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When you look through old newspapers, you find all kinds of interesting things

July 15, 2022
By Marcy Shortuse

While the Fourth of July is a somewhat distant memory in the minds of many (of course Monday is a distant memory for many people), we thought you might be interested in something we found while going through old newspapers this week.

Prior to this last Independence Day, we were brainstorming and trying to figure out when the first bicycle and golf cart parade was held on the Fourth of July in Boca Grande. The information wasn’t at our fingertips then, but it is now.

On July 11, 1997 the Boca Beacon reported that an impromptu idea of three visitors from Winter Haven took off overnight and became the parade we know now. Here’s what the article said:

Red, white and blue. American flags and big smiles were the order of the day last Friday as island residents and visitors celebrated the Fourth of July with a parade down Park Avenue. 

It was all the idea of three Winter Haven residents, in town for several weeks of island fun and fishing: Why not have a bike and golf cart parade in Boca Grande to celebrate Independence Day? So the day before the Fourth, Joe and Heather Bogdahn and Betsy Schemmer put up some posters around town and asked the Beacon to put a notice in Friday’s paper, which we did.

Lo and behold, dozens of islanders and visitors showed up for the first ever “Boca Grande Fourth of July Patriotic Bike and Golf Cart Parade,” and as always, in events of this kind in Boca Grande, the entries were colorful and ingenious. It looks as if another island tradition may have been born last Friday …

We haven’t been able to get through each Fourth of July issue yet to see if this tradition was held almost every year back then, but what we do know from recent history is that J.T. and Kathleen Turner resurrected the parade when they owned P.J.’s Seagrille in the Old Theater Building. To this day they are the leaders of the pack of what this year amounted to approximately 150 decorated golf carts parading around the island. 

We do love our traditions here on Gasparilla Island … and now we know the rest of the story.