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The Edison Parade of Lights marches through downtown Fort Myers on Saturday. Photo/Gary Jung
The Edison Parade of Lights marches through downtown Fort Myers on Saturday. Photo/Gary Jung

Annual Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade

The gigantic, two-hour parade returns with more marching bands, elaborate floats, government and law-enforcement officials, clowns and other sights. The parade is part of the monthlong Edison Festival of Light, a celebration of inventor and part-time Fort Myers resident Thomas Edison. The parade travels from Fort Myers High to Cleveland Avenue and then north to downtown Fort Myers. 7 p.m. Free. Cleveland Avenue and south Fort Myers. 334-2999 or edisonfestival.org

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It’s the 75th anniversary of the Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade, and organizers want to make it a good one.

Parade chairman Mike Gill thinks they’ve succeeded, too.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to put on a great show,” Gill says. “And it’s a monster. It’s a monster parade.”

Saturday’s parade should give spectators plenty to ooh and aah at:

• Daredevil motorcyclists.

• 13 high school bands.

• Elaborate floats

• Three horse-drawn wagon units, including the popular Budweiser Clydesdales and — for contrast — a miniature-horse unit from Illinois. “They’re only about 30 inches high,” Gill says. “And we put them right after the Clydesdales.”

• Two Scottish pipe and drum bands.

• And not one, not two, but FIVE grand marshal units, including NASCAR rookie Ross Chastain, local author Robert Macomber and the Clydesdales.

It’s unusual to have five grand marshal units — one of them featuring eight Clydesdale horses — but parade volunteer Karen Ryan says they wanted to make this year special.

“We wanted to celebrate by honoring a variety of local and national figures,” says Ryan, the festival’s publicist and its immediate past president. “Grand marshals are people/entities that demonstrate multiple characteristics that embody the spirit of Thomas Edison.”

Those characteristics include a dedication to their profession, a tie to Southwest Florida, a commitment to excellence and a willingness to take a risk for the betterment of human kind.

“This year, our five grand marshals and our honorary grand marshal demonstrate these qualities in one way or another,” Ryan says. “For instance, the Budweiser Clydesdales are a symbol of both the breed and the brand. Over the years the breed was improved and reinvigorated just as Edison’s inventions. ... Not every parade is fortunate to have them and they are always a crowd pleaser.”

Another change this year: The traditional fireworks won’t happen until the last of the parade units have entered downtown. The fireworks usually go off as the parade first enters downtown.

The reason? People often crowd into the streets to get a better view of the fireworks, Gill says, and they get in the way of the oncoming parade. “That has actually caused some problems. The parade has had to stop.”

Gill and other parade organizers hope all these parade units, extra marshals and other changes make for an exciting and entertaining event.

After all, they’ll never get another chance to celebrate this important anniversary.

“It’s going to be a wonderful parade,” Gill says. “Good stuff, good stuff.”

Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnnells (News-Press) (Facebook) @charlesrunnells (Twitter)

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