From Sara Comander, DBPA
For 29 years, the all-volunteer DeFuniak Business and Professional Association (DBPA) board of directors have sponsored and organized the annual July Fourth Celebration in DeFuniak Springs. Recently, the board of directors met to consider and discuss future options for the event.
Traditionally, the event’s opening ceremony, concert and fireworks display was held in the Lakeyard, which surrounds Lake DeFuniak. However, several years of excessive rain and other factors caused the water level in the lake to rise above the sidewalks and even cover the two pier walkways.
This allowed much less dry land and pushed the technicians that handle the fireworks display further up the bank under the canopy of the trees. The fireworks company deemed that to be unsafe for their technicians and for the crowds due to the fact that just one explosive charge being deflected by a tree limb could ricochet into the crowd and cause serious injury.
In response, the DBPA moved the event to Wee Care Park on Walton Road and made preparations to keep it there unless conditions in the Lakeyard changed. Wee Care Park offers open ball fields from which the fireworks could be launched without fear of tree line interference. The fenced-in park also keeps children off the streets and entertained by the large variety of playground equipment already in the park. The flat ground allowed the handicapped to attend the event and allowed lots of room for people to bring lawn chairs to supplement the bleachers near the stage.
Over the last six months or so, the water level in Lake DeFuniak has begun to recede and traditional outfalls have returned. The sidewalks around the lakeshore are accessible again and there is more dry land all around the lake. Of course, the existing healthy trees have continued to grow, too, so that must be reassessed. However, after discussion the DBPA board generally agreed that if water level continues to return to normal, they would try to hold next year’s event in the Lakeyard.
“It may be that a few of the trees will have to be trimmed or removed to ensure there is enough open space to launch the fireworks, but public safety has to be our first concern. That is why we moved the event in the first place. We could not take a chance on anyone, especially a child, getting hurt,” said DBPA President Sara Comander. “While the Lakeyard does not have all the amenities that Wee Care Park offers, we still like the idea of holding the celebration over Lake DeFuniak in the center of town. It is part of our tradition and our heritage.”
Comander stressed that they will need a lot of participation from the public and local businesses to help raise the $20,000 needed for a successful fireworks display and other event costs. “If people want to see fireworks over Lake DeFuniak again, they are going to have to help,” said Comander. “But if we work together and everyone helps just a little, we can have a wonder July Fourth Celebration for everyone to enjoy.” Anyone wanting to donate to the 2020 Fourth of July Celebration can send your donation to: DBPA, P. O. Box 219, DeFuniak Springs, FL 32435.