TARPON SPRINGS — After taking a year off in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tarpon Springs’ Fourth of July festivities will return with a bang this summer, as the Board of Commissioners recently approved the Independence Day firework show and picnic in Craig Park on Sunday, July 4.

According to officials, the daylong celebration will begin with the traditional picnic in the park from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and will conclude with a massive fireworks display over Fred Howard Park after dusk.

Prior to approval of the May 25 consent agenda items, City Manager Mark LeCouris said the holiday celebration would be bigger and better than ever in 2021 following the yearlong hiatus.

“We’re going to try to expand them because of losing them last year,” LeCouris said. “We’re hoping to expand them as best we can and hopefully it will be the biggest and best one that we’ve had. We’re going to try to make it better to make up for lost time.”

The news was music to the commission’s ears, as the city’s Independence Day festivities have long been an important part of Tarpon’s history.

“Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays, we have a lot to celebrate as Americans with our freedoms,” Vice-Mayor Jacob Karr said, noting the commission was also approving the return of the Sunset Beach Concert Series as well as the Tarpon Rotary Triathlon. “It’s great to see some of these events coming back through the approval process on the consent agenda. Always looking forward to celebrate as a community and as a city our Fourth of July independence.”

Commissioner Costa Vatikiotis, who has had several public disagreements with LeCouris over the last year, praised the city manager for having the foresight to lock in the fireworks contract over the winter.

“I want to thank the city manager and staff for getting this under contract before Christmas, given that we were going to be coming out of COVID and not waiting until we were out of COVID to try and get a Fourth of July fireworks display,” Vatikiotis said. “I think that was something the commission pushed to do early on and I’m glad you followed through with that.”

The holiday weekend will kick off with the return of First Friday on July 2 after the Tarpon Springs Merchants Association received approval from the board of commissioners May 11 to restart the popular street festival.

“We’re so thankful everything got approved, because we want the special events to restart,” said Carol Rodriguez, TSMA’s special events coordinator. “It’s been really frustrating for us this past year because we wanted to host events, but the pandemic and the county restrictions really made it difficult. But we are excited to have them back on the schedule and we’re looking forward to hosting the first First Friday of the year on Friday, July 2.”

In addition to unanimously approving the picnic and pyrotechnic display, the board also unanimously approved the in-person restart of the monthly Sunset Beach Concert Series starting in June through November, with post-concert bonfires scheduled for October and November; the Tarpon Arts Welcome Back Concert with ELLADA at Craig Park on Saturday, Aug. 14; and the Tarpon Springs Rotary Triathlon on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.