With enough planning, your Fourth of July can hopefully be a fun and festive holiday.
Whether you’re headed to the Plant City Stadium for the annual Fourth of July festivities or planning on having a celebratory day at home, there are a few key tips and tricks to ensure you have a safe and fun Independence Day.
Veteran attendees of Plant City’s July 4th Celebration, which is sponsored by the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce and coordinated by the City of Plant City Recreation & Parks Department, know that timing is everything when it comes to having a smooth transition into an evening of fun.
Thousands flock each year to the event and if you don’t plan for traffic, you’ll more than likely find yourself in a losing battle against a ticking clock. The parking lot gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the stadium gates open at 6 p.m. The fireworks are scheduled for 9:15 p.m., so if you want to come enjoy the unique activities on the field, get there well before 9 p.m. Admission to the event is free and parking is $5 a car.
Bags will be searched at the entrance and no outside food or drinks are allowed in. There will be inflatables, face painting, bungee jumping, rock climbing, balloon art, cornhole, kids’ crafts and more fun strewn around the stadium turf.
Many families come with blankets and spread out on the edge of the field while their kids run around enjoying the games. Others load up on the grub from the various food vendors on the turf and the concession stands at the stadium.
As the afternoon stretches into the evening, the lines for many of the more popular activities begin to stretch, so the earlier you arrive you less patience you’ll need. There is also a 50-50 drawing during the event that will be split between the winner and the event for future expenses. Solaris will perform live music on the diamond. Several festive attendees will more than likely dust off their dancing shoes and do a few twirls with their friends and family.
Once darkness finally falls, everyone will be shepherded off the field and into the stands. The National Anthem will be performed at 9 p.m., announcements will be made and then the 20-minute firework show is set to begin.
If you’re coming just for the fireworks, know in advance the commute could be quite stressful. For several miles in either direction from the stadium, cars will be pulled off to the side of the road as families stop to watch the show. The majority of the attendees come in right before the first firework lights up the sky so prepare for a line, though it does normally move quickly.
If you’re attending the event, parking is only available in the stadium parking lot. Police will be spread throughout the area and, to ensure pedestrians’ safety, there will be no parking near the complex including portions of Park Road, Jim Johnson Road, Roberts Ranch Road and Gordon Food Service Drive. However, further out, the roadways will be lined with parked vehicles.
Once the show is complete, traffic will flow in designated one-way routes onto East Park Road and Gordon Food Service Drive.
The City has held the event for years. Originally it ran from 2002 to 2007, but in 2008 it was shelved due to a lack of funding. However, four years later, there were enough sponsors to bring it back and this year marks the 14th annual show.
“We are extremely proud of our community,” Director of Recreation & Parks for the City of Plant City Jack Holland said. “When the need arises, they always step forward and make it happen. Without their support through financial, volunteer or in-kind assistance, this event would not happen.”
The rainout day for the event is July 5 with fireworks at 9 p.m. There will be no activities for the backup date.
It’s one of the most elaborate events the city holds each year and the fireworks can be seen from all edges of the city.
If you choose to try your hand at amateur fireworks in your back yard, common sense goes a long way toward ensuring there are no accidents that send you or your loved ones to the emergency room.
Phantom Fireworks, a leading firework seller, recommends adults take the reins and handle every aspect of setting up and lighting the flammable toys. All fireworks should be assembled on a hard, level surface, especially if the firework is tall and produces a thrust upon ignition. Grass, gravel and sand are not ideal and if you have no other option, Phantom recommends putting a strong piece of plywood down to use as the foundation for the launch.
If you’re lighting a fountain or other ground-based items, there is a minimum clear distance of 35 feet required to ensure safety. Aerial items need 150 feet of space. Phantom also encourages users to use extended butane lighters, a Phantom Pyro-Torch or other large extended lighting devices to spark the fuse so you aren’t putting your hand and the flame right next to the firework.
If it’s stormy weather and the wind is beginning to whip up, know that lighting a firework may result in it boomeranging and coming straight back toward you. Wait for the wind to subside or monitor its direction and plan launches accordingly. If you plan on lighting up in your back yard, have a designated “fireman” on standby with a bucket of water or a hose in case things go south.
If you find you have extra fireworks lying around, store them in cool, dry places away from children. You can dispose of them by thoroughly soaking them with water and then sealing them in a metal trash container outdoors.
Pet owners have their own stresses throughout the week before, during and after July 4. The spontaneous noise from neighbors setting off fireworks often evokes major anxiety among pets, especially dogs.
The ASPCA found through a variety of studies that more dogs run away in July than in any other month of the year. This could be because of the firework stresses, the abundance of parties that offer escape attempts or other factors. However, the American Humane Association reported that July 5 is always the busiest day of the year for animal shelters.
As fun as the festivities may be, it’s crucial you think about your furry pals at home before you plan your holiday parties. PetMD recommends keeping pets indoors at all times, even if the pet is used to being outside. Loud noises cause anxiety in pets who may break their restraints or jump a fence in an attempt to flee to safety.
If you’re going to a fireworks display or to a party at a friend’s house, leave your pet secured in your home. Don’t attempt to take it with you to the festivities. Strangers, loud noises and an unfamiliar environment could cause it to bolt.
Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and identification. It’s better to be prepared for the worst. If your pet does escape, having your phone number or address will help ensure they can be returned to you safely if found. One major help is microchipping your pet, which can be done at an affordable rate thanks to deals held at a variety of vet clinics and animal rescues throughout the country. Take the time to have a recent picture of your pet as well so you can show others or place signs up in the event they run away.
Pets don’t understand the danger associated with sparkling and glowing fireworks. They may charge or get too close, so don’t have an animal outside if you’re lighting them up in your backyard.
The American Veterinary Medical Association also recommends considering your pet’s personality well before the holiday. If they routinely become anxious, it may benefit to consider behavioral therapy. Some pets need medication to help reduce stress during the holiday. Your veterinarian will know what’s best for your pet.
Blocking outside sights and sounds may also help lower the anxiety. Turn on the television or some music, lower the blinds and, if the animal is crate trained, consider locking them in and putting a blanket over it to help them feel secure. If you’re staying home, speaking soothingly and spending time with your pet can help keep them calm.
With enough planning this Fourth of July should be a stress-free and festive event for everyone in town. Keep an eye on the weather and make sure you plan for what’s best for you and your family.