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Festival parade route back on right track

Businesses were preparing to protest

January 8, 2016
By John Morton - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Festival parade route back on right track

Businesses were preparing to protest

By John Morton

The Shrimp Festival's traditional parade route won't be taking a detour after all.

Due to Lee County's ongoing massive construction project along Estero Boulevard, organizers chose the island's northern tip between Lynn Hall and Bowditch parks as the path for the 58th installment of Fort Myers Beach's showcase event. The stretch is mostly residential or home to vacation resorts.

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Now, the county says it can travel along its usual business-heavy path on March 12 between School Street and the base of the Sky Bridge.

"We'll do whatever we have to do to accommodate the parade," said Larry Kiker, county commissioner and former Fort Myers Beach mayor. "There may be some exception, but my expectation is that it will work out."

Kiker met with Mayor Anita Cereceda on Thursday to discuss the situation, getting word from the construction representatives that the area would be ensured as passable. Kiker said volunteers will be needed to monitor the areas deemed unsafe, and there will likely be areas where equipment must be stored that are off limits.

"The route may have to shrink a bit, like maybe a half block, and it may sound silly but we can't have people throwing things like beads down the holes in the road," Kiker said. "The people on the parade route will have to be careful."

Cereceda was pleased with the county's support.

"Logistically, it would have been a nightmare, and it's just not the same," she said of the north-end plan. "It's also just one day in which work won't be done. The county is willing to absorb the cost, which is appreciated.

"It's my favorite day. Where there's a will, there's a way."

Fred Schmiesing, president of the local Lions Club which hosts the parade, was relieved.

"That's fantastic," he said. "We're talking a tradition of 58 years and that's important."

He was dreading trying to pull it off at the north end, being accustomed to having the Beach Elementary School's parking lots as a place to line up the parade.

"That was going to have to be a short parade," he said of the alternative route, "because there's nowhere to stage the vehicles."

He also sympathized with the county's concern over the beads.

"We have to cut back on those," Schmiesing said. "I'm told the crews are finding them in the sewers."

Tracey Gore, a local volunteer who oversees the festival's princesses, also called the news "fantastic."

"Hopefully it all works out because Fort Myers Beach and Lee County residents love our traditions," she said.

The adjustment comes just as business owners along the traditional route were organizing in hopes of meeting with commissioners. Andrea Carriere, owner of the Silver Sands Resort, spearheaded the talks.

"This whole strip, for most of them, this is their biggest day of the year," she said of the parade. "And I have people book a year in advance the same exact room so they can see the parade."

Shamrock Irish Pub owner Mike Hotz, who drives his shamrock bus in the parade but doubted whether he could navigate the new route, agreed.

"First of all, it's tradition. The people line the streets," he said. "And it equals about a total of $20,000 for those of us on the route. The impact won't be nearly the same where they moved it. It would be screwing the businesses."



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