Fireworks Show Will Go On!
Red, white, boom! Rest assured, everyone, there will be fireworks on Fort Myers Beach on the Fourth of July. Energized by an increasing fundraising effort on the part of the community, the Town Council decided on Monday to make up for the shortfall.
"I can't promise I'll say yes next year, but if you guys continue to work hard to try and pay for it, we'll help out,” Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros said on Monday. "I still think you should continue to look for business sponsorship, however.”
The Town has struggled with its fireworks displays - traditionally held on the Fourth and on New Year's Eve - since February of 2012, when longtime fundraiser Bill Semmer and his family came to the Town and announced that they could no longer sustain the time, effort and monetary output required to achieve the level of success they had all those years. To make matters worse, the Fort Myers Beach Civic Association, who began a Fourth parade a few years ago, dissolved their organization and so would cease sponsoring the parade. The council recognized the importance of continuing the fireworks shows, and originally voted to keep them going. The responsibilities for planning and executing such events were given to the Parks and Recreation Department, and Council asked Director Randy Norton to put together a sponsorship program to get local businesses to help offset the cost.
Last November, with little interest shown in the sponsorship program, Town Council announced that New Year's Eve would be the last fireworks show the Town funded, a decision they renounced on Monday after public outcry and several organizations and businesses scrambled to raise funding to keep the skies from going dark on our nation's birthday.
"We felt it was the right thing to do,” said Beach Chamber of Commerce President Bud Nocera. "Our Chairman, Dave Anderson, serves on the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus Advisory Board, an advisory board to Town Council, so he told us that the Town expressed a desire for the business community to step forward and we felt that the Chamber would be a logical entity to assist.”
According to Norton, the total cost for last year's Fourth of July festivities was $57,906, a number he expects to remain about the same for this year. This includes $30,000 for the fireworks themselves, $15,240 to the Lee County Sheriff's Office for traffic and crowd control, $5,000 to LeeTran for extra trollee service and various other costs for cleanup, port-a-potties and extra staff time from the Town's Public Works Department.
The Chamber donated $1,500 from the proceeds of their Taste of the Beach event - held on May 3rd - and then another $800 in private donations collected by local youth dressed in Uncle Sam outfits during the event.
The Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation has also been fundraising, and has donated $1,000, and the Times Square Merchants and Event Association has raised a whopping $2,500. La Ola, located in Time Square, is planning two fundraising events on Saturday, May 30 and Saturday, June 6, where they will sell 50/50 tickets and donate the proceeds to the fireworks fund.
Bud says there is much work still to be done.
"Every business on the island needs to help fund both the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve because everyone benefits from it,” he said.
We spoke to Anderson, and he told us that fireworks fundraising efforts are now focused on New Year's Eve.
"Andrea from Silver Sands has been instrumental in that, and she has either collected or gotten commitments for $10,000,” he said.
At Monday night's meeting, Hosafros suggested that Norton pursue off-island sponsorship since the event attracts so many folks from Lee County, and Nocera whole-heartedly agreed.
"There is a huge opportunity for a major sponsorship here,” he said. "If I was a major car dealership and could have my cars in Time Square and in the parade and my salespeople here - what a great way to increase sales and public relations!” he said.
Anyone interested in donating to the fireworks fund can call Anderson at Krusty Pete's: 239-463-1040, or make a check out to the Town of Fort Myers Beach Fireworks Fund and deliver them right to Randy Norton at Bay Oaks.
Keri Hendry Weeg