While Fort Myers Beach to many is Vacation Land year-round, the two largest crowds annually coincide with fireworks off the pier on The Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve!
As we get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July, Fort Myers Beach activities abound.
Events begin with the Town of Fort Myers Beach’s annual holiday parade, hosted by the Department of Parks & Recreation, with the Grand Marshal being Miffie Greer, as part of her tribute as the 2016 Citizen of the Year. The parade starts at the Bay Oaks Recreation Center at 2731 Oak Street, next to the Beach Elementary School, at 10 a.m., then proceeds north along Estero Boulevard to the Matanzas Pass Bridge. “We are doing new things this year,” related Sean DePalma, Parks & Recreation director. “We are modifying the parade to include new float award categories such as Most Patriotic, Most Creatively Decorated, Best Musical Display, and Greatest Tribute to Mohammed Ali, who not only had a passion for parades, but is a personal hero of mine!”
Following the parade, Parks & Recreation will conduct additional programs at Times Square from 1 to 3 p.m., including a watermelon eating contest, patriotic arts-&-crafts, and an American history trivial pursuit themed-game with prizes for those in the audience who can correctly answer the questions.
As trivia winds down, music heats up! “Remedy” is the opening act, from Noon to 5 p.m., with “High Tide” taking over from 6 to 11 p.m. The Times Square Merchants Association sponsors the music: “That is our contribution to The 4th,” explains John Lallo, who owns Pete’s Time Out. “The holiday is a true community activity, and crucial to all beach businesses during the off-season.”
“Fireworks off the Fort Myers Beach Pier will begin between 9 and 9:15 p.m.,” said Scott Baker, Public Works Director for the Town. “Garden State Fireworks will conduct and oversee the $20,000 show that will last approximately 20 minutes. We will shut down the pier on the morning of the Fourth at 8 a.m., and will reopen it to the public at midday on Wednesday the 5th. In conjunction with our planned programs, the Matanzas Pass Bridge will close twice that day – from 9:15 a.m. to Noon for the parade and morning fun, then again from 9 to roughly 11:30 p.m., so we can dedicate all three lanes to vehicles exiting the island.”
The funds to pay the $25,000 for the fireworks and trolley service for the day comes from a small volunteer group spearheaded by Jacki Liszak, executive director of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce and co-owner of the Sea Gypsy Inn with husband Scott. “Jo List, along with John from Pete’s Time Out and Andrea Groves of the Silver Sands Resort, comprise the committee with me,” explains Jacki. “We oversee the fireworks fund and offer our assistance to those individual business owners who want to host fundraising events, including help with publicity. For instance, the Yucatan will host a fundraiser on The Fourth to help us get a jump on raising money for next year’s fireworks.”
Jacki explained, however, that it is not the committee or even the business owners who pay for the fireworks and trolleys, “but our individual residents, visitors, seasonals, guests and customers, so basically everyone all together covers the cost.” “Over the past several years, we have raised in excess of $150,000 for the Town’s community fireworks displays,” added John. Trolleys will run on The Fourth from early in the morning until roughly Midnight.
Same Time Next Year
While the crowd throughout the day and evening will be getting ready to celebrate The Fourth of July 2017, one beach institution will already be planning for The Fourth of July 2018! The Yucatan Beach Stand at 250 Old San Carlos Boulevard will host a fundraiser from 11 a.m. to right before the beginning of fireworks off the pier, but with the caveat being that all proceeds go toward paying for the show next year.
“Our event will be similar to the parking lot party that we do for St. Patrick’s Day,” explained General Manager Rob Reilly. “We will have live music, with one full band and a solo artist, with all kinds of vendors for arts-&-crafts and things like that, in conjunction with the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, to make sure we have fireworks in 2018.” When asked why proceeds do not go to New Year’s Eve fireworks, Rob says “we will host another party on New Year’s Eve this year for New Year’s Eve next year!” For more information, see yucatanbeachstand.com, check them out on social media, or call at 239-333-4386.
While private funds sponsor the fireworks and trolley, the Town of Fort Myers Beach pays for security and related costs at an additional $15,000. Vice Mayor Tracey Gore attempted to convince the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to waive their security fees for the Fourth, but was unsuccessful. In a related item, the Town granted a waiver to allow open containers in Times Square during the festivities.
As for roadway and waterline construction over The Fourth of July Holiday Weekend, “there will be no workers on Sunday the 2nd or Tuesday the 4th,” said Kaye Molnar of Cella Molnar & Associates, spokesperson for the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects. “Anything that does occur on the other two days will be minimal, outside of the active lanes, and will not impact traffic.”
When Town Council granted its permission to host the fireworks on May 15, Council member Joanne Shamp called the Fourth “a special event for the Town, whether you are a visitor or resident. The Citizens Group is doing their part to transfer the balance of the funds away from the taxpayer’s share, so I support and appreciate these events.” “Fort Myers Beach is known for two things,” added the Vice Mayor: “the Shrimp Fest and The Fourth of July fireworks!”
After the 4th of July fun, residents and visitors are invited to participate in the 5th of July Beach Clean-Up from 8-10am. Sponsored by Keep Lee County Beautiful, the Fort Myers Beach effort is coordinated with the FMB Community Foundation. Meet at 8am at the clock in Times Square to pick up gloves and bags for the cleanup. Clean-up efforts are also planned on Bunche Beach and Dog Beach. Learn more at klcb.org/5th-of-july-cleanup.html. Help keep our beach beautiful!