Thanks to the hard work of local business owners, fundraising for fireworks on Fort Myers Beach is in full swing – with two big events coming up and one last Saturday. To ensure the continued survival of the sparkling displays on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve that bring happiness to so many and much needed vitality to local businesses, organizers plan to continue hosting these fun community events year-round.
The FMB Fireworks Fund Committee came together with near lightning speed following Town Council’s announcement in mid-March that the Fourth of July show would be cancelled due to no funds being raised. Upon hearing that, Sea Gypsy owner Jackie Liszak met with Pete’s Time Out owner John Lallo and Silver’s Sands’ Andrea Carriere and hit the streets. In just over a month’s time, they are well on the way to saving the show on the Fourth – a time when local businesses desperately need the mid-summer influx of people – and are establishing a year-round funding machine to make sure the skies go boom in perpetuity. They have enlisted two more members in the committee – the Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Lani Kai’s Mike Ensor.
“This fundraising effort is for the Fourth and New Year’s Eve and it will be ongoing,” said Chamber President Bud Nocera. “We’re delighted to say that, on Saturday, Tuckaway Bagel raised $950 for our fireworks fund and we are looking forward to the Cinco de Mayo event at the Cottage and a big fundraiser at the Lani Kai on Sunday, May 15th.”
The tradition of 4th of July Fireworks at the Pier began in the 1950’s. A variety of community groups organized the show for about 20 years before Bill Semmer of Semmer Electric and his family brought their San Carlos Island fireworks show to the pier. With the help of numerous community fundraisers the Semmer’s organized 23 years worth of shows on the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve, before stepping down in 2012.
At that time the Town’s Parks & Rec Department was handed the responsibility and community contributions helped offset the costs to some extent. In November 2014, Town Council announced that the New Year’s Eve show that year would be the last one the Town paid for. Local businesses raised donations for the 4th of July fireworks in 2015. After the Town set a maximum Town contribution for fireworks shows, the community raised enough to hold a New Year’s Eve show last year.
Last month, Liszak told us that goal is to fund both the New Year’s Eve and Fourth shows forever, with Council agreeing to pay for some of the expenses. Each holiday event costs about $50,000. A number of local businesses immediately pledged to help, with Tuckaway donating half its profits last Saturday along with setting up signs and a bucket for people to contribute.
On Thursday, May 5th it’s the Cottage’s turn. From 1pm until 1am, they will be rolling out Mexican drink specials, food items, live music from the Steve Farst Trio, Mark Kobie, Liv Crissman and The Laymen, the Troublemakerz and the New Vinyls.
“In between each band we’re going to have a raffle, and we’ve already got some great items,” said Roxanne Jakaitis, night manager at the Cottage. “We’ve got at least one television, plus a lot of home stuff like iced tea makers, and restaurant gift certificates and hotel stays. We’re also going to do at least one 50/50 raffle and probably two. Our party will last all day and into the night, with all the raffle money going towards fireworks and half of the 50/50.”
The Lani Kai will host their event on Sunday, May 15th beginning at noon.
“This is going to be an all-day event, with live music beginning at noon, a silent auction from 2-6pm and a luau and beach party at sunset,” Mike Ensor told us. “We’re going to have fire twirlers, drink specials and fun for everyone.”
We met with Ensor and Jacki on Monday, and they told us they already have great gift items for the silent auction – which will be held at the resort’s indoor dining area The Sabal Palm Beach Bar and Grill – on the second floor of the hotel.
“Wow – look at this, we just got this whole package of jet ski and eco-tours, along with chair and umbrella rentals and parasailing!” said Jacki, as she sifted through the donations that came in that morning. “And overnight hotel stays, a family photo shoot, rounds of golf, bottles of Fireball and Fireball guitars – there’s really something for everyone on the island!”
To make the auction even sweeter, the first 100 attendees at the 2pm start time will receive a free glass of champagne and ‘swag bag’ complete with goodies like coolie cups and gift certificates.
“Come to the door, get signed up, and we’ll give you a wristband with your bid number on it – that way you can just put your number next to your bid amount,” Liszak said. “We’re also going to have complimentary hors d’oeuvres for bidders as they browse through the Silent Auction selection. “
Does your business want to participate? Jacki will be collecting items for the silent auction until May 8th.
“All auction items require a space within the auction to be reserved; therefore all auction packages are due by May 8th, a week prior to the event,” she said. “The earlier you can provide us with the details of your donation, the earlier we can start marketing your charitable donation to the community and raise awareness for the event.”
Nocera told us that he hopes these events ‘go viral’ and attract people from all aspects of island life.
“We literally will have something there for everyone to enjoy,” he said. “We need lots of people to attend and show support for fireworks on the beach. Without that support, there quite simply won’t be fireworks on the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve. So tell your friends, bring your friends and show up!”
Anyone interested in contributing to the fireworks fund may send a check payable to FMB Fireworks Fund to: FMB Chamber of Commerce, 1661 Estero Blvd. Suite 8, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931. People can also visit the Facebook page at FMB Fireworks Fund and the GoFundMe account under the same name. For more information, email Jackie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keri Hendry Weeg