The action-filled Lehigh Spring Festival comes to an end this weekend with a gala parade down Homestead Road, and a day of fun at Veterans Park where there will be entertainment and all types of activities.
The parade begins promptly at 11 a.m. in the area of Beth Stacey Boulevard and continues down Homestead Road to an area just short of Veterans Park. Judges will be situated in front of SunTrust Bank, where moderators will describe the units passing by.
Andy Resigner is chairman of the Lehigh Spring Festival Committee and also chairman of the parade, something he has been doing now for several years.
Lehigh Spring Festival logo
Those participating in the parade will be gathering on streets behind Homestead Rd. and they will be placed in order of appearance.
This year's Pioneer of Lehigh is Fay Richmond, wife of the late Jim Richmond, one of the early settlers of Lehigh and who also helped in the formation of the community.
Fay and Jim had two sons, Billee and James. Billee passed away in 1996 and James lives in Lehigh Acres today with his family. Fay worked for many years for the Lehigh Corp. and did many other things helping her community.
She also sang with the Fort Myers Sweet Adeline Chorus.
Today, Fay keeps busy taking care of seniors and animals for others and sometimes her grandson, Ian Richmond. She said she was happy to accept the honor of the chamber's choice to be this year's pioneer resident in the parade.
"Lee and Esther Ratner were Jim's sister and brother-in-law and I sang in a chorus for 25 years. Jim moved here in 1951 and I moved here with my entire family in 1960. My dad Elmer started the first all-volunteer fire department in 1961 and was elected first fire chief by 20 of his selected fellow residents and my mom, Lee started Fire Belles. My grandparents started the Lehigh kitchen band and all of my family worked for the Lehigh Corporation in one capacity or another," she said.
The festival began last Friday and over the week several events have taken place including contests for kids and entertainment for adults. A midway carnival has been at Veterans Park for the eight-day festival which will end on Saturday afternoon at the park. There have been pageants, baby and toddler races, a bubble gum blowing contest and much more.
For more information on the festival and its activities, you can go online at: LehighSpringFestival.com.
Debbie Jackson, a member of the Spring Festival Committee, said that LehighSpringFestival.com is the official site for the festival and should not be confused with another site when someone added the word "Acres" in the address.
She said the official site lists the events at the festival and uses the festival's official logo. On the other site, she said the festival's logo had been taken and altered without permission from the festival board.
The festival was first formed decades ago to bid farewell to seasonal visitors who left Lehigh to return to the north. The festivals were always held in March, often the third week so visitors could be home for Easter.
The parade will likely last a little more than an hour with around 100 units. Many organizations in the community have built floats and many people walk in the parade.
One of the most favorite events each year is the handing out of candy to the many children along the route. In the past, candy has been tossed but festival planners frown on this because throwing candy can injure someone.
They ask that those with candy to hand it out, rather than throwing it out.
Awards will be presented in Veterans Park for winners of different categories in the parade.
Also on Friday night before the Saturday parade, the winner of the honorary mayor contest will be announced. Checks will be presented to the Greater Lehigh Chamber of Commerce. The winners will also share a part of the money they have collected to their favorite charity.
Visitors to the parade should arrive early, Parade Chairman Reisinger said. Streets will be shut down close to an hour before the event. Cars can park in strip shopping centers along the route.
The festivities move into Veterans Park where large crowds are expected. While some bleachers are provided for seating in front of the outdoors stage, you may want to bring your own lawn chair and a can of sun screening to prevent sunburn, or you could bring an umbrella for shade.