FORT MYERS, Fla. - Downtown Fort Myers is ramping up for one of its biggest days of the year. We're talking about the Edison Festival of Light Grand parade. Tens of thousands of people will pack the streets to see floats, bands, horses runners and much more.
In its 76th year, the even still shines brightly as the largest night parade in the southeast. Preparations started only days after last year's event. But just hours before this parade, we got the big news that Governor Rick Scott will serve as Grand Marshal, walking alongside Mayor Randy Henderson.
"We are tickled pink he has agreed to be a part of our festivities," said Ted Fitzgeorge who's on the Board of Directors for the Edison Festival of Light "He's very excited to meet the winners of the Science Inventors Fair. He's very interested in the education aspects of course. Anywhere you are along the parade route you'll get a chance to see the Governor."
Organizers expect 200,000 people to flood downtown Saturday night and that's music to the ears of vendors and business owners.
United Café Bar & Bistro is staying open late, with a special dinner menu to cash in. The exposure is priceless for La Dolce Vita which just opened three weeks ago."Authentic Italian food from scratch," General Manager Tony Bennett said, describing the food. "We're just prepping food as fast as we can. I'm getting everything set up. We need it because we are brand new."
Organizers' best advice is to come early and stay late. A number of streets will be blocked off starting at 6 a.m. The rest will close at 5 p.m. There's free street parking, garages cost $4, or you can park farther away and ride the free river district trolley into town. The parade party kicks off a noon at Centennial Park with entertainment all day. The Grande Parade starts at 7 p.m.
Fort Myers Police Department will close the following roads beginning at 5:00 p.m. for the Edison Grand Parade, unless otherwise noted:
Cleveland Avenue between Hanson Street and Main Street
Edwards Drive, closed from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.**
Bay Street between Heitman Street and Jackson Street
First Street between Fowler Street and Jackson Street
Main Street between Cleveland Avenue and Hendry Street
Monroe Street between Main Street and Edwards Drive closed at 7 a.m.**
Heitman Street from Bay Street to Edwards Drive closed at 7 a.m.**
Broadway Avenue between Second Street and Bay Street
Hendry Street between Main Street and Edwards Drive, closed from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.**
Jackson Street between Edwards Drive and Edison Avenue
Cortez Avenue, between Del Rio Drive and Llewellyn Drive
Llewellyn Drive between Cortez Avenue and Cleveland Avenue
Hoople Street between Jackson Street and Central Avenue
Crawford Street between Jackson Street and Central Avenue
Lafayette Street between Jackson Street and Central Avenue
Royal Palm Avenue between Bay Street and Thompson
Lee Street between Edwards Drive and Thompson/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Fowler Street and Heitman Street
The ramp off of the Caloosahatchee Bridge into downtown Fort Myers and the southbound lanes of traffic will be diverted onto McGregor Boulevard. The downtown boat ramp.
Those who wish to attend the parade are encouraged to arrive in the downtown area prior to 5:00 p.m. The parking garages will be open before the parade starts and access will be very limited to vehicles entering and exiting during the parade. Anyone that is not attending the parade should seek alternate routes. Alternate routes include the Edison Bridge, Fowler Street and Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard.