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SWFL Hero Festival wraps-up first official year

February 19, 2020
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Southwest Florida's Hero Fest, a festival that replaced the long-standing Lehigh Spring Festival wrapped up its four days of events, performances and contests on Sunday, Feb. 9.

The slightly shorter festival kicked-off on Thursday, Feb. 6, with an opening ceremony, which included a Color Guard presentation, opening prayer and brief introduction to festival committee members.

Following opening ceremonies, board member and festival MC, Andy Reisinger, unveiled the 2018 Salute to the Brave Hero Project, a memorial to fallen officers and K-9s.

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The Southwest Florida’s Hero Fest wrapped up its four days of events, performances and contests on Sunday, Feb. 9.


"This is a phenomenal project. This is what we are saluting and this what we are supporting throughout all four days of this festival. All the monies made throughout festival contests and activities including raffles and 50/50's, all go back to the deserving heroes right here in South Florida," Reisinger said.

The stage was then given over to Footnotes Dance and Music Studio who performed during the evening, followed by popular local band, Blue Steel who wrapped up the night.

Agencies including the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District and Lee County Sheriff's Office were on-site throughout the festival, interacting and talking with members of the community.

Other festival highlights included the festival's annual car show, a chili cook-off, pet show, and a barbecue cook-off. This year a Cruise-in for Heroes was added to the schedule on Saturday, Feb. 8, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Also on Saturday, long-time members of the community also came out to enjoy the first Lehigh Acres Pioneer Reunion 2020, a time for the Lehigh Acres residents from the '50s, '60s and '70s to get together to share memories and reminisce.

According to Bob Dutka, Southwest Florida's Hero Fest Committee president, this year's turn-out was a little light, but the committee hopes to build the festival into a popular local family attraction.

"It's going to take time to get the word out there and find ways to appeal to a broader part of the community," Dutka. "This year marks a new era for the festival."

The new festival theme was meant to not only convey the importance of community, but also celebrate its heroes. Organizers hope that people respond to the change and make Hero Fest a new tradition for Lehigh.

"Lehigh is changing and it was time to go in a new direction," board member Don Urch said. "I think we're moving in the right direction, but we are still open to new ideas to make the festival even better next year."

This year's event was held at 225 Joel Blvd. in Lehigh Acres due to the extensive traffic congestion on Homestead Road,

The SWFL Hero Fest was created as a community event that's dedicated to thanking all the heroes that make our community great including the celebrated U.S. soldiers, veterans and emergency first responders such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

A portion of the funds for this year's Hero Fest will be donated to the Southwest Florida Hero Project.



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