St. Petersburg celebrates Independence Day with a bang

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St. Petersburg invites everyone downtown to let freedom ring Wednesday, July 4, for a fun-filled, family-friendly show of  independence, topped off by a fireworks extravaganza over Tampa Bay. Some of the activities that will make your day sparkle include:

*Historic Old Northeast Neighborhoods’ Independence Day Children’s Parade – 10 to 11:30 a.m., Coffee Pot Park at 30th Ave. N.E.  Kids parade through St. Petersburg’s oldest neighborhood on festively decorated bikes led by an engine from St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue. Free.  www.honna.org

*Independence Day at The Pier – Noon to 11 p.m., fireworks at approx. 9 p.m. (weather permitting), 800 Second Ave. N.E. A full day of free, family-friendly Fourth of July fun including face and body painting (minimal cost); live music in the Courtyard by the Bay; Fritz, from Fritzy Bros. One Man Circus; “George Washington;” an interactive music/dance video station with free DVDs for each participant; and watch the skies light up over the Bay with the city’s huge fireworks display around 9 p.m., weather permitting. The Pier shops and restaurants will be open beginning at 10 a.m. www.stpetepier.com

*Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees – 3:10 p.m., Tropicana Field, One Tropicana Dr. The Rays celebrate Independence Day by winding up a three-game series with the Yankees. The USO Liberty Bells, made up of Broadway and off-Broadway professionals, treat fans to patriotic pre-game and seventh-inning stretch performances while Outlaw 21 hosts a live concert in the Gate 7 concourse prior to the game. Tickets may be limited. 1-888-FAN-RAYS or www.raysbaseball.com

*Miss Florida’s Outstanding Teen Pageant Preliminary – 4 p.m., The Mahaffey, 400 First St. S. Thirty talented teen titleholders from across the state display poise and public service as they compete in talent, evening gown, and leisure wear categories in anticipation of Saturday’s crowning of Miss Florida’s Outstanding Teen 2012.  Tickets, www.ticketmaster.com or the Mahaffey Theater Box Office, 727-892-5798.

*Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers – 6:30 p.m., Al Lang Stadium, 230 First St. S. The Rowdies take on cross-state rivals Fort Lauderdale during an Independence Day match featuring a live pre-game performance in the Rowdies Fan Zone by the USO band NBL Trio. Following the game, head onto the field for the city’s annual fireworks display over the Bay around 9 p.m., weather permitting. Advance sale tickets are only $10. 813-287-1539 or www.rowdiessoccer.com

*Museum of Fine Arts Fourth of July – 6:30 p.m., 255 Beach Dr. The Museum continues its July 4th tradition by offering a front row seat for the city’s fireworks extravaganza, complete with a gourmet barbecue picnic, cold drinks and live music inside the Conservatory. Guests can also tour the Museum’s current exhibit Global+Local: Studio and Contemporary Glass on Florida’s West Coast. The event normally is a sell-out.  Museum members $36; Non-members $45.  Call 727-896-2667, ext. 258 or 727-822-1032 for reservations.

Wherever you celebrate the holiday and however you get there, you’ll find plenty of places to park along St. Petersburg’s waterfront.  All parkers, regardless of their mode of transportation, are urged to park in legal parking spaces, observe posted parking regulations and avoid blocking streets with their vehicles. Also, please exercise patience and leave enough travel time as traffic will be heavy during this popular event.

Covered Parking – All city-owned parking facilities will charge a holiday event rate of $10, including South Core parking garage (enter from First Ave. S. between First and Second St.) or the Mahaffey Garage (enter from First St. at Third Ave. N. or from Fifth Ave. S., east of First St.). Both facilities offer accessible disabled parking. Trailer message signs will direct drivers to available parking.

Metered Parking – Participants attending Independence Day festivities downtown are encouraged to locate long-term parking in an off-street lot or garage. Metered on-street parking is available for those with short-term parking needs.  Meters cost $1 per hour and motorists can enroll in the city’s ParkMobile program that allows you to pay the meter from your cell phone. Find out more at www.parkmobile.com.

Ride Your Bike – Whether it’s powered by pedals or a motor, St. Petersburg offers plenty of parking for bikes and motorcycles along the waterfront.  Find a permanent bicycle rack or take advantage of special event bicycle parking on Bayshore Dr. N.E., along the North Bay Trail between Second and Fifth Aves. N. Limited motorcycle parking is also available in the North Shore ball field parking lot, 901 North Shore Dr. N.E.

Accessible parking for the disabled is available in all city-owned parking facilities. Additional temporary on-street disabled parking is located along portions of Beach Dr. and the North Shore ball field parking lot, 901 North Shore Dr. N.E. and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Take the Trolley – The St. Petersburg Trolley operates on its weekend Looper schedule on July 4, with service from 10 a.m. to midnight with free fares from 5 p.m. to midnight. Independence Day celebrants should note that service will be suspended during, and shortly after, the city’s fireworks extravaganza. For a map showing the St. Petersburg Trolley route and downtown parking locations, visit www.stpetetrolley.com.

The Central Avenue Shuttle will also be operating on July fourth. Fees range from free to .50 per person from The Pier to the Grand Central District’s 31st St. hub. Visit www.psta.net for schedule information.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.