St. Patrick Day Parade Monday

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    Erin Go Bragh!

    “The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is 22-years-old and still going strong,” reported Fort Myers Beach Vice Mayor Ray Murphy, who is not only the Parade Chairman but basically its one-man committee for the event on Monday, March 16, at 10 a.m.. “It all started in the mid-1990s, when Father Tom Goggin was at the Church of the Ascension, and he was quite the character! He was previously at a church in Naples, where a ragtag group of his parishioners began a St. Patrick’s Day Parade that today is the biggest daytime parade in the State! We were talking one day and he said we should have a parade on Fort Myers Beach, so I took that on. I was on the original Town Council then, so I approached Mayor Anita O’Cereceda and the other Council members and they gave their blessing.”

    Murphy recalled that “the first one was along the island’s traditional parade route from the FMB Public Library to Times Square, but that meant that in addition to permits from the Town and Lee County, I needed one from the Florida Department of Transportation to close the Matanzas Pass Bridge. As often happens with first-time programs, however, our initial Parade was another ragtag group of about 30 people, so closing the bridge was a lot to ask for that small a turnout, so the next year we moved it to the south end of the island where it remains today. Now we close Estero Boulevard from the Santini Marina Plaza to the Church of the Ascension from 9:45 until roughly 11:15 a.m., as the Parade takes approximately one hour.”

    The astute will notice, however, that the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year is not on St. Patrick’s Day! “We are switching this year’s Parade to the day before because March 17 is the Town Election Day,” Murphy explained. “Being in the heart of seasonal traffic already, we did not want to place an additional impediment on those trying to reach the Town’s three polling locations, so we asked Council and received their permission to have it the previous day. We have seven candidates competing for three seats on the ballot, so I hope they all contact me to participate, as Dan Allers and Jim Atterholt already have. I have been in a few political campaigns in my life, so I know from experience that the day before the vote, you are ready for some fun and stress-relief, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is perfect for that, as well as getting your name and face out in front of a large crowd one last time before polls open the next morning.”

    Join The Parade

    St-Patricks-Day-Parade-Fort-Myers-BeachThere is still time to join the Parade, the Vice Mayor added, “whether you are a group, business or Council candidate, so contact me soon at raymurphy870@gmail.com or
    239-591-8803. There is a small donation, based on your level of participation, to offset Parade costs, and we will determine that amount when we know your plan, but rest assured it is reasonable. I will continue to take reservations for the Parade right through Sunday, but if you don’t contact me by then, please don’t show up Monday morning, as that will just be too confusing and make my job all the more difficult.”

    This is not the first year the Parade will not be on St. Patrick’s Day. “Every five or six years or so, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday,” Murphy reported, “and we cannot do it on a Sunday, as the Church parking lot is full of cars from residents, seasonals and visitors attending services, so we hold it the prior Saturday. Only once in the Parade history did foul weather play a role, with thunder and lightning all around us and rain coming down in buckets, so I reluctantly but prudently decided that we could not safely go down Estero Boulevard, so we made a lap around the Santini parking lot and that was the parade!”

    Traditional highlights include neighborhood groups and island businesses that create festive floats, “along with the Lee County Fife & Drum Corps, and that is always a high point. Another group everyone looks forward to is the Knights of Columbus 4th Degree Color Guard in their full regalia, as that is a reminder that St. Patrick’s Day Parades originally were religious events for the Irish and Catholic Churches, but over the years, they morphed into just plain fun community programs.” Some years, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has a Grand Marshall and some years it does not, “and this is one of those that currently we do not – so far,” laughed the Vice Mayor.

    No Beads or Candy

    “We met with Vice Mayor Murphy, the Lee County Sheriffs Office (LCSO) and FMB Fire Department,” said Kaye Molnar, of Cella Molnar & Associates, spokesperson for the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects, “to ensure we have safety protocols in place, as the parade route is right in the active construction zone. A St. Patrick’s Day Parade tradition is to throw candy and beads but we request that people do not this year, due to the construction zone, along with all the open apparatus and equipment in the area. Parade organizers understand and support us in this request, so there are no negative construction ramifications when the event ends, to ensure the safety of construction crews as well as the public.” “We are fine with no candy and no beads,” added Murphy, “as due to the construction, that is just the way it is, so we ask for your cooperation in refraining from throwing these trinkets and will have plenty of fun without them.”

    Watch from Bay Side

    Kaye requested that “all parade attendees watch from the Bayside of Estero Boulevard, unless you are on your own Beachside property, due to the propensity of pipes, layflat hoses and other apparatus that are sticking up and out for the drills and other equipment in the active construction zone. Basically, if you see spots barreled off, please stay away from those! If you need to get from one side of Estero Boulevard to the other, we have 10 open crosswalks throughout the parade area, and all of these are safely accessible, so please use these. The parade route this year will not be the prettiest site, but safety and not aesthetics this year is the key! Earlier in the week, we went through a final walkthrough with Parade organizers, the LCSO, and VOICE volunteers to make sure we are all on the same page. Remember, we went through this for a few years ago, when construction was at the north end for the Shrimp Festival!”

    For assistance, information, or email updates, including a new online construction zone map, see www.reFRESHFMBeach.com. To communicate directly with Kaye, contact her at Cella Molnar & Associates, Inc., at 239-337-1071, 877-496-1076, or kmolnar@cella.cc. “We do not want the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects to deter anyone from attending the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” Kaye concluded. “C’mon out and have fun like you do every year, as we are working in a coordinated effort to ensure it will be as safe as possible for you and your family. Watch where you walk, pay attention to the construction barrels and look out for the heavy equipment, please don’t throw beads or candy and enjoy a wonderful parade!”

    Double Your Fun

    With the Shrimp Festival Parade two days before, Murphy reflected on whether two Fort Myers Beach parades in three days is too many. “Not at all, because not only are they so different, but so are the routes. The Shrimp Festival Parade is near the north end of the island, while the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is at the south end, so we appeal to two different neighborhoods and that is why we encourage everyone to attend both. Several groups appear in each Parade, so they tend to decorate their float in pink for the Shrimp Festival, then take it to a garage, tear off the pink and replace it with green, and are ready to go for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

    For years, Ray’s favorite part of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade “was when my Mom & Dad would ride in my car, while I walked behind with family, but sadly Mom recently passed. I encourage all Fort Myers Beach residents and visitors to join us, as it is a great time full of family, friends and fun, with good times had by all, where the entire community comes together. We look forward to a great day on Monday, March 16, and since we will host the parade on the day before St. Patrick’s Day, you can celebrate again on March 17 and literally double your fun! With these two coming on the heels of the Shrimp Festival on March 14 & 15, this will be the crescendo of the season, so ‘Erin Go Bragh!’”