Parade, food, fun, guv'na to spark town's Fourth
By BILL COATS
Published June 29, 2007
Shirley Simmons has organized Lutz's Independence Day parade for so many years that she has developed keen intuition about how it will turn out. For next week, Simmons' sixth sense is whispering: "big."
Such forecasting can be dicey. Lutz's July Fourth parade is truly democratic: Anybody can join in. Simmons asks that they register with her first, but she doesn't require it. Spontaneity happens.
Simmons knows the parade won't be bloated with politicians because this isn't an election year. But July 4 does fall on a Wednesday.
"Being in the middle of the week, it should be a good turnout, " she said. "People can't go off for a long weekend. They have to stay and work the rest of the week."
Simmons is thinking there may be 85 to 90 units. Early registrants include Boy Scouts and belly dancers. Big churches and small churches. Veterans and re-enactors. Preschools and banks.
Lutz's big small-town parade is the highlight of a battery of traditional activities held in Lutz's 95-year-old downtown. The 10 a.m. parade is preceded by a regionally popular 5K footrace and 1-mile fun run. It's followed by a firefighters' barbecue and the naming of the new guv'na of Lutz.
The day begins and ends with cake.
Entries for the community cake-baking contest must be delivered by 7:30 a.m. Judges, including county Commissioner Ken Hagan and state Rep. Kevin Ambler, get their tastes before the parade. The cakes are auctioned in the day's final official event.
A new guv'na is named after the parade ends and last-minute dollars are tallied. The winner becomes Lutz's mock chief of state as the result of a fundraising competition to benefit community groups.
By tradition, it's a whimsical role. The guv'na is sworn in using Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham and the only official responsibility is to light the community Christmas tree in December.
But the money raised - more than $160, 000 over the past 16 years - has been a godsend for nonprofit efforts like the historic Old Lutz School and the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department.
Three candidates are competing to replace Edwina Kraemer, who raised $6, 146 last year to become guv'na. They are Annie Fernandez, Michele Northrup and Nancy Rehling. They have raised money through barbecues, carwashes, auctions, dinners, a fashion show and a bluegrass dance.
Throughout Wednesday's celebration, children's crafts and pony rides will be available. Sales and information booths will be staffed by civic groups and businesses.
The best parade units will be recognized with trophies from judges - if the judges can apprehend the paraders.
That can depend on whether the front units hang around while the final ones are still parading, and whether any winners turn out to be unregistered surprises.
Simmons has learned to accommodate such free spirits with a sigh.
"I do mark off a few spots at the end for them, " she said.
She could never turn them away, not on a day when we celebrate freedom and independence.
"Apparently, some places charge to be in their parade, " Simmons said. "Wouldn't that be awful?"
Bill Coats can be reached at 813 269-5309 or email@example.com.
If you go
Want to take part on the Fourth?
Runners can save up to $5 by registering online for the Lutz Independence Day Run. Go to active.com and follow the prompts for running. Then use the search function for Lutz Independence Day Run.
Cake bakers are asked to bring their entries to the Lutz Senior Center by 7:30 a.m. July 4 to avoid race and parade traffic. If the cakes don't need refrigeration, they can be left on July 3, between 3 and 5 p.m., at the Lutz Branch Library.
Parade participants are asked to call Shirley Simmons at 949-7060 or Auralee Buckingham at 949-7481 to sign up and receive a flier.
Booths can be rented until July 4 by calling Phyllis Hoedt at 949-1937.