BRANDON — An effort to beat the heat last year by changing the time and route of Brandon's longtime Fourth of July parade led organizers to discover that, indeed, some like it hot.
Based on feedback to the parade's sponsor, the Community Roundtable of Greater Brandon, most people prefer the old path and morning start time than a revised route that began in the evening, said Marie Cain, the roundtable's parade committee chairwoman. So this year, the parade will revert to its traditional time and place.
Billed as Florida's biggest parade celebrating America's birth, the procession will sally forth at 10 a.m. July 4 from Lumsden Road and Parsons Avenue. It will march 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.
"We definitely know people want it back to the old route," Cain said. "We definitely heard that last year."
She said the planning committee chose this year's parade theme to reflect its deference to that preference.
"It's called 'Community Pride' this year," Cain said. "We wanted to let the community know we heard their opinions."
The grand marshal will be MacDill Air Force Base commander Col. Lenny J. Richoux.
Brandon's new honorary mayor, based on money raised for charity, also will be announced and expected to participate in the parade.
Cain said the number of parade units has held steady at about 100 the past three years, including last year's attempt to hold an evening parade closer to the Westfield Brandon mall, where nighttime fireworks were planned. The parade last year started at Brandon Parkway and Lakewood Drive.
The number of spectators appeared to be down, possibly because of rain, Cain said, but there were other complaints. Families, churches and veterans groups that traditionally schedule afternoon cookouts found the new time difficult.
Some people suggested that a daytime event is more "family friendly," with less likelihood of public alcohol consumption along the parade route. Parking last year also was limited, Cain said, and she noted that the roundtable incurred extra costs for security because of the time and location, though she couldn't pin a price tag to the increase.
She said organizers had to hire about 65 police officers last year because the parade was moved to the evening. In the past, off-duty officers have volunteered their time to secure the parade when it didn't interfere with their evening plans, Cain said.
Last year's organizers thought an evening event would dovetail with the annual fireworks display, making a more convenient celebration for most people, Cain said. But she said some Brandon parade-goers come from Lakeland and Tampa, then take in fireworks in their own back yards, which made the evening parade inconvenient for them.
The 2010 route also was intended to move congestion away from Brandon Regional Hospital.
Officials at the hospital were lukewarm to news of the return to the old route.
"While we are supportive of our community celebrating the Fourth of July with its annual parade, returning to the traditional parade route presents a greater challenge for patients, physicians and other providers having access to our hospital during the parade," said Mike Fencel, chief executive of Brandon Regional Hospital.
Barbara Patrick, who runs Patrick's Patriots twirling program in Brandon, Plant City and Lakeland, said she brought about 25 performers to last year's parade. The group endured a heavy downpour and tiny audience but finally left the parade when lightning threatened.
"There was no one there [along the route] for a long, long way," Patrick said, recalling last year's event. "We would like to see it change just because there were no people."
Jay Paules, a co-owner of Campbell's Dairyland at Parsons and Robertson, said he will be glad to see the parade return "to where it ought to be." The procession for more than 20 years turned the corner in front of the family-owned eatery.
Paules said Campbell's typically sees a spike in business before and after the parade, but that's not the main reason he welcomes the parade back.
"It almost doesn't seem like the Fourth of July when it's somewhere else," he said. "It's all about the kids. Most adults … have a kid in each hand."
Few communities celebrate America's independence with an event like Brandon's, Paules said.
"Brandon has still kind of got a country, hometown type of feel to it, and this is one of the last bastions of that."