Crowds return for Bonita Springs’ Star Spangled celebration


“It’s so normal” is what person after person said as about 5,000 people gathered in Riverside Park on Sunday night for the Star Spangled Bonita event on July 4th. There was live music, a golf cart parade and the city’s longest and most extravagant fireworks display.

Almost no one wore a mask. People were crowded into the park and its surroundings without worrying about being six feet apart. It was nothing like the social distancing people had known for a year and a half during the pandemic.

“Oh yeah, we’re so excited. We missed it last year, ”said Erica Sperber. “We’re so excited to be in the park because we mostly did beach stuff.”

Last year, the city canceled its annual festivities and instead hosted a fireworks show near the dog track for a limited number of people.

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As 7-year-old Camila Magaldi was unable to attend the festivities last year, she enjoyed the fireworks and parade on July 3rd, then came to Bonita to have fun again on July 4th. July.

“I look forward to the fireworks,” she said as she waited on the lawn dressed in red, white and blue.

Andra Josifov said it was her first time at the Bonita event and she was excited to get back to normal,

“I was very moved during the national anthem,” she said. “Oh my god, yeah, it feels good to be here again doing things.”

The town of Bonita didn’t approve the event until May, giving the five organizers of the Fourth of July festivities committee just six weeks to plan a festival that typically takes months of work. This forced them to make some changes.

“We weren’t going to have the big parade in the morning, but we still wanted a parade,” explained Michel Wilk, committee member.

So, they quickly organized city leaders, business owners and residents to participate in a golf cart glow parade. The short parade down Childers Street and along US 41 near Riverside Park featured 18 decorated and lighted golf carts.

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Senior committee member Bobbi Bird said the city wanted a smaller event so there weren’t any activities for children like there had been in previous years. The area behind the bandstand which in the past was full of water slides, inflatable houses and other carnival devices was empty. Bird said they used the money normally set aside to create a bigger and better fireworks show.

The committee members were so excited to see the huge turnout. It was so crowded that the park was packed, and the overflow found spaces in the parking lot near the tracks and in the park across the street.

“It’s great,” Bird said as she stood in the music booth looking out over the crowded park. “Look at the crowd. It’s a good turnout. People just log on. They hug each other. You can see the kids dancing and having a good time.

“Star Spangled Banner Bonita is back and we’re happy about it,” said Committee member Teri Lamaine. “We are really happy. It’s still weird. Everything is so new. Everyone feels normal. “

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