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06/19/2014 at 3:12pm

FireworksBoom Goes the Beach!

By far the biggest event on our island in the sleepy summer months is the Fourth of July parade and fireworks. Now Town-run for the second year in a row, these events really showcase small-town community spirit as they involve the hard work of many individuals who toil tirelessly during a time of year when many folks take advantage of the off-season downtime to go on much-needed vacations. And the payoff is great - people flock to Fort Myers Beach from several counties and beyond because what better place is there to watch fireworks then from a beach? And this year's event will feature something new - a hot dog eating contest!

The fun starts with the Fourth of July Parade, which will begin at the Beach Library at 10am and head down Estero Boulevard to Time Square.

"The Matanzas Pass Bridge will close at 9am and not re-open until noon, so we encourage everyone to get down here early,” said Adam Leicht, Fitness Coordinator for the Town of Fort Myers Beach's Park and Recreation Department, who are in charge of organizing all the fun on the Fourth. "So far we've got 3 car clubs, 2 beauty pageants, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), the VFW, several families, the Chamber of Commerce, Town Council and, of course, the Shamrock bus.”

Leicht told us that folks are still signing up for the parade, so any business, organization, group or family interested in participating needs to call him ASAP at 239-765-4222.

"Those not interested in being in the procession are encouraged to come out and show your patriotic spirit,” he said. "Line either side of Estero Boulevard and get a front row seat to the parade!”

Following the parade, everyone is encouraged to make their way to Time Square for the Town's first annual hot dog eating contest, sponsored by the Time Square Merchant's Alliance, Southern Deli and Flowers Bakery.

"This was my idea as we were trying to come up with how to keep folks in the Square between the parade and the fireworks,” Adam told us. "The parade will last about an hour and a half, then the hot dog eating contest starts at 2pm. The contest only costs $10 per person to enter, and we have three divisions with the winner of each receiving a nice trophy plus $100.”

Hot dog eating contests originated in the United States with the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, legendarily beginning at the famous hot dog maker's s

tand on Coney Island in 1916, though no factual evidence of the contest exists until 1972. That particular event (also held on the Fourth) has become hugely popular over the years, with last year's winner - Joey Chestnut - taking home over $10,000 in prize money after consuming 69 hot dogs (including buns) in ten minutes.

Locally, the three divisions for our contest are Men's, Women's and Kids (under 16).

"We expect it to last about eight minutes, and don't worry - we have plenty of hot dogs!” he said. "To sign up, just come by Bay Oaks Recreational Campus and fill out a form.”

And then there's the main event. The 4th of July Fireworks Show will be set to music and commence shortly after sunset.

"I'm figuring it will begin about 9 unless it rains and then we will wait until after the showers stop,” said Adam. "We are planning a great show that can be seen island-wide and will last about 30 minutes.”

For those who are uninitiated, watching a fireworks show over water is a spectacle like no other as the reflection from the dancing waves make it appear as though there are two shows rather than one. And families can enjoy it from the comfort of their own blankets spread over the spacious sandy beach.

"All throughout the day, from 9am until midnight, open containers will be allowed in Time Square and we will be selling glow sticks, necklaces and t-shirts,” Leicht told us. "There will fun going on all day long!”

Come celebrate the Fourth with us, island-style!

Keri Hendry Weeg