People who like to run, enjoy mingling with friends or are attracted to an old-fashioned, small-town parade found all that and more at the Independence Day celebration on the Fourth of July in Lutz.
The community, just north of Tampa, is known for its traditional Independence Day celebrations, and once again, it delivered.
Carmen Rairigh, of Lutz, was there with a group of about 40 people, including family members and friends.
They settled in at the corner of First Avenue N.W. and Second Street N.W.
It’s a prime spot because it’s at a turn in the parade route, and is a great place to catch candy, beads, cups and other parade swag.
“A lot of us go to First Baptist (Church of) Lutz,” Rairigh said, adding they thought it’d be fun to watch the parade together.
There were kids in the group who attend Lutz Preparatory School, Steinbrenner and Freedom high schools, Terrace Community Middle School and Learning Gate Community School. Some of the kids are home-schooled, too.
“We’re here to celebrate America’s birthday,” Rairigh said, adding it’s especially fun to go to the Lutz parade.
“It’s like a small-town feel. You always, always, always see people you know. You can’t necessarily say you can do that at the Gasparilla Parade (in Tampa).
“We see people every single time,” she said.
Parade participants ranged from scouts carrying flags, to kids riding bicycles, to belly dancers shimmying down the street.
Lots of people in the parade were clearly having a great time, including Rosie Heim, the newly elected honorary mayor of Land O’ Lakes.
Heim waved to friends and onlookers from the back of a convertible being driven by Suzanne Beauchaine, of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce.
Both women smiled broadly, as they made their way down the parade route.
Some parade watchers stood under the blazing sun. Others settled on lawn chairs, shaded by ancient oaks.
Wendi Meyers, of Land O’ Lakes, came to see her dad, Maj. Steve Gay, squadron commander of the of the North Tampa-Lutz Cadet Squadron of the civil air patrol. He was marching in the parade.
Meyers and her 5-year-old daughter, Ayla, had to wait quite some time to see Gay, but when they did, he flashed them a huge smile and a wave.
As people passed by throwing beads, Linda Voyton, of Lutz, encouraged them to toss them a bit farther.
“Get an arm, get an arm. You’ve got to throw harder than that,” Voyton said.
“Big arm. Big arm. Throw hard. Throw hard,” she urged another bunch of bead throwers.
Voyton, who was at the parade for the first time, was accompanied by her 7-year-old grandson, Jayden Beezer, and her daughter, Nina Beezer.
As a group of U.S. Army Retired veterans rode by on motorcycles, Voyton expressed her appreciation. “Thank you for your service,” she shouted.
The parade attracted most of the crowd’s attention, but there were other aspects of the event, as well, including a baking competition and auction, a train show, races before the parade, vendors and the election of a new Lutz Guv’na.
Twenty-one-year-old Kori Rankin raised the most money, winning the title of Lutz Guv’na for 2017.
She defeated Lutz Guv’na incumbent Greg Gilbert, of Beef O’ Brady’s, and Jessica Sherman, of Pinch A Penny Lutz, to win the title.
All together, the candidates raised $7,000, which will be used to support Lutz community groups.
Rankin isn’t the first member in her family to win the coveted sash. Her stepmother, Jennifer Rankin, won the honorary title in 2015.
Published July 12, 2017