BONITA SPRINGS — Despite rain throughout the day, it didn’t stop the crowd from showing up to the 9th Annual Star Spangled Bonita Fourth of July event at Riverside Park Monday evening.
“Every year it gets better,” said Bonita Springs councilman, William Lonkart “Everything that is positive in Lee County is here in Bonita.”
There was a water slide, train ride, amusement rides, bounce house, live music from Jay Frost and 3 Below, and Cahlua and Cream, food for sale, eating contests and a finale laser light show and fireworks. There were even photo opportunities with pirates from the Johnny O Crew. The contests included a pie-judging contest, ice cream eating contest and hot dog eating contest. The new addition this year was a watermelon eating contest.
“Hey we’re glad it stopped raining! We got a great crowd and I think we’re going to have a great evening,” said Bobbi Bird, chair of the event.
With the rain ceasing and the sun peering out, an estimated 5,000 people showed up for the festivities. The eating contests continued and kids and their families enjoyed the plethora of activities in the park.
The first eating contest was the ice cream contest with ice cream provided by Royal Scoop. 8-year-old Noah Sundstrom almost ate the bowl along with the ice cream as he took first place. He accepted his trophy with vanilla ice cream running down his face and a smile, along with second place winner Dominic Paulson.
The next contest was the new watermelon eating contest, sponsored by Adam’s Produce. Kids from the ages of nine to 12 lined up on stage. Devon Sipe, 10, won first place. Announcer, Tim Spires, asked him what he did with the seeds when he was eating. “I accidentally bit one and hurt my tooth,” said Sipe. Carlo Eicero, 10, took second place.
Finally was the hot dog eating contest with hot dogs from Russell’s Clam Bakes. Participants ranged from ages 13 and up. Tim Cleland, 38, took first place and Jose Garcia, 24, took second.
The Zonta Club hosted the Blue Ribbon Pie Contest with 24 pies participating. There were 10 fruit and 14 cream and custard.
“Hardest job was poor me, because I had to cut them and some of them ran!” said Shelley Gentile, secretary of the Zonta Club. One of the prize-winning pies was a triple berry cheesecake with a sugar cookie crust.
Steve Afflerbach, a Bonita Springs visitor from Massachusetts decided to try a slice of pie. “It looks good, number one,” he said as he chose his piece. “I need another piece,” he said as he bit into it. “It’s very good, it has nuts, it has apples, and it’s really good,” said Afflerbach.
Before the fireworks and laser light show, another form of sparks ignited – a proposal. Cpl. Bobby Hunter had an announcement to make on stage. On their third year anniversary, he proposed to Arleen Sheehan, the special events and park coordinator of Bonita Springs.
“I was so shocked,” Sheehan said. Every one of her friends and family knew but her. Hunter said he had been planning it for about four months. They had met while working together at Riverside Park at an event, and the same park brought them together again for the engagement.