Welcome to Shrimp Fest Weekend!

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This weekend we welcome thousands of visitors to our beach. We’ll see seasonal visitors, day-trippers, vacationers, locals and at least half of Lee County, it seems.

Welcome! We’re glad you’re here and hope you have a great time! We hope you notice and enjoy our new road and sidewalks, at least the parts that are completed downtown. If you go a little bit south, you’ll see the construction zone where Lee County and the Town of Fort Myers Beach are replacing water lines, sewer and storm drainage lines and, of course, the road and sidewalks.

We hope that if you drive, ride a bike or walk in the construction zone, that you are extremely careful. There is a lot going on in a very narrow space. For that matter we hope all of our visitors are extremely careful anytime they’re visiting us. We have cars and trucks on Estero Blvd. every day with drivers that have never driven on our island before. They are busy looking for their destination, not the pedestrian who steps off the curb without looking. It takes all of us practicing Extreme Attention to keep us all safe. We hope you’ll join us in being hyper-alert while on or near Estero Blvd during your visit. Be Careful Out There!

Shrimp Fest weekend is full of old-fashioned fun! We think that is one reason it has endured. We have a parade, a Shrimp Queen Pageant, Shrimp-Eating Championship, Shrimp dinners made with local shrimp and two full days of a vendor Expo.

The parade is a favorite for many. Whether you ride on a float, dance down the street or just claim your spot on the curb, you are participating in a parade that has traveled that same stretch of pavement for nearly 60 years. That’s something worth appreciating.

Our community has been celebrating the shrimping industry in just this way for nearly six decades. Look for our story on the history of the Shrimp Festival in this issue. We all can share in appreciating that what began as “Beach Day” over a half century ago has blossomed into one of the longest running community festivals in Southwest Florida.

And most of our appreciation should go to the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club.

Fort Myers Beach Lions Club

The Lions, a small group of men and women dedicated to community service right here on our Island, somehow manage this huge event. The club has over 30 members, but, pardon the pun, the “Lions” share of the work is done by a dedicated core of Lions Club members and volunteers that each year manage the parade, the vendors, the permits, the pageant, the gear, the volunteers and all the details that go into making this the Shrimp Festival that we all know and love.

And they don’t do it for any personal recognition. Try to talk to them about it and they’ll immediately direct the conversation to the charitable efforts they can support because of the Shrimp Festival.

Every dime made at Shrimp Festival through parade fees, t-shirt sales, Shrimp Dinner sales, etc, goes to charity after their expenses are paid. They raise between $45,000 and $50,000 each year — every penny of it distributed to a wide variety of causes. Many of those causes are vision and hearing related, causes close to the Lions for many years.

Those charitable causes cover the beach and reach out into virtually every corner of our community. Here’s just a small sample:

-Guide Dogs for the Deaf and Vision Impaired

-CERT Program

-Cypress Lake High School

-Beach Little League and Youth Soccer

-Lions We Serve Scholarships

-Local Eyesight Cases

-Camp for Vision-Impaired Kids

-Beach Elementary

-Lions Foundation for the Blind

-Harry Chapin Food Bank

-WGCU Radio Reading Service

The Beach Lions Club is a virtual “United Way” for our beach community, gathering the proceeds from their fundraising efforts and distributing the funds where they will do the most good.

Service clubs began in the early 20th century and probably hit their peak membership levels mid-century. Some might dismiss them as irrelevant in the 21st century when communication and networking opportunities are available at our fingertips. They would be wrong.

This weekend, while you’re enjoying the parade or watching the Shrimp Eating Championship or applauding the new Shrimp Fest Queen, give yourself a pat on the back because you are supporting one of the longest, strongest charitable efforts in all of Southwest Florida.

And if you happen to see a Lion in a bright yellow vest, shake their hand and thank them for all that they’ve done and continue to do for our community.

Happy Shrimp Festival Weekend!

 

Missy & Bob Layfield