ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Thousands lined the streets along the 7.2-mile route starting at Coquina Beach and ending at the City Pier in Anna Maria on Friday for the Anna Maria Island Privateers Annual Fourth of July Parade.
Under warm and steamy skies, the parade went off without a hitch Friday morning, delighting flag waving spectators who came early with their coolers and kids to be a part of a iconic way to honor the nation's Independence Day, said Bob "Stitch" Dominas, incoming president of the Privateers.
"We had 125 parade entries this year, which included various kinds of floats," said Dominas, whose own float was filled with fun-loving, pirate-clad crewe members.
The Anna Maria Island Privateers
was established as a not-for-profit in 1971 by a small group of individuals interested in being a support group for needed Manatee County and island youth programs, according to the organization's website.
The charter goals were to promote activities for the betterment of youth, to render service to the community and to participate in area events.
The Privateers hold various activities throughout the year, including the Fourth of July parade, Christmas parade (complete with gifts for children), Snook Adams Kids Day with hot dogs, soda and games, and the Whitey Horton Golf Tournament to raise scholarship funds for local students furthering their education in whatever field they choose.
The floats for this year's Fourth of July parade began lining up around 8:30 a.m. at the north end of Coquina Beach and included everything from the huge Privateers' pirate ship to Mary Walsh and granddaughters, Jozlyn and Joleigh Walsh, in Mary's white, 2014 VW Beetle convertible, which was decked out in red, white and blue bunting.
"I moved to Bradenton Beach six months ago and just decided to be in the parade," Mary Walsh said. "My grandkids love to throw beads and candy to the crowd."
The large Campoamor family, some of whom now live in the Tampa area, has been coming to Anna Maria Island for vacations for 48 years and celebrated it Friday with a family float.
The Campoamors, who still have two homes on the Island, cherish Anna Maria so much that this year they went international, inviting an exchange student from Austria, Maggie Thallinger, 19, to experience her first July 4th celebration, as well as a group of family members from Spain.
"We don't have anything like this in Austria," Thallinger said. "It's fantastic."
Spanish family members included Marcos Arias, 11; Diego Quintana, 16; and Alberto and Anna Torres.
The entire international Campoamor group either painted their hair red, white and blue or donned USA colors to prove that on July 4th, everyone is an American, regardless of their citizenship.
Nancy LaMorie and Jan MacKenzie also drove a VW Beetle convertible in the parade and had a sign for "Hurricane Hank's Restaurant."
"The parade is a nice way to promote our local business," MacKenzie said.
That's exactly what Laura Gentle, Joey Pushies, Kathryn Nigrelli and Jennifer Pushies said they were doing when they drove Segways the entire seven miles in the parade. They were representing Segs By the Sea on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach.
"They are so easy to ride on that I didn't even know it was seven miles," Jennifer Pushies said.
Many along the parade route cheered Mark Coarsey with the Manatee County chapter of the national group, Fishing For Freedom.
"We are fighting for commercial and net fisherman's rights," said Coarsey, whose group has 68 Manatee County members and had several fishing boats in the parade.
One of the most popular parade participants Friday was Jim Berry, original owner of the Miss Cortez deep sea fishing fleet.
Now retired, Berry was driving a truck in the parade and pulling a Berry family float that included his daughter, Jamie, his grandson, Derek, and family and friends including Shannon Quinn, Beth Miller, Tony Demarco and Bruce and Lori Bailey, Jamie's brother and sister-in-law.
Jim Berry, who now lives in Westminster Towers, had a date for the July 4 event, Cynthia Green, who also lives at Westminster.
The smiling pair shared donuts as the parade began.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.