Celebrating history: Jubilee marks city’s golden anniversary
A jubilation celebration five decades in the making took place at the Cape Coral Yacht Club Friday night, as city leaders of the past and present, along with residents, paid tribute to 50 years since incorporation of the Waterfront Wonderland that is the Cape.
It was a night of remembrance for all in attendance — a night to reflect on how far the city of Cape Coral has come since the Rosen brothers flew over what is now a city of over 200,000 residents.
The packed house at the Yacht Club was treated to a short historical film on the city, a spectacular Liquid Fireworks by Waltzing Waters show and speeches cementing the importance of the city from dignitaries.
“What a turn out we had tonight. This is unbelievable — to have this many people come to this kick-off event,” said Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello. “It’s great to see the morale of everyone here. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and excited about what’s going on. Many of the challenges over the last 50 years have been met by the city, and we need to continue to do that going forward.”
Attendees could be seen sharing stories and smiles all night long, as each person in the Yacht Club had his or her own piece of city history to share with their peers.
“The night is all about celebrating the visionaries that saw all of this over 50 years ago and what could potentially be,” Coviello said. “With the diverse population that we have, to see us grow and expand and be one of the fastest growing and largest cities in the state of Florida is awesome.”
As it is well documented, the Rosen brothers — Jack and Leonard — along with pilot Ed Wilson (who was also in attendance) found what we now call Cape Coral more than five decades ago. The Rosens had a vision, and that vision is being played out today.
Leonard’s daughter, Linda Rosen-Sterling, as well as his granddaughter, Julia Swift, were in attendance to celebrate 50 years of Cape Coral.
When Rosen-Sterling first touched down in Florida and asked her cab driver to take her to Cape Coral, she couldn’t believe where she was.
“When the taxi driver brought me here from the airport, I said, ‘Excuse me, I told you I wanted to go to Cape Coral,'” Rosen-Sterling said. “And he said, ‘This is Cape Coral.’ I said, ‘No, no. I’ve been to Cape Coral, and this is not a nice thing to do, now please take me to Cape Coral.'”
Rosen-Sterling was still in denial when he told her she was in fact in the city her father helped establish.
“I was just stunned — stunned,” Rosen-Sterling said. “And I started crying. It’s so emotional for me to be here.”
She happened to be staying at the Westin and was in awe of the area’s beauty.
“It’s gorgeous,” Rosen-Sterling said. “It’s something that you picture in a big city like Miami Beach.”
She remembers being upset with her father upon the news they would be moving to Florida. She also remembers it being all swamp and mangroves — “Lots and lots of mangroves.”
The first dredge in Cape Coral was actually named after her mother, “Deedle,” her father’s nickname for Dorothy.
Swift was equally as impressed with how the city looks today and said she remembers hearing stories when she was young of a city her grandfather was an integral part of.
“It’s amazing that they were able to build this city,” Swift said.
All in all, the night was a special one for the Rosen family, who said the evening drummed up a sense of pride and astonishment of all that has been accomplished.
Rosen-Sterling joked that her father and uncle were “nuts” taking on the challenge they did.
“I thought they were nuts,” Rosen-Sterling said. “Do you see what nuts can do?”
The pair got to tour the city and historical museum before coming to the Yacht Club for the Jubilee Celebration.
“To just see how much everyone cares about the city, and hearing stories, is amazing,” Swift said. “It just feels like this is a really tight community that looks out for each other. I love how proud everyone is.
“I love that it’s in the old Yacht Club building. This to me is an image of Cape Coral. And the fact that the city has kept it and we’re all here tonight and it looks just as amazing and beautiful as it used to, that’s really cool, too. Not every city values their history like that.”
For Rosen-Sterling, her father’s legacy was an impactful one.
“I’m proud because he gave me a sense of identity, I’m proud because he gave me the knowledge and the insight that family is the most important thing — ever. And that if you have family, then you have a full life,” Rosen-Sterling said. “There’s so many important lessons he gave me that are intangible, this is the tangible proof of his greatness.
“(The city) gives Leonard and Jack so much credit, but it’s everybody here that made it happen. They’re the ones that animated their dream. They’re the ones that fulfilled their dream. I’m grateful to everyone here because they realized my father’s dream.”
Rep. Dane Eagle presented the city with a letter from Gov. Ron DeSantis and Coviello read a proclamation honoring the city’s 50th year since incorporation.
The first secretary to the first city manager and second city clerk, Eula Jorgensen, said she’s seen lots of change over time.
“There were 12,000 people when I moved here in 1961,” Jorgensen said.
“I’ve enjoyed living here very much. I enjoyed working at City Hall for many years.”
Jorgensen worked 22 years for the city and said there was never a dull moment.
“It was like being on an emotional roller coaster,” Jorgensen said.
Wilson, the pilot who flew the Rosen brothers over Cape Coral, is still a resident today.
“It’s amazing, the growth,” Wilson said. “I was in Cape Coral working every day.”
He truly feels this place is his home and other than discovering the city, started Mosquito Control back when the area was much less developed.
“There’s no other place on earth I’d want to live,” Wilson said. “The mosquitos used to be too bad to live here, but I took care of them.”
The historical film, put together by Wendy Schroder and Angelo Cario, showed the growth of the city from incorporation to current day, while highlighting all of those who played a role.
“I thought the evening was full of honor, respect and history,” said Gloria Tate, president of the Cape Coral Historical Museum & Society and longtime Cape resident. “It was really amazing to see how many people care about celebrating the city’s history and its birthday.”
A special treat via Michael Przystawik and his Liquid Fireworks by Waltzing Waters ended the evening in a memorable way.
“It’s awesome to be a part of this celebration,” Przystawik said. “Seeing lots of old friends here and folks that remember the Waltzing Waters from when it first debuted in 1964. In my case, it’s a double heartfelt thing because it was Waltzing Waters that brought my family here.”
Liquid Fireworks by Waltzing Waters, a mesmerizing synchronized-to-music water display featuring lighting and, quite frankly, a little bit of magic, has been featured at Disney, Universal, Sea World, Comerica Park in Detroit and in countless venues across the United States, Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.
The magical fountains even caught the eye of the Rosen brothers back when Cape Coral was established, but the company’s story runs much deeper than that.
The idea originated in Germany in the late 1920s when Otto Przystawik, the founder of Waltzing Waters, designed a primitive version of what you see now for an innovative nightclub hot spot.
The Rosen brothers saw a Przystawik dancing fountain at a trade fair in Hanover, Germany, sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s and had to have it, but not after some tough negotiations. Eventually, Otto built a show for the Rosen Brothers in Cape Coral Gardens.
The Rosen brothers actually created the name “Waltzing Waters” for the Cape Coral Gardens location.
Przystawik is currently president of Liquid Fireworks by Waltzing Waters. He is Otto’s grandson and third generation member of the business, as his father, Gunter, was also a past president.
“My hope is that some new people have seen it, or we’ve refreshed the memory of some of the older folks that people who are doing developments and projects in Cape Coral will recognize the value of what we have to offer and do something that is both historic and can be an exciting part of the community,” he said.
No matter when or where, Przystawik feels a sense of pride whenever he displays his magic fountains.
“I’m third generation at this,” Przystawik said. “It doesn’t matter where I’m at, when I turn on a show I feel my granddad on one shoulder and my dad on the other shoulder and it’s special.”
A special end to a special night, not just for Przystawik, but for the city of Cape Coral celebrating its golden anniversary.
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