The complete Town of Fort Myers Beach July 4th Celebration on Estero Island is drawing near.
After taking over holiday fireworks display duties from the retiring Semmer Team last year, Town officials have now assumed additional operations during the 2013 Independence Day celebration next Thursday by planning for the annual morning parade -a duty that the Fort Myers Beach Civic Association held in past years.
Florida Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto has been announced as the Grand Marshall of the 10 a.m. July 4 parade. Bill Semmer, who had been directly involved in the fireworks benefits and displays for many years, graciously turned down the offered designation.
Acting Town Parks & Recreation Director Randy Norton has seen some good interest in parade participation, which will include Town Council members, local businesses, nonprofit groups as well as some state beauty pageant winners and a Lehigh marching drum corps. He has 20-plus applications in and is hoping to exceed the 30 from last year.
The cutoff date to enter is this Friday. One can apply by calling Bay Oaks (765-4222) to request an emailed application, go to Bay Oaks to pick one up, or go to www.fortmyersbeachfl.gov and click on "Our Community," "Recreation and Public Services," "Bay Oaks Recreational Campus" and scroll down until you see "Fourth of July Parade Application." The theme is, of course, Red, White and Blue.
"This is a good, small town Fourth of July celebration," said Norton. "It will start with a fun time at the parade and conclude with an excellent fireworks show."
Parade awards, sponsored by The Beach Observer/Beach Bulletin, will include Best Musical Unit; Best Decorated Float; Best Patriotic Theme; Best Overall Theme; Best Decorated Bicycle; Best Business; and Best Non-Business.
After the parade, the awards are expected to be announced at a location not yet determined.Then, everyone is invited to Times Square where Time Square Alliance will host entertainment from noon up until the fireworks show, set to begin at 9:30 p.m.
"'The TroubleMakerz' will play from noon to 5 p.m., then there will be a half-hour break and 'High Tide' will play until the fireworks," said Norton. "The Town will be selling t-shirts there as well."
For the second straight year, the fireworks will feature synchronized music. Garden State Fireworks will again be employed for its spectacular man-built and electronically produced fireworks show. The New Jersey team is made up of federally licensed pyrotechnic experts who manufacture their own fireworks and are protected by a $5 million liability insurance policy.
In the past, the cost of putting on the Independence Day fireworks - a 20-25 eye-popping minutes- is roughly $30,000, which the Town funds with its revenues after charitable contributions are received. Anyone wanting to contribute to this cause is encouraged to drop by Town Hall or Bay Oaks.
Beach fireworks shows have attracted many Lee County residents and visitors to the island each Fourth of July and New Year's Eve. The ongoing success of the shows began when three Semmer family members and former islander Brenda Herod coordinated displays in 1988. Community members volunteered their time to help out soon afterwards.
Matanzas Bridge will be closed for the parade from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
During that span, Lee County Sheriff's Office officials will be disallowing drive-overs. Those wishing to drive over the Matanzas Bridge either to or away from Fort Myers Beach should make earlier plans. Latecomers will be asked to park at the County park-and-ride parking lot at the corner of Fisherman's Wharf and Main Street and walk over the bridge.
Also, from 9:30 to 11 p.m., both lanes on the bridge will be for exiting the bridge only.