Opt-Ed from the Sun Herald Sept. 2016
Written by Chris Phelps
Chair of The Englewood Pioneer Days Parade and Festival Committee
It’s been nearly 2 weeks since the Englewood Pioneer Days Parade 2016. Lose ends have been tied up, tables put away, trash cans emptied and now what? The weather was front and center, everyone was worried our weekend would be ruined! Ah, but the weather Gods were good to us, keep the storm away from our wonderful town. Protecting us once again and allowing our time to happen. I can’t thank EVERYONE enough for the support and love the committee felt from YOU! It truly takes a village and over the last few months we saw exactly what Englewood can do! Losing one of our members was difficult but everyone stepped up and filled in the gaps. Overall every event was successful with the final word at the end of Parade day, we did it and it was the best one ever!
We got off to a great start with the Little Miss Englewood Pageant, this year being held at the Lemon Bay High School Auditorium. The place came alive thanks to Dianna Walston and her wonderful committee of volunteers. A total of 42 contestants over 150 people attending and 10 volunteers made this event a spectacular event. Boys will be added back next year as it will be the 45th year for the event.
Chalkfest was hosted by the Englewood Art Center, their first time participating with 10 volunteers, 110 chalkers, twice the number from last year and over 500 people attending the event. The Kids Shipwreck Dance was another huge hit partnering with Charlotte County Parks and Rec, 62 kids, 12 volunteers, and 22 pizzas thanks to Marcos Pizza who sent 4 employees to serve the kids. The DJ had them dancing along with a few of the parent chaperones.
The Art and History had several locations opened but the most notable was the Museum which had 54 people visit the center, 50% were first timers and one new member, another successful event which will grow next year.
Singalong was plagued by the storm which kept people home so a plan is being made to have an Encore in the near future. A few songs were written by the Little Band of Writers, Linda Lou Lewis and Cheryl Baker that were recorded at the Green St. Church by Chris Walker and were played during the festival.
The cardboard boar race had 22 boats entered, 8 volunteers not including the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and about 500 watching from the shore, another great day, perfect weather!
That evening everyone headed to Pioneer Park. The Englewood Drum Circle started the evening playing under the big oak tree as people made their way to the best party in town with 4 food trucks and about 20 volunteers. The music was incredible with Chris walker Band and Summer Survivors, it was a magical night with over 2500 people enjoying the evening. It was by far the largest gathering of people in the Park everyone had ever seen.
Sunday got off to a great start with the 7th Annual Michael O’Donnell Memorial FishAThon at the Tom Adams Bridge, 115 kids dropped their lines in the water at 8am and had a great time, about 20 volunteers and ABC7 showed up to get some great video of the kids. Another wonderful success story.
Diaper Derby had a smaller crowd with 11 registered crawlers all staying for a tour once the races were completed. The Festival kicked off at Noon with music, vendors, food and the Rockin’ Kids Zone. The Kids area was created by Freedom Church with over 40 volunteers, they had over 300 kids in 2 days, painting, playing and interacting with each other. Over 200 kids participated in the scavenger hunt, each given a small prize for finding all of the images around Pioneer Park. The evening wound down with Kettle of Fish on stage around 9:30, as they were one of 12 acts that performed over the 3 days.
The Parade went off without a hitch, a few out of order but that makes it fun. Many floats had music or were passing out water and candy. Once the last float passed it was time to kick off the festival with more great music. The 36 pie eaters and 30 watermelon eaters, kids and adults consumed more than 12 pies and watermelons and those bearded men enjoyed some nice prizes too! The photo contest which stated in July had 181 entries with the top 10 secretly selected and 210 votes were cast. And all were recognized on stage along with the winning photo.
This year the trophies were once again outstanding created by artists from The Art Alliance of Lemon Bay. Each one was unique and an incredible piece of art that each group with be proud to display. Overall comments were “best parade ever” “all events were great” “it was like a family union” “How can I get involved”
Overall we had over 200 volunteers, many local companies and people in the community supporting all of the events. We made it on TV and the Radio from Tampa to Naples, putting little Englewood in the spotlight once again. We will have our wrap up meeting next week and then begin planning for next year. Look for the return of Mayor for a Day as a part of the Parade and the EPD Committee will host along with a few other throwback events might go from an idea to reality.
As the Chair I can’t thank enough people personally for taking time to volunteer, attend, support or just saying good things about Pioneer Days. It has been an honor to serve and meet people along this journey, I look forward to next year. Thank you ENGLEWOOD! WE ROCK!.