BRADENTON BEACH -- Bursts of color filled the sky Thursday night over Bradenton Beach.
Just after dark, hundreds of beachgoers fixed their attention on a public fireworks show by Orlando's Creative Pyrotechnics. The $20,000 display dotted the sky above the beach with plenty of pops, patterns and colored smoke as part of an annual event by the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf
Dr. N., Bradenton Beach.
The fireworks were welcomed after light drizzle threatened to dampen the festive mood at the beach. Rain poured down soon after the last spark fizzled out in the sky.
For Nivia Wilkinson, 36, it was her first time watching a fireworks display on Anna Maria Island.
A few hours before sunset, the stay-at-home mom sat peacefully on a beach chair with her husband, 41-year-old Dominick Wilkinson. Their three daughters were nearby.
"We've lived all over the world but there's nowhere that compares to sitting at the beach and watching the fireworks," she said.
Her husband, a communications specialist for the U.S. Army, threw his hands out.
"This is Florida!" he said.
Bradenton resident Charles Beckham, his wife, Robin, and her sister, Debbie Arnold, said they wanted to attend the fireworks Thursday night instead of July Fourth.
"It'll be crazy (Friday)," the 58-year-old said.
The Beckhams said they have seen fireworks everywhere ranging from Lakeland to Tennessee to Illinois. But the experience is different on Anna Maria Island, they said.
"It's paradise," Robin said.
Farther down on Bradenton Beach, 25-year-old Dustin Burch relaxed beside his father, Brent Burch, and his girlfriend's brother, Jordan Jones.
"This is the prettiest sunset I've ever seen in my life," said the assembler from Kentucky.
Burch said he has seen fireworks all over the United States He's even made his own.
"The best fireworks I ever got was from an AC unit guy that fixed an AC," he said, a smile creeping up on his face. "It was accidental -- but it was good."
Two medium-sized American flags were planted in the sand before the trio.
"We're American as they can get out here," he said. "I guarantee you that."
Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.