Town of Fort Myers Beach officials are gearing up for their second annual "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive!" event honoring local WWII veterans this Sunday (Aug. 12). This year the full event is being held at Junkanoos on the Beach, located at 3040 Estero Blvd.
Beach Mayor Larry Kiker will again be the emcee of the ceremony and Councilman Joe Kosinki, the event coordinator, is excited the festivities are being finalized to salute the "Greatest Generation" of all time.
"We would like everyone to pay tribute to this country's greatest generation and the sacrifices that they had made during World War II," said Kosinski. 'They need to be recognized. That's what this event is all about.
"We thought it was great and very generous of Junkanoos (to host the event). They didn't hesitate and told me they would love to do it. They were very gracious."
This year's Spirit of '45 tribute, held annually on the second Sunday in August, is expected to be on a smaller scale than last year. Junkanoo is donating 25 free fish dinners to WWII veterans. Guests or spouses may purchase their own meals from a selected menu in the restaurant's limited seating area. Cocktail hour to toast WWII veterans begins at 4:30 p.m., and dinner is served from 5 to 6 p.m. Guests are asked to RSVP for dinner reservations by calling Casey at 560-4682.
At 6 p.m., the tribute moves outdoors and onto the beachfront. Festivities include a resounding rendition of the National Anthem by Town Manager Terry Stewart, Lee County Sheriff's Color Guard, a bagpiper, a helicopter flyover by Lee County Sheriff's Dept. (weather permitting), a Beach Fire & Rescue Department salute to the American flag, guest speakers (including Veterans Club of America Commander Lou Tolleson), wreath ceremony and more. The ceremonies will end with the traditional playing of "Taps" in conjunction with it being played across the nation at 7 p.m.
"I encourage and welcome all World War II vets to join us on the beach for the celebration at 6," said Kosinski. "Everyone is welcome to attend the ceremonial festivities."
DAZ, a local husband and wife musical duo, will provide 40's, 50's and patriotic entertainment during the celebration. 'God Bless America" will be sung.
The original proclamation for the Fort Myers Beach Spirit of '45 event was issued by Town Council and signed by Mayor Larry Kiker last year.
"Last year's event represented one of the most rewarding activities that I have participated in as mayor during the past five years," said Kiker. "I am looking forward to this Sunday, and I would hope that as many people as able can come and support the World War II veterans. Simply put, it's an honor."
Kosinski, who served in the Army, calls the tribute a "great event" for all generations to take part in.
"Last year, the World War II veterans that attended were all very thankful and gracious because no one had recognized them to this degree before," he said. "To keep this going from year to year brings awareness to the younger generations on actually what they went through to keep this country free."
Beach officials began the tribute after finding out about a similar event in Naples. This year, Bonita Springs officials -who were a big part of the Beach celebration in 2011- decided to host their own Spirit of '45 tribute. It will take place at The Colony Golf & Country Club at 4101 Pelican Colony Blvd. on Aug. 12, from 4:15 to 7:15 p.m.
All celebrations coincide with the anniversary of Aug. 14, 1945, the day President Truman announced the end of World War II.