Responsibility for the event has changed hands several times during its long and storied history, but it hasn't stopped the Cape Coral Block Party from becoming a loved and cherished Cape tradition.
Officially known as the TIB Bank Celebrate Cape Coral Block Party and Night Parade, this Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral event kicks off on Saturday, March 7, at 4 p.m., in Big John's Plaza, for another year of celebrating all things Cape Coral.
Entering his fifth year as event chair, the chamber's Bob Knickman said this event is needed now more than ever, as the economy continues to weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of Cape residents and business owners alike.
"The chamber is here to promote and serve businesses and the community, and one of the best ways to show this is these kind of events," he said. "And there's no better time to come together on something like this."
With 2009 shaping up to be much harder year than the devastating 2008, Knickman added that the time is now for people to start working together to keep Cape Coral a wonderful place to live.
Free events downtown might very well be the glimmer of hope and a return to prosperity most Cape residents have grown accustomed to.
What: TIB Bank Celebrate Cape Coral Block Party and Night Parade
Where: Big John's Plaza and Southeast 47th Terrace
When: Saturday, March 7, 4-10 p.m., parade starts at 6:30, music at 7:30 p.m.
"2009 is a very important year for everybody, for the citizens and the businesses," Knickman said. "This is the only event that truly celebrates living in the Cape. I encourage everyone to come out, get together and work through 2009."
The event will feature all the unique vendors and food choices that people have come to expect from exciting downtown extravaganza.
The block party also features a few unique pieces of entertainment not usually seen in downtown Cape Coral, including a nighttime parade, live game shows hosted by Da Bomb entertainment and a musical performance by a nationally recognized artist.
The parade will feature 58 separate floats, with entries from the German American Social Club, the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, Bayshore Elementary, Littleton Elementary, North Fort Myers Academy of the Arts, and Oasis Charter School, among others.
As a 30-year resident, parade chair Donna Meola said she always envisioned the Cape having a parade that rivals those in Fort Myers.
"With a community our size I think we should have a big parade like they do on the other side of the bridge," she said.
Entering her fourth year as parade chair, Meola said it takes six months to put together such a large-scale affair. Along with co-chair Beth Sanger, the duo have been working diligently on ensuring parade revelers have an experience that's as good as, or better, than the Edison Festival of Light Parade.
In fact, Meola equated the night parade, with its mix of lights and floats to a "mini Edison" type of affair.
"I won't give up until it reaches the same size (as the Edison Parade)," she added.
Meola said they are expecting to draw spectators from all over the community, pulling at least 20,000 people to the parade route on Southeast 47th Terrace.
"We were at 20,000 last year and we expect that many this year .... everyone in the business community is remaining up beat, we love Cape Coral and won't give up," she said.
Country performing sensation Ken Randolph will take the stage after the parade to entertain the masses.
A native of Alabama, Randolph performed on a platinum album with super country group Alabama. In 2007, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley named him musical ambassador of that state, and in both 2008 and 2009, he was invited to the White House to perform for President George W. Bush.
In a move some might call serendipitous, Randolph also penned a song titled "Tribute to a Soldier," the same moniker of a project being worked on by two Cape Coral artists.
Rudy Diaz and Dan Pardo have been working on their statues, also called "Tribute to a Soldier," which depicts an Iraqi child saluting a member of the armed forces.
Diaz and Pardo, along with the rest of their growing "Tribute to a Soldier" group, will have a presence at the block party with their own vendor space. The block party isn't acting as a fund-raiser for the artistic duo. Instead they are working on raising funds themselves, along with Suncoast Moving and Storage President Frank Dethlefsen.
"I don't know if anyone had done something like this before," Pardo recalled. "When we were done with the sculpting part, we had to get some money to finish. We got lucky and hooked up with Frank. We thought: this is wonderful, it's a lifesaver, it's going to get us some hope."
The statue is currently being worked on in Sarasota, and is on track to be unveiled by Memorial Day 2009, in ECO Park, possibly near the Iwo Jima statue.
They're trying to raise money for the design, building, placement and eventual long-term maintenance of the statues by attending events like the block party.
Pardo said the most recent Bike Night in downtown Cape didn't yield the best results, so the group is hoping that the block party will be much more successful.
"We have to keep plugging along .... this committee is wonderful, it's a lifesaver. The people on the committee aren't in it to get anything for themselves, they're just here to help. Everybody wants to help."
Help seems to be the overwhelming, if not unofficial theme, of the TIB Bank Celebrate Cape Coral Block Party and Night Parade.
The event with the longest name in all of Southwest Florida is really aimed at helping Cape people forget their problems, if only for one night of fun.
Knickman said there's no better time than now for the community to band together and have a good time. In times of need, the community really only has itself to lean on.
"We're all in this together," he said. "There's no cost to this event, the parade and entertainment are free. We invite everyone to celebrate the Cape."
The event opens at 4 p.m. at Big John's Plaza, and the parade begins at 6:30 p.m. along Southeast47th Terrace at the Twisted Conch, heading east to Southeast 15th Avenue. Ken Randolph takes the stage around 7:30 p.m., following the parade.
For more information contact the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral at 549-6900.