Red, White & Blues week, July 4-14, 2018, is without a doubt one of the best times of year to be in Pensacola. For my money, it’s the highlight of the summer. Not only can you watch in awe as the world famous Blue Angels perform feats of aerial wonder, but you can also enjoy a variety of fun, All-American celebrations leading up to the big air show. The festivities are family-friendly and, best of all, most events are free.
This year, the festivities begin on Tuesday, July 3, at Bands on the Beach. Every Tuesday during the summer, Bands on the Beach showcases a musical act from around the region for a free concert from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Gulf side Pavilion at Casino Beach. Taking to the stage, Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs feature a 10- to-12-piece band that bring a diverse repertoire of music to the Gulf Coast all the way from Natchitoches, La. Playing everything from rock and R&B to funk and country, this show band will have the crowd dancing and singing along to familiar favorites.
At Bands on the Beach, spectators fill the sand and sidewalks in front of the pavilion, usually with lawn chairs and blankets. Bring your own food and drink for a memorable picnic dinner. Just be sure to leave glass and pets at home (they’re not allowed).
Next up, Independence Day itself. If you’re still at the beach, turn your attention to Quietwater Beach on the Santa Rosa Sound. At 8:30 p.m. bursts of reds, blues and greens begin to light up the sky in celebration.
My friend Greg Threadgill works with Pyro Shows, the company providing fireworks for the beach show, and he has shot fireworks professionally in Pensacola since 1999. “Viewers will be amazed and dazzled by choreographed fireworks shot over the beach,” he says. “Any of the restaurants with water views along Quietwater Beach or the Boardwalk – The Grand Marlin, Hemingway’s, Red Fish Blue Fish, and Flounders, for example – would be a great place to watch the show.”
If you plan to spend the 4th of July in Pensacola or Perdido Key, check out the festivities happening in Downtown Pensacola. For nearly the past 40 years, Sertoma Clubs of Pensacola have hosted the fireworks display over Pensacola Bay, said to be one of the largest on the Gulf Coast. This year is expected to be every bit as fabulous, beginning at 11 a.m. with an all-day party in Old Seville. Free children’s activities include inflatables, a rock climbing wall, face painting and pony rides. There is a hot dog eating contest at noon. Arrive early (and hungry) to sign up! Other food vendors, as well as arts and crafts vendors, are on hand throughout the day. Bring lawn chairs and enjoy live music acts, too. Events take place in Seville Square, Fountain Park and Bartram Park. Complete details and parking information are available at pensacolafireworks.com.
At 7:30 p.m., patriotic music will fill the air at Hunter Amphitheater at Community Maritime Park, courtesy of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. The free Symphony Sparks & Stars show will entertain crowds at the waterfront venue, culminating with the presentation of fireworks at 9 p.m. This event is sure to delight the senses, and what a special tribute to the birth of our nation!
Cars typically line Bayfront Parkway for the fireworks show. The best advice I can give you is to arrive early and be patient with the traffic. Everyone wants to have a fun 4th of July, and there are many ways to enjoy it in Pensacola.
Next on the docket is Pensacola's largest holiday of the year: Red, White & Blues week. Locals and visitors from all over look forward to the annual Pensacola Beach Air Show held in the summer. The show highlights our hometown heroes — the Blue Angels — the U. S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron stationed at Forrest Sherman Field aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Blues hold several practice sessions along the beach in the days leading up to the big event on Saturday. On Wednesday, July 11, the Blues take to the skies at 8 a.m. over Casino Beach. Grab a spot at the infamous Casino Beach Bar & Grill and order up brunch.
Thursday, the Blues take back to the skies at 2 p.m. for a practice flight demonstration. Locally, this day is known as the wives show. With the Blues traveling year round for shows, often times their loved ones have to stay behind and therefore don't get to see them perform. Each year, they honor their wives with a luncheon at Crabs on the Beach which serves as the starting point for the practice flight demonstration. From a distance, it looks like the planes are going to fly right into the restaurant! Anywhere along the neighboring beach is a great place to view the practice.
Friday serves as full dress rehearsal day. Civilian acts take to the skies beginning at noon with the Blues flying at 2 p.m. This day is a great day to see the show without all of the crowds. Saturday's schedule is the same but be prepared to arrive early and leave late due to the crowds. Most locals prefer to view the show by water, so find a boat and go for a float! Until then, put on your red, white and blue, fly the stars and bars, and come on out for Red, White & Blues week! To learn more about the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, click here.