Edison Fest grand parade lights up the night in Fort Myers (2024)

The Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade lit up the night again Saturday in spectacular fashion: Flashing blue police lights, colorful floats and even a giant lightbulb balloon wearing sunglasses.

And thousands of people showed up to see that two-hour spectacle as it traveled from Fort Myers High School to downtown Fort Myers — a tradition honoring former Fort Myers resident Thomas Edison that stretchesback 84 years.

Ryan Downey, 37, of Fort Myers used to watch the parade as a kid growing up in Fort Myers. Now he was doing it with his own children, taking in the sights Saturday from lawn chairs along the parade route.

“The kids love it, even as they get older,” Downey said. “You’re never too old for a parade.”

More:The 2022 Edison Festival of Light Junior Parade in photos

Edison Festival grand parade:What you need to know about the Fort Myers event

Saturday marked the return of the parade after skipping 2021 because ofCOVID concerns. And many people welcomed it back with cheers, claps and big smiles along the parade route.

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The people waving from those floats were excited, too.

“We are glad to be back!” said Christy Payne, an organizer of the Bayshore Cloggers’ 33rd annual float. “This is the high point of every year.”

The parade started at 7 p.m. Saturday with ambulances flashing red emergency lights and blaring their sirens. Bystanders on Llewellyn Drive near Cleveland Avenue craned their necks to see the first units as they started rolling up the street.

“Here it comes!” several people exclaimed.

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From there, the sights kept rolling and marching down Cleveland Avenue and through the streets of downtown Fort Myers.

Parade marshal Jeanette Nuñez (Florida’s lieutenant governor) and honorary marshal Larry Antonucci (Lee Health’s president and CEO) waved from atop their Bentley sedan and fire truck, respectively. “The Voice” singer Ben Allen rocked out on his float to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck." And about 18 marching bands danced and played to the sounds of “Louie Louie” and more.

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Other highlights included the kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing members of Guns nHoses Pipes andDrums band; lots of Lee County Sheriff’s Office vehicles (including a bomb-disarming robot and a small drone floating along the parade route) and a group of about 150 dancers doing Mexicanfolk dances in feathered Aztec headdresses and other traditional costumes.

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Those Mexican dancers represent a group of Southwest Florida families who want to share their culture with their community, said member Yuleyde Rodriguez. So they were disappointed they didn’t get to dance for the crowds last year after the parade was canceled.

Now the parade was back, andRodriguez said they were happy to be dancing again for the event.

“We’re really excited to be a part of it again," Rodriguez said about an hour before the parade started, as the parade units assembled in the stadium at Fort Myers High.

There was lots more to see in the parade, too: The daredevil traffic officers of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Motorcycle Drill Team; various mayors, city managers and other leaders; and, of course, the many parade floats — including the Bayshore Cloggers'float featuringRubik’s Cubes, Pac-Man, a huge boombox and 34 clogging Bayshore Elementary School students dancing to Elton John and Kool and the Gang.

The theme was obvious, of course. “It’s the '80s,” organizer Payne said. “Movin’ and groovin’ to the ‘80s.”

The Grand Parade is the biggest event in the annual Edison Festival of Light, a two-week celebration that began in February 1938 as a way to honor Fort Myers' most famous winter resident, inventor Thomas Edison.

Suzanne Sherer of Cape Coral looks forward to the parade every year. She’s usually sitting on her float with her dog, Maddie, with other dogs and dog owners in the float celebrating the Edison Festival's Mutt Strutt dog parade.

“It’s fun!” Sherersaid about the parade. “It’s kind of like a big tailgate party. … It’s amazing seeing all the people out there.”

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For Sherer, though, Saturday’s parade wasn’t just any parade. It also happened to fall onher birthday.

“Other people get a birthday cake,” she said and smiled. “I get a parade.”

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Sherer saidshe was glad to see the parade return.

“For most of us, we grew up with the parade,” she said. “It’s so much a part of Fort Myers.”

Tonya Huggins of Fort Myers feels the same way. She huddled under a blanket in her lawn chair on Cleveland Avenue as her four grandkids played nearby.

There’s nothing quite like the parade, she said.

“It’s just the entertainment,” she said. “I’m 52. I’ve been coming my whole life. It’s just tradition.”

Connect with this reporter:Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Email him at crunnells@gannett.com or connect on Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), Twitter (@charlesrunnells) and Instagram (@crunnells1).

Edison Fest grand parade lights up the night in Fort Myers (2024)
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