The big, huge American flag is being put up this week as a background on the large outside stage at Veterans Park on Homestead Rd. in preparation for a week of onstage entertainment.
The Lehigh Acres Spring Festival begins Friday night and promises nine days of entertainment for the whole family. On the first night of the festival, former Idol Winner Mark Phister will sing the National Anthem to mark the official beginning. The East Lee County High School and Footnotes Dance and Music Studio both will follow with special musical presentations.
And on Saturday night, at 5:30 p.m., Flashback, a classic rock band will perform. It will be followed at 8 p.m. with the featured Brooke Huffmaster & Moccasin River Band.
Festival welcome sign at the entrance of Veterans Park.
In past years, the honorary mayor of Lehigh was named on the first night of the festival, but for the last couple of years, the announcement has been delayed until Friday night March 22. Two Lehigh residents have entered the race, according to planners. The honorary mayor race was begun years ago by Lehigh Community Services as one of its major fundraisers.
Ray Nicely, who is the president of Community Services, said she thought it would be a great way for the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce to raise money and passed it on to the organization which at the time was facing financial problems due to the Great Recession.
Nobody knows who the new honorary mayor will be but Inke Baker, the interim chairman and CEO of the chamber and she isn't talking.
Lehigh Spring Festival schedule
Friday, March 15
- 6 p.m.: Opening ceremonies, national anthem by Idol winner Mark Phister
- 6:30 p.m.: East Lee County High School
- 7:30 p.m.: Footnotes Dance and Music Studio
- 8:15 p.m.: Junior Spring Festival Idol Contest
- 9:15 p.m.: Spring Festival Idol Contest
Saturday, March 16
- 8 a.m.: Lehigh Four-Mile Road Race
- Noon: Pet show registration
- Noon: VPA Recorder Club, Cub Choir and Drum Circle
- 1 p.m.: Pet show
- 2:30 p.m.: East Lee County High School
- 3:30 p.m.: Easter Egg Hunt with visit from Easter Bunny
- 3:30 p.m.: Dead Letter Society
- 5 p.m.: Festival BBQ Cook-Off
- 5:30 p.m.: Flashback
- 8 p.m.: Brooke Huffmaster and Moccasin River Band
Sunday, March 17
- 11 a.m.: Spring Festival Baby/Toddler Pageant
- 12:15 p.m.: Spring Festival Diaper Derby
- 1 p.m.: Spring Festival Prince and Princess Pageant
- 3 p.m.: Miss Spring Festival Pageant
- 5 p.m.: Junior Spring Festival Idol Contest
- 6:30 p.m.: Spring Festival Idol Contest
- 8 p.m.: TBA
Monday, March 18
- 6 p.m.: Footnotes Dance and Music Studio
- 6:30 p.m.: Registration for sewing, needlework and quilt/crafts and woodworking
- 7:30 p.m.: Contest judging begins
- 7:30 p.m.: Junior Spring Festival Idol Contest
- 9 p.m.: Spring Festival Idol Contest
Tuesday, March 19
- 6 p.m.: Baking contest registration
- 6 p.m.: Lehigh Elementary Singing Sensations
- 7 p.m.: Contest judging begins
- 7 p.m.: Junior Spring Festival Idol Contest
- 8:30 p.m.: Spring Festival Idol Contest
Wednesday March 20
- 6 p.m.: Chili contest registration
- 6:30 p.m.: Spring Festival Idol Alumni
- 7 p.m.: Susan Katz Dance Studio
- 7:30 p.m.: Contest judging begins
- 8: p.m.: Junior Spring Festival Idol Contest
- 9: p.m.: Spring Festival Idol Contest
Thursday, March 21
- 6:30 p.m.: Lehigh Senior High School
- 6:30 p.m.: Flowers, fruits and vegetables contest registeration
- 7:30 p.m.: Contest judging begins
- 7:30 p.m.: Junior Spring Festival Idol semi-finals
- 9 p.m.: Spring Festival Idol semi-finals
*Pirate Day - dress like a pirate.
Friday, March 22
- 6:30 p.m.: Junior Spring Festival Idol finals
- 6:30 p.m.: Lehigh Chamber After Hours
- 7:15 p.m.: Honorary Mayor Race winner announced
- 7:30 p.m.: Spring Festival Idol finals
- 8:30 p.m.: The Nowhere Band
Saturday, March 23
- 8 a.m.: Shrine Club Masonic Lodge Pancake Breakfast
- 11 a.m.: Grand Parade
- 12:30 p.m.: Future Lab Rats
- 1:30 p.m.: E.L. Smith Project
- 3 p.m.: The Certified Band
- 4:30 p.m.: Crossfire
- 6 p.m.: The Michael King Band
- 8 p.m.: Live and Learn
"I'll announce it that night, and surprise everyone," she said. "The contestants that have announced publicly that they are candidates for the honorary mayor race will have the opportunity to raise money through the festival week by soliciting funds from those who attend the festival," Baker said.
The honorary mayor's race usually begins on January 1, but was delayed a month this year.
Also on Friday night are the first sessions of the Junior Spring Festival Idol Contest and the Adult Spring Festival Idol Contest. This is when some of the best talent of Lehigh begins performing.
The contest continues throughout the week at night with those attending voting to keep or let go candidates with the naming of the winners on Friday night, March 22.
The semi-finals will be the night before. At 8 p.m., a popular singing group The Nowhere Band will perform and pay tribute to the Beatles.
The band performed last year and is being brought back by popular demand. Several other bands are performing throughout the week.
Andy Reisinger is this year's chairman of the Lehigh Spring Festival Committee, taking over for Danny Stephenson, who died last year.
Stephenson was one of the more popular participants at the festival. Not only was he a musician, he was the "voice of the festival" and emceed most of the events each evening from the outdoor stage.
Friendly and well-liked by all, Stephenson kept the pace of activities moving along on the outside stage with his jokes and announcements of upcoming events.
Reisinger is also the chairman of the parade which takes place on Saturday, March 23 at 8 a.m., when it promptly starts its trek down Homestead Rd. to an area near Arthur Ave. The rest of the day is devoted to all types of activities including the midway rides and plenty of food and games.
Several events are planned throughout the festival everything from musical entertainment to a chili contest and several things in between. There is a pet contest and a bubble blowing contest and lots more.
To see a list of activities, look inside today's Lehigh Acres Citizen on Page 23.
This weekend on Saturday, there is a 4-mile road race, a pet show, an Easter Egg Hunt with a visit from the Easter Bunny, and a rock and roll presentation by the Dead Letter Society, a local very popular musical group.
At 5 p.m. on Saturday, there is a Festival BBQ cook-off and a rock performance by Flashback.
Parking has usually been $3 per car which is split with the Lehigh Acers Soccer League, whose members direct motorists to parking places.
On Sunday, there is a baby and toddler pageant, a diaper derby and the Spring Festival Prince and Princess Pageant.
Reisinger and others on his committee say the death of Danny Stephenson has been something they won't forget but they know he would want the festival to continue for all of Lehigh. The festival is being dedicated in his memory. Several sponsors in Lehigh, who are listed on a giant sign at the park, helped to make this year's festival possible.
Stephenson was known by perhaps thousands who for years have attended the festival. He was the emcee on the outside stage that kept things moving.