The Fourth of July in Manatee County is always about fireworks, hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecue, a car show or two, sail and motor boats, feet dangling in the water and, of course, the annual karaoke contest in Palmetto.
The Karaoke Classic Contest sponsored by the city of Palmetto has been held every year for four years during the city’s Independence Day celebration and this year it drew 400, just part of a crowd of thousands that also enjoyed rock-climbing, bungee jumping and classic cars under clear but very humid skies.
Similar celebrations were held elsewhere in the county, including Bradenton’s July Fourth Block Party downtown, which led to Bradenton’s and Palmetto’s spectacular and stirring fireworks along the Manatee River at dark.
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On Anna Maria Island, the Privateers held a Fourth of July Parade that ran from Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach to Pine Avenue in the city of Anna Maria.
Sarasota’s Samuel Colt Miller, 34, who grew up in Texas listening to Texas alternative rock bands like The Toadies, took Palmetto’s first place prize of $1,000 and a three-song studio demo when he rocked out to the Toadies’ 1990s song, “Possum Kingdom.”
“The judges liked his personality on stage,” said Jennifer Peterson of Sounds Unlimited, one of the sponsors of the event.
Miller, an artist who works for the Tattoo Promotion Factory in Sarasota that makes temporary tattoos that go in cereal boxes, said he wasn’t sure the crowd would like “Possum Kingdom,” which speaks of a failed relationship, but apparently the crowd, trying to forget a slumping economy, responded to its grunge era agonies.
“It’s exciting to win,” Miller said. “I would love to be in a band, but I don’t have the time since I’m a full time father to my 10-year-old son, Ethan, so the next best thing is to sing karaoke at Captain Curt’s on Siesta Key.”
Said Ethan, “Gee dad, now you can buy me a lot of mini skateboards.”
Second place and $350 plus a private karaoke party went to Dana Lewis with “It Hurts So Bad.” Steve Bryant’s “My Girl” took third and Lori Hicks’ “At Last” grabbed fourth.
Pat and Charlie Titus of Bradenton, were two of the 400 onlookers to the contest. They said they enjoy just listening to the music and taking in the sights.
“We come over here every Fourth for the food and entertainment,” Pat Titus said from her folding chair. “And, today, we got a beautiful day.”
A former fireman in Bloomington, Ind., Charlie Titus was thinking of his love for America as he watched the many moms and dads with kids enjoy being in downtown Palmetto, near the Manatee River.
“I think patriotic thoughts today,” Charlie Titus said. “We are fortunate to have the freedoms we do when you think what is going on in other parts of the world.”
Bradenton’s Stephanie LaChance, 18, who didn’t win the karaoke, perhaps had the most loyal fan club. Her grandmother, Julia Bosshardt, of Tara Golf & Country Club, sat in the front row of the karaoke pavilion along with Tara friends, Betty Lawson, Gloria DeVries and Eleanor Rothmann.
“I would like to sing country professionally,” said LaChance, who sang “Inside Your Heaven,” by Carrie Underwood, who is her hero.
Speaking of feet dangling in the water, that was the picture farther west in the county as Sue Hall and her husband, Stan, set up their folding chairs in Palma Sola Causeway.
The Halls, like many in Manatee, decided at noon not to battle the nearly bumper-to-bumper traffic, over to the beaches.
“We went to Holmes Beach and it was packed,” Sue Hall said. “So, we figured, ‘Why not come out here. It’s relaxing and there’s no parking problem.”
The Halls, who live in Trailer Estates some of the year, were winding up a 50th wedding anniversary celebration that started a few weeks ago in the Bahamas and ended up on Palma Sola Causeway.
About the economy: Unfortunately, the news wasn’t good for the holiday.
David Stoler, who had set up his mobile hot dog stand in Palma Sola, gave a thumb’s down sign when asked how was he doing.
“I’ve been selling hot dogs in Bradenton for 15 years and this is the worst time ever,” he said. “I’m embarrassed to tell you how many hot dogs I’ve sold today.”
Pat Klamp, who runs a company called Vertical Adventure that set up the rock wall and a bungee machine in Palmetto, said she felt bad for her fellow vendors in downtown Palmetto, who weren’t doing quite as well as she was.
“Other vendors I talk to tell me business is 30 to 50 percent down this Fourth,” Klamp said. “People always have money for their children, which is why my husband and I realized that the rock wall and bungee would be a good thing 11 years ago. People cater to their kids. Parents we saw today were thinking, ‘We’ll go without eating so our kids can jump on the bungee and have a good July 4.”