| Fort Myers News-Press
Fort Myers Beach has canceled its annual New Year’s Eve fireworks show. It’s the second fireworks show to get canceled this week in Southwest Florida.
The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce announced the news Thursday morning on Facebook, but the cancellation actually resulted from a town council meeting Monday. The Town of Fort Myers Beach runs the annual event.
City leaders blamed concerns about COVID-19 and mass gatherings.
“The town council canceled it,” said Jacki Liszak, executive director for the Chamber. “They feel that it would just be an opportunity for too many people to gather all in one area and to just draw too big of a crowd.
“And while it absolutely breaks my heart, I understand. Nobody loves the fireworks more than I do. … But you just don’t want to be that person that causes someone else to get sick.”
The council had previously decided not to hold the city’s Fort Myers Beach Birthday Party and New Year’s Eve Celebration, said Town Manager Roger Hernstadt. The annual New Year’s Eve event — including live music, a midnight ball drop and free cupcakes — goes hand-in-hand with the fireworks display and draws thousands to the Times Square area.
But city leaders had hoped to find a way to keep the fireworks: Launching them from a barge so they could be seen from anywhere along the seven-mile-long island.
That didn’t work out, though. Neither town leaders nor the fireworks company could find a barge that met the council’s budget of $15,000 or less, Hernstadt said. He told the council that Monday.
That effectively canceled the event, Hernstadt said. “The council set a dollar limit for the barge solution, and it couldn’t be achieved at that dollar limit.”
At the moment, there aren’t any plans to hold the Fort Myers Beach Birthday Party and New Year’s Eve Celebration. But that could change if conditions improve with the pandemic, Hernstadt said.
“Whether or not we’ll have the town’s birthday party, we’re waiting to see,” he said. “Right now, it’s not being contemplated. But it’s easier to turn it on than turn it off. … That doesn’t require the same lead time as the fireworks.
“We could turn it on pretty quickly if we see things trending in the right direction. But as we talk about it right now, it’s off.”
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy couldn’t be reached for immediate comment Thursday.
The cancellation joins Naples’ decision Wednesday to call off the city’s annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks show and its Naples Christmas Parade.
At the council meeting, Naples Community Services staff cited health concerns for people attending both events, especially as winter and snowbird season approach and coronavirus cases continue to rise in Collier County.
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter), @crunnells1 (Instagram)