FMB Events’ Dates Affected
Blame it on the Leap Year! Or maybe Election Day! An unusual set of circumstances are all coming together this year to throw the normal schedule of high profile March Fort Myers Beach events off their typical calendar dates, where St. Patrick’s Day won’t totally be St. Patrick’s Day and Shrimp Festival revelers won’t lose an hour of sleep and the island will see two parades within three days of each other!
It all starts because 2020 is a Leap Year. With the extra day of February 29 falling on Saturday, that bumps the 62nd annual Shrimp Festival from its usual slot of the 2nd full weekend in March to the 2nd Saturday on March 14 but the 3rd Sunday of March 15. Since the annual time change, where we “Spring Ahead” and lose an hour of sleep in the 2nd Sunday in March, Shrimp Festival volunteers and attendees will look slightly less red-eyed this year!
Another major shift to this year’s Shrimp Festival schedule has nothing to do with the Leap Year, however, as the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club who host the annual event are moving the extremely popular “Queen’s Pageant” from Saturday to Sunday, in Lynn Hall Memorial Park, at 1 p.m. For over 5 decades, the FMB Lions Club crowns the Queen; this year, there are 10 contestants between the ages of 16 to 20-years-old vying to be Queen, along with the 1st and 2nd Runner-up, Miss Personality, Miss People’s Choice, Miss Congeniality and Miss Photogenic. Vote now online at FMBShrimpFest.com for People’s Choice for both the Queen Pageant and the Shrimp Eater’s Championship!
Shrimp Festival activities begin with the “Kids Shrimp Run” on Saturday, March 7, at 8 a.m. The Shrimp Festival weekend kicks off with the “5K Run” on Saturday, March 14, at 9 a.m.; followed by the Parade at 10 a.m., from Bay Rd. to Times Square, with the Matanzas Pass Bridge closed from roughly 8:45 a.m. to Noon and Estero Boulevard traffic from the south stopping at the Red Coconut RV Park during the same times. The “Art Fair & Food Expo” and the “Pink Gold Shrimp Boil,” featuring the “World Famous Shrimp Dinners” with Pink Gold Gulf Shrimp, secret sauce, and cole slaw for just $15 are in Lynn Hall Memorial Park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, March 15, features the “Art Fair & Expo” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the “Pink Gold Shrimp Boil” from 10 a.m. until all dinners are gone. The 6th Annual “Shrimp Eating Contest” is in Lynn Hall Memorial Park at Noon, followed by the “Queen’s Contest” at 1 p.m. For more information, see www.fmbshrimpfestival.com
St. Patrick’s Day, Election Day & Council Meeting
Another quirk of the March 2020 calendar is that St. Patrick’s Day falls on the Town’s Election Day of Tuesday, March 17. With seasonal traffic at its height that week, already making access to the island’s three polling locations that are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. difficult, Vice Mayor Ray Murphy, who is the Chair and driving force behind the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, received permission from Town Council to move that event to Monday, March 16.
That decision, however, carried additional political ramifications. Town Council ordinarily meets the 3rd Monday of each month, making March 16 that date, but with the Vice Mayor obviously having a conflict, Council shifted that meeting to Friday, March 13, of all dates, in Town Hall, beginning at 9 a.m. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, this will be the final meeting of this version of Town Council, with those elected to the three seats on March 17 joining Murphy and Council member Rexann Hosafros when the new panel first meets on Monday, April 6, at 9 a.m.
Erin Go Bragh!
The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is approaching the quarter-century mark, reported Vice Mayor Murphy, who is not only its Chairman but basically its one-man committee! “I’ll have to check the records, but I think 2020 is Year 23. It all started in the mid-1990s, when Father Tom Goggin was at the Church of the Ascension. 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.”
This is not the first year the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is not on the holiday itself. “Every five or six years, St. Patrick’s Day falls on Sunday,” Murphy reported, “and we cannot hold it on Sunday, as the Church parking lot is full of cars from people attending services, so we have it the prior Saturday. 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.”
Some years, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has a Grand Marshal and some years it does not, “and this is one of those that currently we do not – so far,” laughed the Vice Mayor. “If anyone has a notable Grand Marshal suggestion, contact me ASAP, as it is not too late to name one! There is still time to join the Parade, whether you are a group, business, Town Council candidate or have a Grand Marshal suggestion, so please contact me soon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-591-8803. To be in the parade, there is a small donation, based on your level of participation, to offset Parade costs, but rest assured it is reasonable. I encourage all Fort Myers Beach residents and visitors to join us, as it is a great time full of family, friends and fun, where the entire community comes together, so this year make St. Patrick’s Day a two-day party and ‘Erin Go Bragh!’”