Largo kicks off plastics ban with a bang

A pie-eating contest will be among the activities at this year’s July 4th Celebration at Central Park. Each year, about 25,000 patrons flood the park for the annual celebration, where they find plenty of food, entertainment and, ultimately, fireworks. This year, there’s one thing they won’t find: single-use plastics.

LARGO — Each year, about 25,000 patrons flood Central Park for the city’s annual July 4th celebration, where they find plenty of food, entertainment and, ultimately, fireworks. This year, there’s one thing they won’t find: single-use plastics.

That’s because it will be the city’s first ocean-friendly event, which means items such as Styrofoam products, plastic plates and cups, and single-use plastic straws won’t be offered by vendors.

In fact, beginning July 1, the items won’t be offered at any of the city’s facilities, including City Hall, the Community Center or Central Park Performing Arts Center. 

“All of our vendors should be complying with that,” said Recreation, Parks and Arts Director Joan Byrne. “They all know it and we’re going to be checking. Hopefully everyone will follow the rules.”

The new rule, however, doesn’t pertain to patrons.

“If you’re coming for a picnic, we’re not going to go through your bags making sure you don’t have plastic,” Byrne said.

The ordinance was passed by the City Commission in January in an effort to set an example for the community. Commissioners decided not to begin enforcing the rule until July 1, so that the city could use up its supply of plastics and vendors could get prepared. 

A look at the festivities

There won’t be plastics offered, but Byrne said there will still be plenty of other offerings for the thousands of people who pack the park.

“There’s at least 25,000 people that come,” she said. “You can’t find a blade of grass.”

The event kicks off at 6 p.m. with plenty of food and free activities, such as face-painting, a pie-eating contest, backyard games, races and a photo booth.

Also, those who purchase a $10 wristband can enjoy inflatables and a video-game truck. The miniature trains will not be running.

Parking will be available on-site for $10 (cash only) and at Largo High School for $5.

No alcohol, coolers, pets or personal fireworks are permitted in the park.

Byrne said sparklers, in fact, are one of the biggest dangers.

“Everybody thinks that they’re kind of different from firecrackers, but the reality is that you’ve got tons of little kids and some of them are barefoot,” she said.

She added that it’s important patrons leave their four-legged friends at home.

“Even the best-behaved dogs sometimes get freaked out when there’s a big crowd and loud noises, and we’ve had instances where the dog gets loose,” she said.

Those loud noises include the evening’s main attraction: fireworks. 

This year’s show, which is sponsored by Indian Rocks Baptist Church and Indian Rocks Christian School, is expected to shoot off at 9:15 p.m.

But Byrne said rain is always a factor, so the show might have to start a few minutes early or late.

“We make every effort, because there is no backup plan,” she said.