Fourth of July fireworks shows -and New Year's Eve displays, for that matter- at the Beach Pier on Fort Myers Beach have been synonymously linked with Bill Semmer, his family members and the employees of Semmer Electric Inc. for nearly 25 years.
Times are a-changing.
In February, The Semmer Team officially announced its retirement from the coordinating management of public fireworks displays on Estero Island, leaving big shoes to fill for holiday sky lighting. Absent these past few months was the fireworks fund committee and its ability to put on benefits to help in differing costs.
Enter the Town of Fort Myers Beach, now responsible for fundraising, coordinating and organizing the Pier pyrotechnics. Will being in the driver's seat in keeping the bright, night tradition alive impose a daunting task?
"The Semmer Team obviously has a great history in fireworks, and people have loved the work that they have done," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "We are going to do our very best. They have created a high standard, and I'm confident in our ability to continue."
Stewart confirmed that Garden State Fireworks would again be employed for its spectacular man-built and electronically produced fireworks show. The New Jersey team is made up of federally licensed pyrotechnic experts who manufacture their own fireworks and are protected by a $5 million liability insurance policy.
"They come highly recommended," he said
In past comparison, Fourth of July fireworks shows at dusk have been longer in duration, lasting roughly 20-25 minutes to New Year's Eve's 7-10 minutes at midnight. The cost of putting on the Independence Day fireworks is roughly $30,000, which the Town will be funding with its revenues after charitable contributions are received.
"We have had folks collect money to offset the cost of the fireworks," said Stewart. "This year, we are also getting a display that is kind of discounted by $1,500, plus they are adding music to the fireworks."
The Town manager is encouraging anyone to step up for sponsorship and management opportunities to continue the legacy at the two holiday shows. Call 765-0202 if interested. Mayor Larry Kiker echoed that sentiment.
"We are actually looking for sponsors, because I don't think we are going to be able to do fundraising events like the Semmers did," he said. "If we found someone like the Semmers that wanted to do these fundraisers, we would absolutely be thrilled to death. It's a lot of work."
Stewart has assigned Town Parks & Recreation Director Patty Evans to be the project manager on July 4. She remarked how everyone has come together to put on such a patriotic event.
"The County has been very helpful to provide the space on the pier to allow the fireworks. The Lee County Sheriff's Office and Fort Myers Beach Fire Department are major players as well. The merchants of the Times Square Alliance will be providing music all day, beginning at noon," Evans said. "There has been a lot of support from the community. I think it's going to be fantastic."
Evans, who provided a schedule of events list for that day, confirmed that those in the Times Square area will be able to hear music with their fireworks this year.
"It's a 22-minute show, and it'll end with John Phillip Souza's "The Stars and Stripes Forever. You can't get any better than that as far as I am concerned," she said.
Beach resident and Nervous Nellies' Manager Steve DeAngelis has been helping the Town collect contributions from community and business members.
"Whether it's $5 or $500, every bit we can bring into the fund will help the display be an amazing one," he said. "If you have a donation and can't bring it by Town Hall, I'd be more than happy to pick it up."
DeAngelis can be reached at 822-1369.
One must know that this fun-filled event takes time, energy, expertise and resources. It's not just about shooting off fireworks.
Three Semmer family members and former islander Brenda Herod began the fireworks coordination in 1988. Community members volunteered their time to help out soon afterwards.
Each year, the eye-popping shows have attracted many Lee County residents and visitors to the Beach each Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.
"One thing is evident. We miss the Semmers' participation already," said Kiker. "But, we are using the same program that was used last year. Everyone should have the exact same expectation level as they always have had."
Town-provided July 4 schedule of events
- 8:30am-9:30am: "Laughter Yoga" at Newton Park Beachfront
Instructor Deb Dunlap will get your day started with a smile.
- 9am-9pm: July 4th Information at Times Square Kiosk
- 9am-6pm: "Center Street and Estero Blvd Treasures"
A self-guided tour of the businesses, boutiques, eateries and watering holes along our main Island thoroughfares.
- 9-10:30am: "Sand in Your Shoes" Beach Walk
With our Environmental Educator Parke Lewis at Newton Park.
This is a "pet-friendly" event.
- 10am: Two for the price of one! Dolphin Cruise at Fish Tale Marina
For reservations call 463-3600.
- 10pm-2pm: Tour the Historic Mound House
By Reservation Only. Call ahead. Sponsored by Friends of the Mound House.
- 10am: July 4th Parade
Sponsored by the Fort Myers Beach Civic Association.
- Noon-9pm: Party on the Square with non-stop music
Musical performances by "Trouble Makerz" (noon-5pm) and "High Tide" (7pm-end). Sponsored by the Times Square Merchants & Events Alliance
- 2pm: "Two for the price of One" Dolphin Cruise at Fish Tale Marina
For reservations call 463-3600.
- 8:15pm boarding: Evening Barbecue Cruise on the Indian Princess
Catered meal. Watch the fireworks from the water! $45/person. Call 357-8919.
- 9pm-9:15pm: "God Bless the USA" and the National Anthem by Vocalist and Town Manager Terry Stewart
- Approximately 9:15pm: Our FireworksFort Myers Beach Style!
The Town of Fort Myers Beach
Fireworks Fund Contributions
Received through June 29
FMB Community Foundation, Inc 100.00
SOB, Inc 350.00
Nervous Nellies 250.00
Nemo's on the Beach 50.00
Island Sand Paper 250.00
Lighthouse Island Resort Resort, Inc 500.00
Fireworks Fund Ft. Myers Beach Chamber 18,000.00
Pierview Hotel 200.00
Cigar Hut, Inc 100.00
Lahaina Inn Resort Condo Assoc. 100.00
Beaches and Keys, LLC 100.00
Leslie and Kenneht McElheny 50.00
Lucille Spuhler 100.00