Kechi Okpala

Kechi Okpala, marketing coordinator for the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust, third from left, Steve McKinnon, Briana ArceMicin and Ernest Louise, gave out hundreds of ice cream and cake Saturday for the 74th anniversary of the park.

On Saturday, Aug. 3, the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, located minutes away from Miami's financial center, celebrated its 74th Anniversary.

The free, family event had music, waterslides, bounce houses and more. Ice cream for about 200 guests was provided by Black-owned Jackson Brother's Co. Guests were treated to cake, too. Commissioner Ken Russell also stopped by to enjoy the festivities.

In 1945, the year the beach officially opened, seven Black people arranged a "wade-in" at Haulover Beach in protest of segregation-era Jim Crow laws. The laws prevented Blacks from sharing spaces such as beaches, restaurants and other places with whites. 

Virginia Key Beach Park plays a significant role in Miami's history as it is home to the "Colored Only" beach in Miami-Dade County. For many years, the park has been a major factor in South Florida Black social life. 

Nowadays, the beach brings together people of all races and social classes. The park's 74th anniversary was still able to draw in a huge crowd (close to 200 people), despite the intense Miami thunderstorms, which caused the event to end two and half hours early. There were still people who lingered behind, basking in the rich heritage and tradition of the park.

Carmen Hay, a Miami resident of Hispanic descent, attended the event with loved ones. Hay said, "I came to see the celebration today. I haven't been here in four years so it was a big deal for us. It's the historic part, mainly the historic part of it. I kind of have some knowledge of it and it's just so beautiful how things developed and the story from back in the days, which I know about. The weather didn't stop us though. We knew it was gonna pour but we still came. We're still here."

So what's in store for Virginia Key Beach Park's 75th anniversary? Gene Tinnie, chair of the Board of Trustees of the City of Miami Virginia Key Beach Trust said that specific plans haven't been made just yet. 

"Everything we are doing this year is viewed as a lead-in to next year. We will probably commemorate the protest at Haulover Beach in May as well as the grand opening on Aug. 1. All of this relates to this year's Quadricentennial of the 1619 arrival of the first captive Africans in British-claimed North America, and the 100th anniversary of the "Red Summer" of 1919, very significant chapters in African-American history," said Tinnie.

For more information on The Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, visit virginiakeybeachpark.net.

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