Get ready for a great holiday weekend, Fort Myers Beach! Despite the Estero Boulevard construction, budget issues and brown water, islanders have banded together in true small-town fashion to make sure that this year’s celebration of our nation’s birthday goes off with a BOOM – literally!
Everything starts with a parade, of course. Bay Oaks Recreation Center’s Sarah Mayher says to be sure and pick your spot early, as both the Matanzas Pass Bridge and Estero Boulevard from Sea Grape Plaza to north of Time Square will be closed from 9am until noon.
“So far (as of Wednesday, June 29), we have 17 participants signed up for the parade, and we are expecting a few more,” Sarah told us. “We’ve got a Miss Florida pageant, pirate crews and cruises, the Mustang Club, local businesses, local veterans clubs and a new group called the Caloosa Jeepers.”
Due to Estero Boulevard construction, parade goers are urged to be especially cautious this year as work in the center of the road will cause the route to vary, and in some places the road will actually change grades.
“We are asking that people be extra, extra cautious because this is a construction zone,” said Kaye Molnar, spokesperson for the construction project. “Especially around Avenue C and Miramar (between Key Estero and Hooters) – there is a big drop off there as the roadway grade is changing, and we also have a small temporary drainage trench. We will be putting up caution tape, but people need to watch their step and be careful.”
One thing that is working in the parade’s favor is the fact that workers had to remove many of the concrete barricades on the southern part of the project because Florida Power & Light needed more room to move their poles.
“There will still be construction barrels, however, so we are just asking people to pay attention,” Kaye said.
Following the parade, everyone is encouraged to make their way to Times Square for the Town’s annual hot dog eating contest, sponsored by Charlie Granger’s – a new hot dog company coming to town – and Beasley Media Group.
“This was my idea as we were trying to come up with how to keep folks in the Square between the parade and the fireworks,” Adam told us. “The parade will last about an hour and a half, then the hot dog eating contest starts at 2pm. The contest only costs $10 per person to enter, and we have three divisions with the winner of each receiving a nice trophy plus $100.”
Locally, the three divisions for our contest are Men’s, Women’s and Kids (under 16).
“We expect it to last about eight minutes, and don’t worry – we have plenty of hot dogs!” he said. “To sign up, just come by Bay Oaks Recreational Campus and fill out a form.”
And then there’s the main event. The 4th of July Fireworks Show will be set to music and commence shortly after sunset. This part of the day’s events was nearly cancelled earlier this year due to lack of funding, but thanks to local business owners Jacki Liszak – Sea Gypsy Inn, the Beach Chamber of Commerce, Pete’s Time Out owner John Lallo, Silver Sands’ Andrea Carriere and Mike Ensor of the Lani Kai – who stepped up the plate in late April and began holding fundraisers, the show will go on!
Liszak and her crew did such a great job that a last minute concern about paying for extra trolleys was solved last week when Jacki presented Town Council with a check for over $7,000, generously donated by the Lani Kai. In fact, thanks to the efforts and generosity of nearly everyone on the island, the FMB Fireworks Committee plans to keep raising money to ensure that the sky over Fort Myers Beach goes boom every Fourth and New Year’s Eve for years to come.
For the uninitiated, watching a fireworks show over water is a spectacle like no other as the reflection from the dancing waves make it appear as though there are two shows rather than one. And families can enjoy it from the comfort of their own blankets spread over the spacious sandy beach.
“We wanted to let everyone know that the pier will be closing at 3pm on the Fourth so we can get set up for the fireworks, and Beach and Street Enforcement (B.A.S.E.) along with CERT will be helping us clear the ‘safety zone’ on the beach,” Sarah said. “This is the area near the pier that we want to keep clear because it is so close to the fireworks.”
To alleviate traffic from off-islanders returning home once the show is over, the bridge will be closed to ONCOMING cars only from 9:30-11pm, so beach residents celebrating the holiday in other places need to plan accordingly.
“We are thrilled that our Fourth of July parade and fireworks will go on,” Liszak told us. “It’s one of the best days on the island and everyone loves it. Thanks to all who helped to make it happen.”
Celebrate the Fourth with us, island-style!
Keri Hendry Weeg