By Forest Riggs
If the rising early summer temps aren’t enough, a quick drive around Galveston Island neighborhoods will remind you that July is the time to celebrate Independence Day 2019. Red, white, and blue buntings hang from most of the “old homes” for which the Island is well known.
It is hard to imagine that a year has flown by so quickly, as it seems only yesterday crowds were lined along the Seawall waiting for the 2018 fireworks extravaganza. Each year the crowd gets bigger and the pyrotechnical show grows more spectacular. This year promises a bigger and better celebration, as organizers have been busy planning, plotting, and lining up entries into the eclectic parade.
There are a zillion places to gather and celebrate, eat hot dogs, watch parades, and “ooh and ah” at the exploding fireworks, but Galveston has become the destination for those wanting an old-time celebration with a twist of Island-style patriotism and hospitality.
Each year, thousands of Island locals and visitors gather along the parade route to observe the American tradition. The Galveston Marine Corps has organized the annual event for many years and each year gets bigger and better. From military vehicles, marching bands, scout troops, fire trucks and political and civic personalities to art cars and brightly colored dance busses loaded with revelers, there is something for everyone, young and old.
Of course, any parade in Galveston must have tossed beads and the 4th of July Parade certainly brings this to the table. There are beads, water cups, toys, and all sorts of trinkets tossed and slung from the parade entries. The bead throwing is not limited to Mardi Gras when it comes to a party on the Island.
As in past years, the parade will begin at 7 p.m. and enter Seawall Boulevard at 59th street. Once on the Seawall the rambling ensemble will travel east toward 25th Street where it will make a left and venture toward downtown.
Previous 4th of July parades have proven it is wise to arrive early to ensure parking and to get a great viewing spot along the route. Crowds along the Seawall and 25th street will quickly become packed as folks arrive and set up chairs, barbeque pits, and all sorts of viewing stations. The street vendors with colorful carts will be meandering in and amongst the throng, selling all sorts of parade and party items. Islanders love to bring along the family pets and it is not uncommon to see dogs, lizards, snakes, and even parrots. For those that enjoy people watching, this parade is heaven!
So you might ask, “Where are the LGBTQ folks during this annual presentation of patriotism and pride?” Fear not, they are all about. Some are the parade, some gather in festive groups along the route, and some quietly observe the mayhem from the sidelines. The strong and tight LGBTQ community participates in this and all events that bring attention to the Island. Many work behind the scenes, organizing and coordinating while others host huge parties in their beautiful homes along the parade route.
The bars will be buzzing, offering all sorts of drink specials, entertainment, and opportunities for the local LGBTQ community to show visitors just what the island has to offer. While red, white and blue are the colors of the day and parade-goers love to dress in colorful attire, Uncle Sam and Aunt Samantha take on a whole new look for an LGBTQ Island 4th of July celebration.
There are other bars along the Seawall: Float, The Poop Deck, and some restaurant/bars such as Fish Tales and The Spot, but for the best LGBTQ time, hit any one of the big three! Any spot along the Seawall is great for viewing but you cannot beat the upper deck at Rumors Beach Bar (3100 Seawall Boulevard). Just look for the flagpole full of waving rainbow flags and you are sure to find a party! 23rd Street Station Piano Bar (23rd and O Streets) is a great place to hit before and after the parade. The beautiful, tropical patio offers an excellent place to sit and sip before going to the parade or after the fireworks. The friendly staff always makes sure that bar patrons are taken care of. On 25th street (the parade route), Robert’s Lafitte will be packed with parade goers as the entourage passes directly in front of the historic bar, which is now the oldest gay bar in Texas! The crowd, both inside and outside, is always partying and loves to share the fun.
If you are not into the crowd thing or partying in clubs, then gather with some special folks and make memories celebrating with the traditional 4th of July barbecue or picnic. The miles of sandy beaches offer great spots for quieter celebrations. Hot dogs, sodas, watermelon, and potato chips are always on the menu for this day.
In these rough political times and a climate of worldly uncertainty, sometimes it is hard to celebrate and remain patriotic, but we must! This is our country, our people, and our communities. The 4th of July is a time to put aside our differences and celebrate our commonalities! Gather with friends, laugh, hug each other, and make wonderful, positive memories. Happy 4th of July!