Joe Dettloff and Toby Davidson prepare banners for the main stage in Centennial Park on Friday. / Jack Hardman/The News-Press
By the numbers
Parade budget, not including city costs covered by a grant from the City of Fort Myers
Amount of the budget provided by corporate sponsors
A little more than $100,000
Services provided by a grant from the City of Fort Myers
Biggest cost drivers
Insurance (more than $12,000), printing the programs (more than $6,000), fireworks ($10,000), renting equipment (a little more than $10,000)
Festival of Light events
Today and Sunday
Edison Festival Crafts on the River and Vintage Marketplace. One-hundred exhibitors display and sell handmade crafts during this annual event. Items include jewelry, quilts, note cards, pottery, sculptures and more. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers.
• Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade. The gigantic, two-hour parade returns with more marching bands, elaborate floats, government officials, law enforcement officials, clowns and other sights. The parade travels from Fort Myers High School to Cleveland Avenue and then north to downtown Fort Myers. 7 p.m. Free.
• Edison Festival of Light 5K. This annual race travels through downtown Fort Myers and Cleveland Avenue. More than 1,400 people take part. 5:45 p.m. Coordinated by the Fort Myers Track Club. Entry fee is $10-$35. The run begins at Edwards Drive and Lee Street in downtown Fort Myers. Register at the festival office or online at edisonfestival.org.
• Edison Festival Parade Party. The annual party features local bands and other entertainment. It culminates in fireworks at 7 p.m. Noon to 7 p.m. Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers.
• St. Francis Xavier Church annual Parade Night Spaghetti Dinner. Annual dinner of spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, breadsticks, dessert and a beverage. 3-6:30 p.m. $10 at the door, $8 in advance (also entitles the purchaser to park on church grounds and have a reserved space to place chairs to view the parade). Takeouts are available. St. Francis Xavier Parish Hall, 2133 Heitman St., downtown Fort Myers. 334-2161 or 997-1138
• Mutt Strutt. This returning event involves dogs and dog lovers getting together for a day of food, fun and a dog parade. Dogs and their owners wear costumes and sometimes appear on floats. Medals are awarded for categories including best costume and best dog/owner look-alike. Registration starts at 10 a.m., followed by the main event about 11:15 a.m. Free to attend. Registration is $15 per pet. Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers.
• Classic Car Show. Edwards Drive will be lined with classic cars. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free. Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers.
Roads to close
On Saturday, the Fort Myers Police Department will close the following roads for the Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade. The closures begin at 5 p.m. unless otherwise noted:
» Cleveland Avenue between Hanson and Main streets
• Edwards Drive (closed from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
» Bay Street between Heitman and Jackson streets
» First Street between Fowler and Jackson streets
» 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 between Second and Bay streets
» Hendry Street between Main Street and Edwards Drive (closed from 6 a.m. to noon)
» Jackson Street between Edwards Drive and Edison Avenue
» Cortez Avenue between Del Rio and Llewellyn drives
» Llewellyn Drive between Cortez and Cleveland avenues
» 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 and Thompson streets
» Lee Street between Edwards Drive and Thompson/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
» Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Fowler and Heitman streets
» The ramp off the Caloosahatchee Bridge into downtown Fort Myers and the southbound lanes of traffic will be diverted onto McGregor Boulevard
» The downtown boat ramp
Police encourage those who want to attend the parade to arrive downtown prior to 5 p.m.
» The parking garages will be open before the parade starts and access to downtown will be very limited during the parade.
» Anyone not attending should avoid the area. Alternate routes include the Edison Bridge, Fowler Street and Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard.
IF YOU GO
• What: 76th annual Edison Festival of Light
• When: Today
• Where: Downtown Fort Myers and Centennial Park
• Parade: Scheduled to start
at 7 p.m.
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Commemorative iBook: 75th Anniversary - The Edison Festival of Light
Intricate floats and upbeat parade walkers will take center stage at the Edison Festival of Light today, but what’s equally important is the budget and making sure festivities run smoothly and within their means.
This year’s budget is about $110,000 — not including city costs covered by a grant from Fort Myers — and the majority of that cost is footed by corporate sponsors.
“Corporate sponsors by far make up the largest portion of our budget dollars,” said Bill Turner, president of this year’s Edison Festival of Light.
They’re contributing a little more than $100,000 to this year’s four-week festival. And major sponsors include Florida Power & Light Co.; Suncoast Beverage Sales, distributor of Anheuser-Busch products in Southwest Florida; Chico’s; CenturyLink; Florida Lottery; and Lee County Electric Cooperative.
Karen Ryan, public relations manager for LCEC and a festival board member/past president, said the cooperative has long been involved in the festival. It’s a good fit for LCEC, she said, because cooperatives were created to serve their customers. And this is an opportunity to give back to the community.
“The Edison Festival of Light is one of the biggest events around,” she said, “so it’s a natural fit for us.”
City pitches in
In addition to the festival’s roughly $110,000 budget, the City of Fort Myers will contribute city services through a grant program.
Turner said the grant covers the festival’s true city costs, which include garbage pickup, shutting down streets, police security and the use of Harborside Event Center and City of Palms Park. If the grant doesn’t cover all of the costs, then the remaining amount will be charged to the festival.
“The city always stresses to us that this is one of the premiere events,” he said. Adding that the grant has covered the full amount these past few years.
Christine Tenney, budget manager for the City of Fort Myers, said the city has budgeted $141,500 that can be awarded in the way of city services for various events during fiscal year 2013-14. The Edison Festival of Light will receive $26,400 in services through the grant. She emphasized that the city pays in services — it doesn’t actually give organizations cash.
She said the grant is a way for the city to help organizations host events at a lower cost — and sometimes it may be the only way organizations can hold these events.
“It’s just being good neighbors,” Tenney said.
She also said these types of events provide economic support and help develop the area’s tourism.
In addition to the budget is the festival’s use of in-kind sponsorships. Sam Galloway Ford, for instance, gives the festival Mustang convertibles and drivers to use during its parades, and in turn, Sam Galloway Ford is given free advertising.
The festival has worked with a similar budget for the past four or five years, but Turner said its expenses used to be higher.
“We’ve really scaled back our costs for the festival,” he said.
It cut costs when the economic downturn caused corporate sponsors to limit their donations. And one of its biggest cost-saving initiatives was cutting the music festival about four years ago.
Turner said this was one of the festival’s biggest expenses because it’d spend around $5,000 or $6,000 on each big-name performer. Eliminating this event, he said, helped the Edison Festival of Light stick to its budget.
“We have not gone over budget for the past four straight years, so it’s worked out well for us,” Turner said.
And while the festivities will hit their peak this weekend with the Grand Parade tonight in downtown Fort Myers — and wrap up next weekend with a benefit concert featuring the Screaming Orphans — it won’t be long until planning begins for 2015. Turner said planning starts around May, and the budget is usually determined around October as corporate sponsors have made their commitments.
And, as always, sticking to the budget will remain a top priority for the nonprofit organization.
“When you survive on corporate sponsorships and the kindness of the City of Fort Myers, it is really your fiscal responsibility to stay within budget,” Turner said.
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