From Tarpon Springs to Safety Harbor to Largo, the skies above north Pinellas County were filled with bright colors and acrid smoke this Fourth of July, as several communities celebrated Independence Day for the first time in two years.

Parades, picnics and, of course, massive firework displays highlighted the festivities as the country publicly celebrated the birth of America for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In Tarpon Springs, the city held its annual Fourth of July Picnic in Craig Park, an event that features family friendly games and activities, live entertainment and a traditional July 4 staple, a hot dog eating contest.

“After the pandemic and seeing the country return to normal, I am glad we’re able to have our annual Fourth of July picnic for the people of Tarpon Springs again,” Mayor Chris Alahouzos said.

“This is well-organized, with a barbecue and activities for the kids, and I want to thank staff and all the volunteers and (sponsor) Waste Management for putting this event together and allowing people to have a great and see each other again for the first time in years.”

In Safety Harbor, following the return of the city’s traditional Fourth of July parade that morning, an enormous crowd gathered for a pre-fireworks concert and party at the city’s Waterfront Park.

As he prepared to enjoy the light show from the tent of firework sponsor Blake Real Estate, Mayor Joe Ayoub echoed Alahouzos when asked how it felt to see crowds return to town following the pandemic.

“The parade was a huge success. We got lucky with the weather, and it’s great to see so many people out enjoying Independence Day in our city,” Ayoub said on an atypically breezy and dry Fourth of July. “You couldn’t ask for a better night. There’s so many people here and a lot of positive energy with everyone looking forward to seeing some great fireworks and celebrating the country’s independence.”