Happy Birthday, Fort Myers Beach!


    Town Turns 21!

    Cupcakes will flow, drinks are a go and fireworks will blow on Saturday, December 31, as the Town of Fort Myers Beach celebrates its 21st birthday.

    If the Town were a person, it would become legally old enough to drink. “That is a crazy thought,” says Sarah Mayher, Bay Oaks Recreation Center program coordinator. “If that were the case, we would toast its birthday by handing out champagne! As it is, we will stay with our annual tradition of distributing free cupcakes at Times Square from Noon to 1 p.m. or until they are gone, with an added twist this year.”

    In addition to the 1,000 cupcakes, Beach Brew & Bakery is donating cookies to add to the sweet treat. “The owners, Kim & Greg Gillman, really stepped up,” Sarah says. “Hopefully this will extend the time visitors can savor a cupcake or cookie; some years we already had over a thousand people by Noon, and they go fast! The Cupcake Ladies are so passionate, and work hand-in-hand with the Town to continue this tradition.”

    The Times Square Merchant & Event Association will rock the plaza with live music: “Remedy” jams from Noon to 5 p.m., with “High Tide” from 7 through the New Year.

    If you want to work off those cupcakes, either before or after your Times Square visit, head out to the Bay Oaks Recreation Center & Community Pool for a birthday weekend of free family fun! “On Saturday the 31st, Bay Oaks hosts a Field Day for children,” Sarah relates, “with games like pickle ball, flag football, disc golf, and basketball, as well as complimentary tours of the recreation campus to learn what all the talk is about. Everyone receives free admission to the center and pool from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with both complimentary again on Sunday, January 1, from Noon to 4 p.m.” Bay Oaks is at 2731 Oak Street, behind the Fort Myers Beach Public Library and next to the Beach Elementary School; for more details call 239-765-4222.

    Kayaks & Masks

    “The Mound House has several features for the Town birthday,” explains Alison Giesen, its director. “Whether it be a kayak ecotour, Calusa Indian mask program, or a free Mound House history event, we offer something for everyone!”

    Explore the winding mangrove creeks and hidden backwaters of the Estero Bay as you can only on a kayak. Dexter Norris, biologist, naturalist, and new Mound House environmental educator, leads the dynamic ecotour. It is from 9 a.m. to Noon, weather permitting, at $45 per person, or $15 for Mound House members, and includes all equipment and Mound House admission. Kayakers must be at least 12 years old, able to swim, walk over slopped and rough terrain, embark and disembark from a tandem kayak, and paddle for up to 3 hours, with a parent or guardian accompanying all children. Wear covered shoes and bring water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, and dry clothing for afterwards, with changing facilities available.

    The Calusa Indians created unique human and animal masks from images important to their culture; now Mound House visitors can fashion their own! This begins at 10 a.m., for a $5 fee with members free.

    “The History of the Mound House” is free at 2 p.m. Learn all about the people who lived at this historic site over the past 2,000 years and their influence on Fort Myers Beach.

    Enjoy a docent-led Mound House tour perfect for adults and families. Admission is $10 for ages 13 & up, $8 for students with IDs, $5 ages 6 to 12, and 5 & under free from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is at 451 Connecticut Street, with additional parking at 216 Connecticut; for information call 239-765-0865 or see www.moundhouse.org.

    The Rocket’s Red Glare

    For many, the highlight of the Town birthday still occurs at Times Square, with the raising of the beach ball at Midnight, followed immediately by fireworks from the pier to ring in the New Year. “We have a new ball this year,” says public works director Scott Baker. “All its lights are LED, and it will look pretty neat. We follow that right up with the 20-minute fireworks display, so enjoy the holiday!”

    “The Fort Myers Beach Fireworks Fundraising Committee contributed $26,000 for the Town birthday party,” says Jacki Liszak, president of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce and a committee member. “The group is a coalition of beach businesses and residents who raise private money to help support the community’s New Year’s Eve and birthday event. This money pays for the fireworks and trolley service throughout the evening of December 31.”

    Town Council at its November 21 meeting passed a motion to allocate no more than $20,000 for police, fire, and related services for the Town birthday by a 3 to 1 vote, with council member Tracey Gore against. Former vice mayor Summer Stockton inexplicably exited her final meeting before her resignation for personal reasons to skip the vote.

    Council, back to full strength for its December 19 meeting with the recent appointment of Joanne Shamp to fill the final three months of Stockton’s term, voted unanimously to allow open alcoholic beverages in Times Square, to make the celebration merrier, on December 31 only from Noon to 1 a.m.

    Trolleys, at 50 cents-a-rider, operate on Fort Myers Beach from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., with park & ride service from 5:50 p.m. to 2:10 a.m.

    “Thank you to our entire beach community for pulling together to support the best party in Southwest Florida,” says Jacki. “Please drink and act responsibly, and let’s all enjoy a wonderful and safe New Year!”


    Gary Mooney