The 2021 Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade canceled

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2018 Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade. Credit

The 2021 Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

The parade, the largest nighttime parade in the southeast, is attended by many Southwest Floridians. Spectators will mark off their spot along the sidewalls more than a month in advance to ensure their spot for their lawn chairs.

And for many, it’s a family tradition.

Bill Kohl of Fort Myers would sit with his neighbors, see the floats and marching band from their lawn chairs, “Oh yeah, you saw everybody. When I first moved down here I would see these lawn chairs strapped against the fence and tape, and I said what is this? People were taping out their areas … I did it right there in the front yard. I have people over, say hey look at my private firework show.”

Next year, the show will not go on. No grande parade. No junior parade either.

“It’s a tradition. It was a tradition here. So yeah, there’s a lot of people that are going to be upset I think,” Kohl added.

Cape Coral almost lost their Holiday Festival of Lights to the pandemic as well.

The chamber of commerce saved the event with a change to make it a day event from Noon to 6:30 p.m. on December 5, with the tree lighting at the end, instead of night and adding online registration.

Donna Germain, president and CEO of the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce said, “We definitely think it will control the number of people that are coming out having an actual entry point because if you’ve been to the event in years past it’s just one big block party”

The Edison Festival of Light board of directors didn’t see a safe way to carry on.

But Kohl has his memories to keep the day bright, “People running around, the police, there’s a lot of activity with the clydesdales the big Budweiser trucks. It’s kind of fun just kind of watching it take place and come together, so yeah I’m going to miss it.”

The Edison Festival of Light organization said:

“This week, the Edison Festival of Light Board of Directors made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade.

Known as the largest night parade in the southeast, the parade paying tribute to Thomas Alva Edison, has been around for more than eight decades.

More than that, the tradition has become one of Southwest Florida’s largest events with estimated spectators of more than 250,000 and participants of nearly 2,000. It brings the community together like no other event during the year.

Therein lies the concern for the all-volunteer Board of Directors. “It was not a decision that came lightly. We are passionate about this parade and it is our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of attendees and participants this year more than ever,” said Board President Steve Sizemore.

Under normal circumstances, safety is always a number one priority for the Grand Parade Committee and there are a lot of moving parts. Add COVID-19 to the equation and the risks become escalated. There are 12-14 high school bands participating in the parade each year. Some of them travel from other states and are gathered in a staging area for pre-parade coordination – typically not six feet apart.

Corporate, civic, and community groups join to ride on floats, march, and provide entertainment along the parade route – typically not six feet apart. And spectators begin marking/reserving their viewing areas along US 41 and throughout the Downtown River District months before the events begin in February – definitely not six feet apart. “We hope that the COVID-19 threat is gone or reduced by February but we don’t have a crystal ball. For planning purposes, we had to decide now. We opted for better safe than sorry,” said Sizemore.

Some of the smaller Edison Festival of Light events that allow for social distancing measures will still take place in February. More details will be announced as the planning develops. And the Board, supported by a host of community sponsors such as FPL, Galloway Ford, Morgan & Morgan, Family Thrift Center, Florida Weekly, LCEC and many others are committed to keeping the tradition alive when the timing is right.”

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