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24th annual Islands Night celebrates community and business owners

By Staff | May 10, 2017

For more than two decades, individuals and local businesses have come together every year to help make Islands Night a success. The tradition began in 1993 by Sam Bailey as a way for him to give back to the community.

This year, the Fort Myers Miracle will be playing against the Clearwater Threshers Wednesday, May 17, at Hammond Stadium. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the parade begins at 5:50 p.m. The game will start at 6:35 p.m.

The event will be running a few weeks earlier in comparison to last year.

“We try to do it before the kids get out of school,” said Richard Johnson of Bailey’s General Store.

Johnson encourages all sponsors to have their own float for the parade. Since there was such a large number of participants last year, the event had to have a traffic cop just for the parade.

“We had so many people in the parade this past year that there wasn’t enough room to get us all off and on the field at one time. A lot of people participate in the parade,” Johnson said.

Tickets may be obtained from any of the sponsors of Islands Night. Essentially, the sponsors pay for renting the stadium. With that said, the sponsors are able to hand out as many tickets to friends, family and customers to fill up the stadium. Business sponsorships are $100 and include a T-shirt, event advertising and participation in the parade.

All of the funds raised from the event will go to scholarships and non-profits.

“The Kiwanis Club helps us with the administration of the Sam Bailey Scholarship Fund. This coming year, we will be awarding three scholarships,” Johnson said.

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club and the Young Professionals Association of Sanibel & Captiva will be selling beer while the concession stand will offer traditional baseball food and some healthy options as well.

“We are very traditional,” Johnson said.

Al Hanser, founder and chairman of the Sanibel Captiva Trust Company and chairman of the Charitable Foundation of the Islands, will be throwing out the first pitch and Paul Gulbrandsen, owner of Door to Door Promotions, a marketing company based on Sanibel, will be singing “The National Anthem” with his mother Charlene Gulbrandsen.

“My mother and I do a version that we’ve been singing for awhile. I thought it’d be really fun to sing for everybody,” Gulbrandsen said.

One of the continuing traditions of Islands Night are the T-shirts. Mary Irving of Lifeline Designs has been designing T-shirts since the event’s inception. T-shirts can be purchased at Bailey’s or at the event.

Another tradition and a common occurrence of Islands Night is rain. Johnson said that 19 out of 23 times, the event has been rained out.

“We’ll see about this year,” he said.

In 2004, Islands Night was renamed Sam Bailey’s Islands Night in honor of their “coach.”

Bailey’s is just one of the many sponsors of the event.

“Coach wrote the plays many years ago and we’re running the same plays he has,” Johnson said. “We’ve won every Islands Night that we’ve ever had.”