SWFL rings in 2021 with hope for a positive turn during pandemic

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In Downtown Fort Myers, large groups of people gathered to ring in the New Year. It’s what businesses in the area told us they hoped for.

There was no ball drop and no dancing in the streets, but it was something.

“It’s slower compared to last year, but it’s to be expected,” Luanne Brownell said.

It did not keep people from going out to say goodbye to a year they will never forget.

“We gotta open the door at 2020 at midnight and let it all out and then 2021 let it all in,” Brownell said.

“We are just happy to be together after this separating year from COVID,” Jeff Kozora said.

“I’m expecting to see a lot of people also,” said Chris Blauvelt, the owner of The Standard. “We’ve already seen it all day long. People just want to get rid of this year and start a new year.”

A new beginning after a year like 2020 is something many people say is a reason to celebrate.

“It’s a new year, fresh start,” Aileen Fleming said. “Hopefully, things will get back to the way they used to be or even better.”

Many businesses in the downtown area decided to have their own countdowns with champagne toast, some live streaming the ball drop in New York City, as people welcome 2020.

“It’s just like a regular night,” Sarah Newcomb said. “Everyone is socially distant, so you can still come out, enjoy a night out celebrating the new year, hopefully positive things in the new year to put the whole year behind us and still be safe.”


Everyone we spoke to on Fort Myers Beach could not wait to close the books on 2020.

One person we spoke described the year as a snowball rolling down a mountain, picking up more and more challenges as it rolled on. At midnight, they said they hope that snowball melts and disappears in the new year.

“It was an experience,” Maurice Westley said. “The good thing about it is everybody was able to manage to pull through it and looking forward to a different year.”

“Interesting, a lot of ups and downs, challenges,” Theresa Eichbauer said.

Even though there was no ball drop or fireworks on the beach to end the year, crowds packed the island town, where businesses were open to help them celebrate.

“Moving forward,” LaTonya Westley said. “After this year, I’m going to spend more time with my family.”

“My New Year’s resolution will be to spend more time getting along with people in our family,” Kevin Eichbauer said. “I know with the election, separated a lot of our friends in a lot of our family, so it’s time to rebuild those relationships.”

Although challenging, for some 2020 wasn’t all bad.

“I think that it helped me and others to slow down and take a look at what is important, look at priorities,” Theresa said.

Everyone was full of hope for a better tomorrow.

“In 2021, I really want to be able to appreciate more of the stuff that I have and spend time with my family,” Tonreece Westley said.


Crowds also formed to celebrate the end of the year and the start of 2021 in downtown Naples.

Bars were packed, and some were not worried about the pandemic at all, while others said it was too much.

“We’re here to celebrate the end of 2020,” Joanne Duffy said.

You could hear the sounds of hundreds of people counting down the hours until midnight in the downtown area.

“It’s just enjoying being here,” Per Nielsen said. “It really is good.”

“I’m excited for 2021 and a new start and everything,” Madison Azoff said.

While many celebrated the new year, there were those concerned about a lack of precautions being taken. One person told us they were confused why events such as fireworks were canceled, but businesses packed in patrons.

After multiple events were canceled to end 2020, 5th Avenue was the place many decided to go in Naples.

Some were worried about lack of social distancing and lack of masks.

Others thought the hustle and bustle was good for business and moral.

“The more, the merrier,” Duffy said.

“We’re not worried,” Nielsen said.

The theme of the night was the positivity and hope for what’s to come in 2021.

“As much as it seemed dark, I had a wonderful year,” Duffy said. “I had two new grandbabies born this year.”

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