For people who celebrate the Fourth of July on Topsail Island, “the twilight’s last gleaming” is more than an iconic lyric.

For people who celebrate the Fourth of July on Topsail Island, “the twilight’s last gleaming” is more than an iconic lyric.

Each year on the evening of July 3, as a huge orange sun drops below the horizon beyond the Intracoastal Waterway, a unique coastal tradition is renewed with the waterfront fireworks display in Surf City.

The spectacular visual gets the celebration of American off to a stirring start on Topsail. From there, cookouts and the beach take over; but for a few booming moments on the night before, it’s like the town and its multitude of visitors join for a single, inspirational salute.

The scene at the town’s Soundside Park and its surrounding waters is impressive.

There’s always a good beach band — this year, it’s Mark Roberts and Breeze. Families spread out on blankets and in chairs with their own picnic baskets or hot dogs from a festival vendor. Children chase each other and Frisbees, while a few rhythmic souls venture to the front of the stage to dance. Traffic starts to back up on the ubiquitous swinging bridge

Neighbors greet neighbors, and locals mix with strangers. Mayor Zander Guy and other town officials mingle with the crowd to make sure everyone is having a good time.

Pretty soon, the park becomes a place much larger than Surf City — it becomes all of America. It is a sight to behold.

On the water, the sounds of belly laughter and jumbled conversations mix with the music coming from the band and marine stereos. There are boats of nearly every shape and size — from jon boats to pontoons to yachts — and the varying nautical skills of the boat captains make for an interesting night punctuated by moments of outright hilarity. The presence of marine patrols from Wildlife Resources and the Coast Guard provide another subplot.

But with the first boom from across the waterway, followed by a familiar pop and fading crackle, all eyes turn to the sky.

With Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” providing the usual soundtrack, the show builds to the oohs and ahhs of the appreciative audience. The colors, the patterns and the sounds may vary, but the consistent presence of freedom is proudly hailed.

When the climatic outburst of pyrotechnics subsides, a quiet pause spreads over Soundside Park. It is over?

Yes, it’s over. And the celebration begins in earnest. The Fourth of July on Topsail Island is officially under way.

The Fourth of July celebration begins at 6 p.m. featuring Hampstead based band Mark Roberts and Breeze. There will be a hot dog stand provided by the Surf City Fire Department Auxiliary.

The fireworks display will start at 9 p.m. Both the concert and the display will take place at Soundside Park, located at 517 Roland Ave. All bags brought to the park will be checked.