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Community must hustle to raise July 4 fireworks money

March 23, 2016
By John Morton ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The April 1 deadline was looming and not a single donation had been made toward Fort Myers Beach's annual Fourth of July fireworks display, town staff reported at Monday's Town Council meeting.

As a result, the local business community is scrambling to hopefully raise as much as $25,000 toward the event to avoid it being cancelled. Jacki Liszak, owner of the Sea Gypsy Inn, is spearheading the effort and said she had already received $6,500 in verbal commitments within two days, including a $1,000 donation in hand.

Saying that guests book her motel each year for a view of the show, which takes place on the public pier, Liszak volunteered to the council her fund-raising services. So did John Lallo, owner of Pete's Time Out in Times Square. On New Year's Eve, he helped raise $5,700 in a few hours to secure additional trolleys to run beyond their 9 p.m. cut-off time. Money for extra trolleys, which the town dropped from its budget last year, will be needed for the Fourth of July event as well.

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The volunteer commitments came as a relief to the council.

"I'd hate to see us not have the fireworks," said newly elected Mayor Dennis Boback, who initiated the annual Fourth of July Parade nine years ago while previously mayor.

Council member Anita Cereceda reminded those in attendance that the fireworks show "is not a governmental deal" but that the town is willing to match 50 percent of any money raised, per recent town policy.

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For more than 20 years, Semmer Electric on San Carlos Island provided the Fourth of July fireworks, but stopped in 2012. The duty fell to the town's parks and recreation department, until the town pulled the plug in November of 2014 by announcing the New Year's Eve show that winter would be the last fireworks show it organized.

Meanwhile, new council member Tracey Gore said she had spoken to representatives with Garden State, the fireworks company that provides the show, and she said they are willing to extend the contract deadline to mid-May.

Bud Nocera, president of the Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, met Wednesday with business leaders and provided a list of the 850 businesses in the vicinity. He said he will approach all chamber members for donations and also volunteered members of his staff to provide clean-up duties after the event.

Fact Box

How to donate toward fireworks

You can write a check, payable to: FMB Fireworks Fund. Fund-raising organizer Jacki Liszak is willing to pick up the check, or you can drop it off at her business (Sea Gypsy Inn) at 1698 Estero Blvd. You can contact Liszak by phone at (954) 415-2233 or by email at

You can do so online through a account that has been established through a link on the group's Facebook page page entitled FMB Fireworks Fund.

The minimum cost of the fireworks show is $20,000, but additional support costs bump up the total needed. For example, the most recent New Year's Eve event cost $52,000, reported Maureen Rischitelli, the town's director of administrative services.

Beyond the trolleys, law-enforcement presence from Lee County is also needed at a cost of $10,000, she said.

Liszak said the fund-raising effort from now on be continuous, as she hopes to avoid the fireworks events sneaking up on the town twice a year.

A not-for-profit fund, called FMB Fireworks Fund, is being established, Liszak said, as well as a Facebook page of the same name. Check and (a link will be present on the Facebook page) are the methods that will be available to donors.

For more information, contact Liszak by phone at (954) 415-2233 or by email at



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