This week, the Edison Festival of Light Board of Directors made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade.
Known as the largest night parade in the Southeast, the parade paying tribute to Thomas Alva Edison, has been around for more than eight decades. More than that, the tradition has become one of Southwest Florida’s largest events with estimated spectators of more than 250,000 and participants of nearly 2,000. It brings the community together like no other event during the year. Therein lies the concern for the all-volunteer Board of Directors.
“It was not a decision that came lightly. We are passionate about this parade and it is our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of attendees and participants this year more than ever,” said board president Steve Sizemore.
Under normal circumstances safety is always a number one priority for the Grand Parade Committee and there are a lot of moving parts. Add COVID-19 to the equation and the risks become escalated. There are 12-14 high school bands participating in the parade each year. Some of them travel from other states and are gathered in a staging area for pre-parade coordination – typically not six feet apart. Corporate, civic, and community groups join to ride on floats, march, and provide entertainment along the parade route – typically not six feet apart. And spectators begin marking/reserving their viewing areas along US 41 and throughout the Downtown River District months before the events begin in February – definitely not 6 feet apart.
The Junior Parade has also been canceled for 2021.
“We hope that the COVID-19 threat is gone or reduced by February, but we don’t have a crystal ball. For planning purposes, we had to decide now. We opted for better safe than sorry,” said Sizemore. Some of the smaller Edison Festival of Light events that allow for social distancing measures will still take place in February. More details will be announced as the planning develops.
For more info, visit online at www.edisonfestival.org