BRANDON— Residents expecting to see Fourth of July floats and marching bands at the usual place and time are in for a surprise this year.
In an effort to beat the heat and cause fewer traffic hangups, the Community Roundtable of Greater Brandon changed the time and location of Brandon's annual Fourth of July parade. For more than 25 years, the parade began at 10 a.m. and wound along Parsons Avenue and Robertson Street.
This year's parade will start at 6:30 p.m. and will take place around the Brandon Main Street property.
Comfort was a motivating reason for the time change, said roundtable president George May.
"At 6:30 it's cooler but the sun hasn't gone down, so there's still good light for a parade," May said. "Everybody I've talked to has loved the idea, especially those who usually walk the entire parade route. Our hope is we'll have more marching units and floats and less cars in the parade."
June Bryan, director of Let's Twirl!, a Brandon-based baton-twirling troupe, applauded the time change.
"It can be miserable," said Bryan, who brings more than 90 twirlers to the parade each year. "We get there at 8 a.m. but we sometimes have to wait three hours before the parade starts moving, and the heat and glaring sun are hard on the kids."
May said organizers chose the morning start time years ago in an attempt to avoid afternoon rainstorms.
"But 6:30 is late enough that we'll be past the rain," he said.
The roundtable wanted to switch the location to bring the parade closer to the Westfield Brandon Mall, where the Greater Brandon Community Foundation stages its annual Brandon Blast festival, which culminates in a fireworks display.
May said the roundtable also wanted to take advantage of the pedestrian-friendly, four-lane Brandon Parkway, which will allow for parking cars and plenty of room for a parade to pass.
In addition, moving the parade route to the currently undeveloped Brandon Main Street site will take it off the heavily traveled route it followed and away from Brandon Regional Hospital, where the parade impeded emergency traffic.
Mike Fencel, chief executive of Brandon Regional Hospital, said he favored the parade route change. "It will help us to ensure that access to the hospital is maintained at all times so it will achieve what we're looking for as well as the community's needs," Fencel said.
With the new route, the parade units will line up along Lumsden Road beginning at 4 p.m., May said. The parade will get under way at Lumsden Road and the Brandon Parkway. It will proceed along the parkway to Lakewood Drive, where May expects to set up the reviewing stand. The parade will continue north on Lakewood to Oakfield Drive, travel east and end at Pauls Drive.
Traditionally, the Brandon parade attracts crowds of about 50,000. May hopes that with the time and route change, this year's parade, which will take place on a Sunday, will draw 100,000 people.
Earlier mayor's race
In addition to adjusting the time and place of its annual parade, the Community Roundtable, composed of representatives from Brandon nonprofit organizations, has amended the rules for its annual honorary mayor's race in the hopes of attracting more candidates.
Traditionally, candidates can host fundraisers between June 1 and July 4. The candidate who raises the most money for his or her chosen charity becomes the honorary mayor of Brandon.
This year candidates can get a head start on fundraising by signing up golfers for the B. Lee Elam Seventh Annual Community Roundtable Honorary Mayor's Race Golf Tournament scheduled for March 27. Players can designate a mayoral candidate as the recipient of money.
Three residents are taking advantage of the bylaw change by announcing their candidacies early.
Lisa Rodriguez, marketing director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association, will raise money for the nonprofit group.
Sherrie Ngo is raising money for All Children's Specialty Care of Brandon and the Bloomingdale High School Band, which has been invited to perform in England.
And Rob Silver will raise money for the Greater Brandon Community Foundation's Angel Program, which helps residents facing medical crises.
"We're hoping this will help us get candidates to commit earlier instead of waiting until the last minute and putting together fundraisers that weren't always successful," May said.
Why name change?
The 52-year-old roundtable has undergone a number of other changes since May took office as president in September, starting with a name change to reflect the fact that the organization now welcomes community members and nonprofit representatives of any rank, not just presidents. The organization previously was called the Presidents' Roundtable of Greater Brandon.
"Previously, we were getting 10 to 15 people at our monthly meetings," he said. "Now we're getting 40 people. … I've been absolutely thrilled at the turnout."
D'Ann White can be reached at [email protected]