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Edison Festival of Light Parade, celebration starts Saturday

Parade, celebration starts Saturday

February 14, 2019
Lehigh Acres Citizen

By MEGHAN BRADBURY

news@breezenewspapers.com

Join the expected 200,000 spectators this Saturday for the 81st annual Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade.

The celebration begins at 11 a.m. with free entertainment all day on Edwards Drive. At 7 p.m. the Grand Parade will begin. A fireworks show will also be apart of the festivities.

There is also a 5K race, which begins with a shotgun start at 5:45 p.m. It starts on Edwards Drive before the parade begins.

Ted Fitzgeorge, who has been on the board for 20 years, said they had to make a few tweaks to the route this year because of construction.

Fact Box

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Events:

* Crafts on the River: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 and Sunday, Feb. 17: Centennial Park will feature 100 exhibitors displaying their handcrafts ranging from jewelry to artwork.

* 5K Run: 5:45-6:45 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, starting on Jackson Street South and Edwards Drive. Information: www.ftmyerstrackclub.com.

*Grand Parade: 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, Fort Myers High School to Downtown Fort Myers.

* Classic Car Show: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, on Edwards Drive in the Downtown River District. Hundreds of classic cars will be on display.

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"With the construction this year on the Harborside (Event Center), we lost all but one block of Edwards Drive," he said.

The festival will begin at Fort Myers High School before heading down US 41 to Main Street then to Hendry Street before turning on Edwards Drive and then to Jackson Street. The parade will finish at Second Street.

Parade officials advise individuals not to sit on Monroe Street, or Edwards Drive in front of the Harborside Event Center. Instead, they should find a spot on Main Street, or Hendry Street. Other prime locations can be found along US 41 between Lions Park and MLK.

Fitzgeorge said with many people returning to the same spot every year to watch the parade, they wanted to make sure that individuals know the new route, so they can have the best vantage point to watch.

Many spectators begin picking their spot for the parade a month before it is held. He said starting at the beginning of the week, individuals start taping the area and putting their lawn chairs in the particular spot.

"They will sit there for the whole week and nobody will bother them. It never gets old," Fitzgeorge said.

Many of the parade goers also use the opportunity to have a tailgating party, complete with BBQs and music. He said they make it into a whole day and evening affair.

"We've been told it is the largest nighttime parade in the Southeastern United States and the largest and longest annual event in Southwest Florida," he said. "We have bands from around the country. Lots of great floats, miniature horses, sheriff's department and police department horses, clowns and jugglers."

In order for individuals to participate in the parade they must be lit up, Fitzgeorge explained.

"Our major sponsors also puts floats in the parade. It's a great downhome feel for a wonderful family event," he said.

For the first time in the eight decades the parade has been held, it will be live streamed, thanks to the help of Florida Southwestern State College.

"We have always had people that record the parade and provide disks. This is the first time we have gone livestream," he said, which can be viewed at www.fsw.edu/parade.

The 81st annual Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade named Tommy Bohanon as the Grand Marshall. Tommy, a former North Fort Myers High Red Knights football star, is now a fullback starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"It's a great honor. It's a parade that has been going on for many years. It's a great honor and privilege to be able to do this," Tommy said.

His wife, Katie, said she honestly thinks it is really cool he was chosen as the Grand Marshall.

"It's really nice seeing him acknowledged for his athletic achievements and that he is an important person in the community making a positive impact on the community. A lot of people will be able to see who he is and a name to the face," she said, adding that he will also have the opportunity to raise awareness of what they are trying to accomplish in Southwest Florida.

Tommy received the Pop Warner Humanitarian Award during the 58th annual All-American Scholars Banquet last year for his efforts on and off the field.

Tommy and Katie began the Tommy Bohanon Foundation to make a positive impact on the community.

Katie said the foundation was founded in June 2017 originally as a free football camp. With positive responses from the community it was formed into a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

"Tommy and I grew up in Lee County. We have been here our whole lives," she said, adding that they have been fortunate to do really well and wanted to give back to the community and have a positive impact on the kids in the community. "It flourished in the past 18 months."

The foundation is geared towards making the best impact they can on student athletes and those interested in extra curricular activities.

The ultimate goal of the foundation is to end generational poverty in Southwest Florida. Katie said when an individual goes on to college, or a trade school to further their education, they are more likely to provide for their family, as well as improving the community.

That is being down through a one-day football camp, equipment grants, as well as through scholarships.

The camps are always held the third week of June at North Fort Myers High School. The first year, with just three weeks of planning, the camp attracted just under 100 athletes. The following year more than 200 athletes participated. This year they are expecting between 225-250 youth.

"The camp is a one-day camp from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All of our coaches are previous division one athletes, or certified coaches locally in the area," Katie said. "Tommy always attends. It is kind of his baby for the year."

The foundation, Tommy said is near and dear to their hearts.

"We want to help as many people as we possibly can. It is very important in our lives. We've been blessed to be able to do many things outside of football," he said.

In addition, Tommy also makes appearances at the local schools, which occurred Tuesday morning at Skyline Elementary School. He read "Green Eggs and Ham" to the children.

"It's always great to be able to go into the classrooms, this case the library, and talk and interact with them. They always pick the same kind of books, so it becomes a little easier," Tommy said.

One of the more than 200 participants in the parade is the German American Social Club. A member of the club, Stefan Geizel designed and built a replica of the Apollo 11 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of landing on the moon.

Geizel said the replica is 20 feet long and is white with the United States letters printed on the side.

"There is a moon right on top of the truck, so the rocket aims right at the moon," he said of the vehicle towing the float.

The float includes smoke, loud noise and what looks like flames. Inside the capsule includes the three astronauts, which will be lit up.

"I am so excited. If I don't get a prize on this I don't know what else I can do better than that," he said.

Carol Kenna, also a member of the club, said the float is really something.

"It looks just like the original rocket. It is beautiful. I am pretty impressed," she said.

 
 

 

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