The exact date of the first Anna Maria Island Privateers’ Fourth of July parade is difficult to track down.
According to John “Redbeard” Swager, Privateers president, the first parade was held in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
The parade’s original intention, he said, was to keep people on the island for the summer. During the Fourth of July, most islanders would head elsewhere to attend celebrations, he said.
small-business owners and community members decided a parade in town would attract people during the summer, increasing traffic after the snowbird season ended.
When the parade began, the Privateers towed a trailer that they decorated as their pirate ship, which was pulled by a car, and the parade was a small affair.
Today, the journey up the island can attract more than 100 floats, and the Privateers’ motorized ship “Skullywag,” the third ship in Privateers’ history, leads the pack, with all the members onboard.
This year’s parade was to begin at 10 a.m. July 4 at Coquina Beach and to end at the Anna Maria City Pier.
The Privateers are a nonprofit with a mission of entertaining kids and helping the community. They participate in a number of events on the island annually, as well as lead two parades a year up the length of the island – the Fourth of July parade, and the Christmas parade.
The parade was to be joined by the Desoto-based Crewe of Hernando DeSoto pirates and the Krewe of Santa Margarita of Clearwater.
“It’s our way of saying thank you to the island and everybody that supports us,” said Tim “Hammer” Thompson, the Privateers’ liaison officer.
“It celebrates the Fourth of July because without the Fourth of July, there wouldn’t be any freedom,” he said, referencing the nation’s founders’ decision to declare independence.
After the parade, the Privateers are hosting a party at the Ugly Grouper, 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, to recognize the winners of the scholarship awards. Hammer said more than $20,000 in scholarships will be distributed at the event.
Ahoy matey. And Happy Fourth of July.