Before the night sky illuminated with red, white and blue, patriotism was already on full display at 4th on Flagler in downtown West Palm Beach. The 29th annual celebration, which ran from 5 – 10 p.m. on the Waterfront, included a Military Honor Ceremony prior to the fireworks extravaganza over the Intracoastal Waterway. The special ceremony began at 8:30 p.m., and included a tribute to all branches of the military, a capella performances, the unfurling of a three-story American flag on the side of the Esplanade Grande building, and the presentation of the local Hometown Hero award. This year’s Hometown Hero award went to Sophia Eccleston, an Army Veteran who lives in Wellington.
“Our Independence Day celebration has great appeal to our diverse community,” said Mary Pinak, Community Events Manager for the City of West Palm Beach Department of Parks and Recreation. “We have flags, food, fireworks – and even human foosball – but we are most proud to say that our celebration truly has meaning. We often hear that the Military Honor Ceremony is what draws many of our guests – and we couldn’t be prouder to continue this special component of our programming.”
Eccleston joined the Army in 1995 and was assigned to the 95th Military Police (MP) Battalion, in Heidelberg, Germany as a Logistics Specialist. She was later transferred to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia where she was assigned to the 224th Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion. There she served the remainder of her time until she was honorably discharged in 1998.
Today, she is an external affairs manager for Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) in Palm Beach County. She is responsible for building and managing relationships with local elected officials and key community stakeholders on behalf of FPL. Prior to joining the external affairs department, she worked as a solar developer and advanced three large-scale solar projects located in Desoto, Manatee and Charlotte Counties.
“It is an incredible honor to be recognized by my local community – especially on a day that has so much meaning,” said Eccleston, upon learning she was selected as the 2017 Hometown Hero. “I am proud to have served in the military and am truly grateful for the acknowledgement.”
In addition to her military service, Eccleston currently serves her local community as a board member for Gulfstream Goodwill Industries, Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County, Executive Women of The Palm Beaches, Palm Beach County Homeless Advisory Board, Florida Women’s Business Center, Boynton Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce. She is also a Trustee member with the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce and a member of Impact 100 of Palm Beach County. She is also a former board member for The National Society of Arts and Letters, Florida East Coast Chapter and the Wounded Veteran Relief Fund.
Eccleston earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Armstrong State University in Georgia and her MBA from American Intercontinental University in Illinois. She is also an alumna of Leadership Palm Beach County. She has a son who is a junior at George Mason University in Virginia.
In addition to the Military Honor Ceremony, the 4th of July celebration included over-the-top fun and games, such as large-scale versions of human foosball, bowling and giant Jenga and carnival-style games, such as bottle ring toss and rubber duck fishing. The afternoon festivities also included live music, children’s games and food and drinks.
Guests also had access to the City’s Summer in Paradise programming, including the new Aesop Aesop’s Tables interactive art exhibition, which features 25 hand-painted picnic tables created by 19 local artists depicting colorful and distinctive interpretations of Aesop’s Fables; Glow-Fore-It, a tropical-themed 9-hole glow-in-the-dark mini golf course located on the Intracoastal; and StoryVille, where children can create their own life-size fairy tale using giant cut-outs of traditional storybook characters.
4th on Flagler was produced by the City of West Palm Beach Parks and Recreation Department, Community Events Division.
4th on Flagler Sponsors included: City of West Palm Beach Art in Public Places Program, The Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach Daily News, Coca-Cola, West Palm Beach Marriott, WPBF News 25, 97.9 WRMF, 103.1 WIRK, SUNNY 107.9, X 102.3, 850 AM, 640AM, Beatz, Discover the Palm Beaches, the Hilton West Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Outlets, Best Western Palm Beach Lakes, All My Sons Moving and Storage, Jimmy Johns WPB, the Town of Palm Beach, Rhythm & Hues, SkyBike, Jet Ride, Good Samaritan Medical Center, Schumacher Automotive, Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company, Renaissance Charter Schools and Blow Tox Wellington.