Okeechobee’s community Independence Day celebration, planned for Saturday, July 6, at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center, will include a homemade boat race, food, games and, of course, fireworks.
At their June 13 meeting, the Okeechobee County commissioners agreed to waive the fees for use of the Agri-Civic Center for the free, community event.
Event organizers Sgt. Michael Hazellief, representing the Fraternal Order of Police, and J.D. Mixon, representing the Adam Bryant Minimal Regatta, were at the Thursday meeting to make the request.
Sgt. Hazellief said this year, they decided to make the annual Adam Bryant Minimal Regatta part of the Independence Day celebration.
“We pride ourselves in the fact that we have an alcohol-free community event,” said Sgt. Hazellief.
He said that historically, they have tried putting on the event during the week on the actual Fourth of July and they have tried moving it to the closest weekend day. He said they found more community members could participate if it is on a weekend.
“So we try to do it on the closest day on the weekend,” he said.
The celebration is a free community event. There is no admission fee and there are no fees to participate in the contests such as the watermelon eating contest.
If you participate in the regatta (which raises money for a local charity) there are some entry fees, he added.
“It’s a free event, and that is important to so many in our community who cannot afford to go away for the holiday,” said Sgt. Hazellief.
“You put a lot of time and effort into the event for a lot of people,” said County Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs. “It provide a good opportunity for people to enjoy something free.”
He said he noted there have been some complaints on social media because the celebration is not going to be on July 4. He added that community members can shoot off their own fireworks on the Fourth.
Of historical note, the final signature on the Declaration of Independence was on July 6, said Sgt. Hazellief, so holding the celebration on July 6 is still honoring the country’s Independence Day.
The celebration schedule for Saturday, July 6 is:
• 1 p.m. — Regatta boat and captain check-in;
• 3 p.m. — Fun and games open for the public;
• 3:45 p.m. — Regatta captains meeting;
• 4 p.m. — Regatta races start. Races should last until around 6:30.
The Minimal Regatta homemade boat race started in 2011 to honor the late Adam Bryant, and give families and friends an opportunity to come together and build their own memories.
Registration fee is $50 per boat, which includes the cost of boat building supplies.
Participants must build their boats from one 4-by-8-foot sheet of quarter-inch luan plywood, 24 inches of 2x4s, one 50-yard roll of duct tape and one pound of screws, and paint. No caulking, urethane or adhesives of any kind may be used.
For more information, call J.D. Mixon at 863-800-0196 with registration or event questions or go online to okeechobee.simplerace.com or forokeechobee.com.