Port Richey fireworks efforts fizzle out, but Pasco still offers plenty of ways to celebrate

With many Fourth of July celebrations cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, New Port Richey’s small, socially distanced golf cart and bike parade was one of the few events held in Pasco County.

The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out or reduced the size and scope of many Fourth of July celebrations throughout the area in 2020 and its effects are still being felt a year later.

New Port Richey was able to celebrate the return of KiaFest in Sims Park last weekend with an evening full of music, entertainment, socializing and fireworks.

A handful of other Independence Day events are scheduled around Pasco County this weekend with the Fourth of July landing on Sunday. Included in these celebrations is an event within Port Richey’s waterfront district, now known as Cotee River Landing, at Gill Dawg Tiki Bar and Grill. Dubbed Fourth of July Blues on the Bayou, the free event features the music of Philadelphia blues guitarist Tom Craig, as well as Trey Warvig.

Missing again from the waterfront this Fourth of July, however, will be a city-sponsored fireworks display. The Port Richey City Council began researching the possibility of a return of fireworks in recent months, but City Manager John Dudte told the board it was a no-go during the June 8 regular meeting.

“We reached out to three federally licensed fireworks contractors,” Dudte said. “The first one said they were not available for anything on or around the Fourth of July. The second one refused to even respond. The third one said they’re overbooked and it’ll take them 30 days to even get an answer. And if and when they can get us an answer, their prices have gone up 35 percent since last year.

“At least for the Fourth of July, fireworks are not going to be likely for the city of Port Richey.”

While the council agreed the booking and pricing issues won’t allow for Independence Day fireworks, discussions should begin now to acquire them for future events later in the year.

“One of the reasons I asked to have that put on (the agenda) is because we’re coming out of COVID and it’s my belief that we really need to start having community events here and function as a community,” said Mayor Scott Tremblay. “We’re a small city on the water and there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to come up with one or two (city-sponsored) events a year.”

Tremblay said he recalled the last fireworks contract the city signed was around $9,000. “I don’t think our constituents or taxpayers would be opposed to paying for a fireworks display at some point. The question becomes at what point is that and what event.”

Council member Todd Maklary suggested Labor Day, Sept. 6, or an end-of-summer celebration. As the council discussed the ideas, the board and Dudte landed on New Year’s.

“New Year’s, I think, is comfortable for us to get back with the fireworks vendors and put a plan together for the state so they can stamp it ‘approved,’” Dudte said.

Fourth of July events in Pasco

NEW PORT RICHEY

• Following a successful rollout last year, the Cotee River Golf Cart Owners are once again hitting the streets of downtown to put on the Patriotic Ride & Roll event on Saturday, July 3, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Join them in Railroad Square at 10 a.m. to begin staging before the event begins at 11 a.m.

• American Legion Post 335 will host its July 4th Picnic at noon at 11421 Osceola Drive.

The event costs $5 per person and features food, music from Lady and The Outlaw, a 50-50 raffle and a basket raffle.

PORT RICHEY

Gill Dawg Tiki Bar and Grill, 5419 Treadway Drive, hosts its Fourth of July Blues on the Bayou, featuring the music of Philadelphia blues guitarist Tom Craig, as well as Trey Warvig. The event is free and is scheduled to last from 2-6 p.m.

WESLEY CHAPEL

The Lifestyle Independence Day Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., July 4, at the Grove, 6033 Wesley Grove Blvd. Organized by Lifestyle Festivals, the event features fireworks, vendors, food trucks, axe throwing, batting cages and more. Fireworks are scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. There is no admittance fee.

ZEPHYRHILLS

The sixth annual Zephyrhills Summerfest is back and coming to Zephyr Park, 38116 Fifth Ave., from noon to 9 p.m., July 4. The free event features the music of DJ Express from noon to 5 p.m., country artist Fast4Ward from 5:30-7 p.m., and another country act in Crossfire Creek from 7:30-9 p.m. There will also be hot dog and watermelon eating contests, a kids dance-off and a 30-minute fireworks display over Zephyr Lake at sunset. Shopping will be available within the vendor market and children will get to play in bounce houses and on waterslides. Event organizers estimate 10 food trucks will be serving guests throughout the day.