Life is grand: Bucs’ Corey Lynch named honorary lead for Edison Festival of Light Parade
Former Cape Coral resident Corey Lynch never imagined that one day he would be asked to serve as the honorary figurehead for the Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade.
“I grew up going to it a couple times and I grew up always hearing about it, but I never would have thought I would have been grand marshal,” he said.
Festival organizers announced this week that Lynch, 26, who plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will serve as grand marshal for this year’s parade.
“They just called me and asked me if I would like to do it,” he said. “I was very surprised. It just kind of came out of the blue.”
Lynch added that he is humbled and thankful for the invite.
The Grand Parade kicks off at 7 p.m. today at the Edison Stadium at Fort Myers High School, at 2635 Cortez Blvd. in Fort Myers. The parade will wind east to Cleveland Avenue, and then north to the Fort Myers River District.
The parade ends in downtown Fort Myers.
According to Lynch, he has not done anything before like serve as the grand marshal for a parade. Asked if he has been practicing his wave, he said no.
“I think you just have to show up and have a good time,” Lynch laughed.
Organizers are expecting a record crowd for this year’s parade, which will consist of 160 entries, including 40 floats and 15 marching bands. Last year’s event drew an estimated 200,000 people, according to officials.
“The parade is even bigger this year,” Edison Festival of Light President Karen Ryan said. “We have a band that came from Milan, Ohio, from Edison High School. They’ll be the last band in the parade so they’ll be the finale.”
Earlier in the day, there will be live entertainment at Centennial Park. Local dance groups and more will perform from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Killa-Watts, the “LCEC homegrown band,” also will perform, along with a Latin jazz band.
From 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., SmackDaddy will take the stage.
“Every year, when we’re looking for a grand marshal, we try to think of somebody who has local ties and a local heritage, and we also try to look for somebody who is a good role model,” Ryans said. “Corey was just a natural fit in both respects.”
She noted Lynch’s values and accomplishments thus far.
“We just felt he was somebody people could look up to,” Ryan said.
Lynch acknowledged he has thought of the families attending.
“I always want to be a Godly role model for kids that are growing up in this area and other areas,” he said. “I’m happy to be picked for grand marshal for that reason.”
First drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008, Lynch was signed by the Bucs in September 2009. He led the team with two blocked kicks in 2009, before recording his first NFL start against the Atlanta Falcons in 2010.
He has appeared in 45 career games with seven starts, totaling 44 tackles, three interceptions, eight defended passes and 34 special teams tackles. Lynch also has blocked a punt and a field goal, according to team statistics.
Bucs officials commented on Lynch being selected as grand marshal.
“It’s always a pleasure to see our players being recognized for their work and dedication, both on and off the field,” General Manager Mark Dominik said via e-mail. “If you know Corey, it’s easy to understand how he would come to earn such an honor from his hometown community.”
Prior to being drafted into the NFL, he played five seasons at Appalachian State, where he led the Mountaineers to three straight national titles. Lynch was named All-American three times during his collegiate football career.
He graduated from Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers.
“We are thrilled that our highest profile football player that has gone into the NFL is going to be in the parade and representing our school,” Lisa Spearman, a spokeswoman for Evangelical Christian School, said. “His mom works here at the school, and his dad is the head football coach here.”
Brian Lynch, Lynch’s father and former high school coach, called the Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade and related festivities a special tradition.
“Being that I grew up in Fort Myers and watched the Edison parade as a young child, you take into consideration – assuming that person up on that float is one of tremendous value, honored at such a high level,” he said.
“You just don’t expect to see your own son honored in such a situation,” Brian Lynch said. “It’s really been a special feeling for me. To know that my kid’s doing it is kind of cool.”
Asked about Lynch being his son and also one of his former football players, Brian Lynch explained that he could not separate the two.
“He was a wonderful kid growing up – polite, a hard worker at school. He’s just a special special kid,” he said. “Then you put into the mix of that that he was an extremely special football player. I adored him from both ends equally.”
Brian Lynch also commented on his son’s Christian values.
“Character is such a special special part of who he is,” he said. “He has stood by it and believes and has lived what he preaches.”
Lynch is married to Cissie Graham, granddaughter of well-known evangelist Billy Graham. They married in 2008 after Lynch graduated from college.
Edison Festival of Light festivities will continue through the weekend. A Crafts of the River and Vintage Market will be held today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Centennial Park in Fort Myers.
A 5K Run will be held today at 5:45 p.m. in downtown Fort Myers.
On Sunday, a Classic Car Show will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the park.
For more information, visit the website at: www.edisonfestival.org .