Between the Super Bowl and the Olympics, the information highway has left little room for news about the premier event in Southwest Florida – The Edison Festival of Light – which takes place in Fort Myers. In fact, certain outlier aspects of the event are already underway, as a warm up to the major event highlights.
Next up this weekend, Sunday Feb. 9th, downtown Fort Myers will hot the Junior Fun Run (1 PM), the Junior Parade (2:30 PM) and the Junior Coronation and Awards (4:30 PM).
If you are unfamiliar with this annual event, which has been celebrated in one form or another by Fort Myers since 1938, here is some background. The highlight of the festival is the Grand Parade. It will take place in Fort Myers, at 7 PM, on Saturday, Feb 15th starting at Fort Myers High School’s Edison Stadium and proceeding to the its conclusion in the River District. (This is a reversal of the earlier route which started downtown – now the River District – and continued to the High School for a final stadium celebration. The Edison Festival of Light Grand parade has been touted as the country’s largest, lighted nighttime parade, although lately some bowl-game parades may have surpassed it in crowd size. It is still surprisingly large for our small community.
Marching bands come from around the state and country, attracted by both the renown of the event and the nice February weather in Southwest Florida. A highlight of the parade as been the introduction the Festival Queen & King and their court, selected from young ladies in the community. As a bow to the even younger area residents, a Junior Parade was created, including its own “Junior” Royal Court, hence the Feb. 9th coronation and parade.
Returning to the Grand Parade, one of its quirkier aspects was the habit of local residents placing folding chairs on the sidewalks along the parade route to reserve their space for the big night. Since these place markers were often put out a month or more before the parade, sidewalks littered with aluminum folding chairs started to become an unattractive nuisance. Of late, they have been replaced by strips of duct tape displaying the name of the “reserving” parties. The significance of this is its demonstration how popular the Grand Parade is for spectators.
Warming up for the Grand parade are Saturday events such as a pre-Parade party downtown in Centennial Park, a craft and vintage show also in Centennial Park and a 5K run before the parade. On Sunday, Feb. 16th, there is a Classic Car Show down town, a mutt strut (dogs on parade) and a benefit concert at the Davis Art Center.
As you can tell, this is a lot of stuff to do on one weekend. Fortunately, if you are staying with us at WestWind Inn, you can squeeze in a little beach time to relax.