Freedom – and food – will be at the center of most 4th of July rallies today. The aroma of grilled steaks, burgers and chicken will waft through many neighborhoods as families and friends celebrate America’s independence.
But if you’re a member of the Versaggi clan, it wouldn’t be a holiday without shrimp – which is now the most widely consumed seafood not only in the United States, but also around the world. Locally, the city of St. Augustine designated wild shrimp as its official seafood on April 26, 2021.
More than 100 grandchildren and spouses of Salvatore and Vincenzina Versaggi, some local, others from other parts of Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California, Georgia, Illinois, La North Carolina and even New Zealand, continued the tradition started in the 1960s by their parents of having a family reunion on July 4th weekend at the family property on 7th Street in St. Augustine Beach, according to Grace Spiller Paaso, granddaughter of Salvatore and Vincenzina Versaggi.
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“It’s the 4th of July weekend because when our parents (Salvatore and Vincenzina’s children) started the reunion, they chose this weekend,” Paaso explained, adding that tradition reigns in the family. Versaggi.
“Meetings had been held every five years until COVID pushed that schedule into oblivion. Salvatore and Vincenzina immigrated to the United States for a better life and got it. It seems natural to celebrate the birthday of this country,” she said.
Salvatore Versaggi was a pioneer in the shrimp industry along with his two brothers-in-law, Sollicito “Mike” Salvador and Antonio Poli.
Family activities planned for the 4th of July reunion include fun times at St. Augustine Beach, visits with family members, eating shrimp cooked with family recipes, and a visit to the Shrimp Building Monument. and boats located on the San Sebastian River at 173 Shipyard Way in St. Augustine. The monument was inaugurated on May 1, 2021, in honor of the family of shrimpers, boat builders and marine artisans of Saint-Augustin.
Although Versaggi’s menu focuses on shrimp (including shrimp cocktail, shrimp plau, fried shrimp), Paaso confirms that there is meat at the event.
“We’ll also have grilled Italian sausages and anything else Italian,” she said with a chuckle.
The Versaggi-certified wild shrimp business continues to thrive, now out of Tampa. More information on Versaggi’s contributions to the shrimp industry both locally and in other parts of the country can be found in the episode produced by the Florida Historical Society of Florida Frontiers which describes the history of shrimp in Florida. It is available at bit.ly/3R4x2xH.
St. Augustine’s shrimping history is also available in exhibits at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum.
Parking for the 4th of July fireworks
The city of St. Augustine will host its annual Fireworks Over the Matanzas celebration from 6-10 p.m., beginning with a performance by the All-Star Orchestra at 6 p.m. at the Castillo de San Marcos. Fireworks start at 9:30 p.m.
There will be numerous road closures between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., including Aveneda Menendez and South Castillo Drive. The Bridge of Lions will be closed to boat and vehicle traffic. If you live or stay on Anastasia Island, there is an alternative.
July 4 fireworks in Saint-Augustin:Evening event planned on the bayfront
Free Park & Ride shuttles will be available from 6:00 p.m. to midnight. Shuttles will run from four island locations to the park on the east side of the Bridge of Lions. Parking will be free at Anastasia Baptist Church (1650 A1A S.), St. Augustine Amphitheater (1340-C A1A S.), RB Hunt Elementary School (125 Magnolia Drive), and St. Augustine Alligator Farm (999 Anastasia Boulevard)
After the fireworks, the shuttle will pick up passengers at the drop-off location at the eastern end of the Bridge of Lions. Old Town Trolley Tours and Ripley’s Red Train Tours will provide a dozen buses for the free shuttle service.
For more information, visit bit.ly/3ukg70c.
A year-round reminder: It is illegal to possess fireworks, consume alcohol or make an open fire on a beach in St. Johns County.
After the celebration
Most bathers remove their belongings and rubbish at the end of their beach stay, but there are always remnants of a busy weekend left on the sand – paper and plastic bags and straws, cigarette butts cigarettes, food particles and other objects.
At this time of year – sea turtle nesting season, with over 600 nests already on our beaches – clean beaches are even more vital as new nests continue to be laid and hatchlings will soon begin to emerge from nests laid earlier.
Fishing tournament for children
St. Johns County Park and Recreation is hosting a free catch-and-release fishing tournament for ages 4-12 on Saturday, July 23 at St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier. “Reel in the Fun” begins with the taping at 8:00 a.m. The tournament runs from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. with an awards ceremony at 11:30 a.m. An adult supervisor is required for each competitor. Registration is mandatory before July 18. For details, call 904-209-0333, visit bit.ly/3Ao3C7W, or contact the Pier Gift Shop at 904-209-0326.
Coming soon to A1A Beach Boulevard
At least three LED-lit crosswalks are planned along Beach Boulevard in the coming months. Crosswalk areas include 11th Street, 16th Street and at Pier Park and will replace the current flag crossing system. The flag system has been in place for almost a decade, but with more traffic and distractions, lighted crosswalks should increase safety. The flags will be reused in other areas of St. Augustine Beach.
There will be no Music by the Sea concerts at Pier Park during the month of July. The weekly concert series sponsored by the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association will resume on August 17 with Wednesday concerts scheduled through September 21. For updates and information on the series, visit bit.ly/3OI99KG.
Do you have any news to share on Anastasia Island or adjacent areas? Send your people and event information to [email protected] or call 904-471-4851.