Fourth of July celebrations were in high gear on Monday all across Southwest Florida, from free food to fireworks shows.
Red, White and Boom in Cape Coral is a free, family-friendly event that took place at the foot of the Cape Coral Bridge and is branded as the largest single-day event in Southwest Florida, featuring fireworks, entertainment and face painting.
“We like the fireworks like the food. And we take our babies out here,” Cape Coral Resident Cisco Fernandez said. “What better thing to do.”
As many as 40,000 people were expected to come out for the free festivities this year.
“There’s a lot of things to do and see here,” Cape Coral resident Jescina Hernandez said. “And you know, it seems like a family-orientated place so we like it. So far, so good.” Jescnia Hernandez and Kiana Felicinao mentioned this is their first time coming out to the Red, White, and Boom event.
“You see a lot of family you see a lot of kids you know with their red, white, and blue and they’re proud to be American and we’re proud to be American too,” Hernandez said. “And we’re here just to have fun and see your families having fun together watching the fireworks it’s a nice thing to do.”
But of course, Monday’s main attraction was the firework show.
“Probably the all the different kinds of colors, colors, the emotion you get? Everybody’s excited,” Kiana Feliciano said. “Everybody’s like, happy. And you know, the pictures, the selfies.”
At the beginning of the day, around 600 people crossed the Cape Coral Bridge for the Freedom 5K.
“This is a big race that supports veterans, and I’m a veteran,” said Glen Button. “I was in the Marine Corps and in the Coast Guard. My younger brother is a veteran. He was in the Army, served over in the Gulf War. I got a good buddy, Ronald Philpod, who also served in the Gulf War; he actually left part of his leg over there. So, I’m out here running for guys who can’t run.”
In Naples, the Independence Day events began with a parade on 5th Avenue South.
For the kids in attendance, the event highlights included firetrucks and candy, but some of the parents hope that wasn’t their only takeaway from the event.
“For me, coming into this country when I was 2 years old and now having my own family here is so important to me, and experiencing with them what this country is all about definitely means a lot,” said Paula Martinez.
Lina Boyle wants to remind her kids how good they have it here in the USA after the sisters came here as kids from Colombia.
“So when we came here at 9 years old, you know, to live my mom’s dream is to be here and celebrate America, what she fought for, what she sacrificed so my sister and I could truly live in freedom,” said Boyle.
That message is already ingrained in Lina’s son Corbin who made no mention of candy when WINK News asked him about July Fourth.
“It means a lot to me because I get to celebrate our freedom in this country and I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” said Corbin.
For people in Punta Gorda, singing, boating, and spending time with family in red, white, and blue are all part of Fisherman Village’s Fourth of July celebration.
No matter the age, most people said this day represents freedom, liberation, and self-expression.
“Appreciating family, appreciating that we just woke up today we have our health. We are not as bad as some places,” said Nadia Deltor.
It’s a harsh reality that Cookie Mangogna came to appreciate in the last couple of months. Her son’s girlfriend was in Ukraine when Russia invaded. She made it out and found her way to Mexico but couldn’t get into the US.
“She was suffering a lot. She lost her home; she lost a lot of things. And my son was very upset, he didn’t know whether she was going to survive. So, he decided to go down and rescue her,” said Mangogna.
Her son drove to the border of Tijuana and convinced the folks at the border his girlfriend was his fiance. Once in the United States, they drove to Las Vegas and got married.
Mangogna said she’s grateful her new daughter-in-law will get to live the American dream, and what better way to celebrate than on July Fourth.
“To see what she came from and how she suffered, just to get to the border of Poland to get her freedom, how she traveled and had to go fight for food, had to go fight for water, didn’t know where her next meal was coming from. It made me see a different perspective of our freedom in America,” said Mangogna.