This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Independence Day is on people’s minds as Fourth of July approaches. Beaches in St. Johns and Flagler counties will have full lifeguard contingents for what is expected to be a busy weekend. AAA is estimating about 48 million Americans, including 2.6 million Floridians, will be making a trip over the weekend. AAA says that is the second-highest number ever to travel on the Fourth. And to prove what a difference a year makes and the easing of coronavirus restrictions, air travel will be up 164 percent over last year.
Expect more rain for the weekend although that’s not going to stop firework displays. Tropical storm Elsa has been upgraded to Hurricane Elsa but as Putnam County Emergency Management notes the storm is at least four days out.
A cyber tip from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children via Google led to the arrest of a St. Johns County man for 13 counts of possession of child pornography. Donnie W. Pearce turned himself in to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, after the serving of a search warrant led to questioning of residents of a house where he stayed and where 15 electronic devices were seized and examined. The investigation is continuing, say officials.
In Palatka, the fire marshal is investigating the cause of a house fire Thursday near the corner of St. Johns Avenue and Moseley Avenue. Firefighters from Palatka and Putnam County were called out shortly after 5:45 p.m. The house occupant escaped and the fire was reported mostly contained to a back bedroom. The wooden house is in a heavily built residential neighborhood.
Because July Fourth falls on Sunday, government offices, banks and many businesses will be taking Monday off. In Palatka that means no garbage pickup on Monday and no trash pickup for the week. St. Augustine government offices will be closed but garbage pickup will happen on Monday.
Flagler County will be celebrating the Fourth on July 3 with two big events. At the Flagler County Executive Airport in Bunnell Saturday the free annual Freedom Fest will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and showcases a variety of historic and modern aircraft. Several bands will be playing. In Palm Coast the traditional Central Park Independence Day picnic begins at 5 p.m. with fireworks scheduled for dusk.
Two big celebrations in Putnam County with Interlachen holding events on Saturday and Palatka on Sunday. In both cities events will begin at 5 p.m. Interlachen won’t hold fireworks this year but will offer events beginning at 5 p.m. with a Ram Fun Run and Walk followed by a bike race, children’s games and a street dance at Dowda Park. At 7:15 p.m. there’s a ceremony honoring veterans and the late Robert H. Jenkins Jr., who received the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. Palatka will be celebrating the Fourth Sunday at the riverfront park. Local bands are featured as well as other entertainment and food vendors. Fireworks are scheduled to go off after dark.
Fireworks Over the Matanzas is back this year in St. Augustine. The All-Star Orchestra kicks off the evening at 6 p.m. with a two-hour concert of Big Band Music with a Patriotic Flair in the Plaza de la Constitucion gazebo downtown. At 9:30 a massive fireworks display will begin on the Matanzas River. Bridge of Lions is closed. There is limited parking with no satellite parking or shuttle service this year although the Visitor Parking Garage is open. Street closures will be set up afterward to help direct traffic out of town.
Sunday on WPLK/WIYD enjoy a two-hour patriotic program from 8 to 10 p.m. All in all, it’s shaping up to be a glorious Fourth of July and a great day to put up an American flag.