BRANDON — Local residents can celebrate America's birth with a dose of independence from surrounding big cities, thanks to two homegrown traditions: the Brandon Fourth of July Parade and an evening of fun and fireworks dubbed Brandon Blast.
The parade, which will feature about 100 units, will start at 10 a.m. Monday at Lumsden Road and Parsons Avenue. It will proceed north on Parsons, turn west on Robertson Street, cross Kings Avenue and wind down in the Publix parking lot at the west end of Robertson.
Sheriff's deputies will begin blocking traffic on Lumsden between Kings and Parsons at 7:30 a.m., said parade chairwoman Marie Cain. Units will start lining up in that stretch at 8 a.m. Motorists will be turned away from the parade route starting at 9 a.m.
While many suburbanites flock to Tampa, St. Petersburg or Lakeland to revel in Independence Day events, Brandon's celebration actually draws spectators from those cities each year, Cain said.
The Community Roundtable of Greater Brandon, which organizes the parade, decided to revert to the time and place Brandon residents have been accustomed to for decades after trying an evening procession closer to the Westfield Brandon Mall last year. Cain said a morning parade will allow time for family or church picnics before Brandon Blast starts at the mall.
This is the eighth year for Brandon Blast, an evening of food, live music and party attractions for children that will culminate in a professional fireworks display. Westfield will pick up the tab for fireworks this year, as it has for the past five years, said the mall's marketing director, Dawn Arvidson.
Other sponsors include Play 98.7, WQYK 99.9 and the St. Petersburg Times.
Activities will start at 5 p.m. in the mall's Restaurant Courtyard in front of the Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen. Organizers expect fireworks to begin at nightfall, around 9. In case of rain, the entire event will be held Tuesday, Arvidson said.
The Greater Brandon Community Foundation, which supports more than 50 local charities, will receive some proceeds from refreshment sales.
Based on the number of mall parking spaces filled, the July 4 fireworks event has drawn about 100,000 people to Westfield's retail center during its history, Arvidson said. She acknowledged that many more people watch the fireworks from surrounding vantage points.
This year's parade promises a bevy of floats and equine units, including the horse-drawn Wells Fargo stagecoach, a live symbol of the banking institution that recently merged with Wachovia.
"They're coming from California to do this for our parade," Cain said. "It really looks like the old wild West. … When I saw (a picture), I said, 'Oh, my gosh, kids are going to love that.' "
Miniature horses will pull carts and Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies will be on horseback. TECO and Rasmussen College are the parade's primary sponsors.
Before the parade kicks off, there is still much work to do. Cain said the parade marshal would mark the parade route with signs this week. She credited the parade's safety officer with working behind the scenes to comply with Homeland Security rules that have made holiday processions more difficult to pull off.
"It hasn't been a month or two of work," Cain said. "It's been a whole year of work."
Susan Marschalk Green can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.