overflow in the traffic department as people push to find parking when little is available. According to Administrative Sergeant Hood with the Marco Island Police Department, the force will be monitoring traffic and pedestrian access at the corner of San Marco Road and Collier Boulevard as well as paying attention to the pedestrian access near the Madeira as the flow of people at the end of the night from these two locations tends to be heavy. He also reminds all residents and visitors that the Prohibited Parking Ordinance (50-37) still applies during the holiday. To read the ordinance, visit the city’s website at www.cityofmarcoisland.com.