Visitors celebrate nationally-recognized annual festivals, events and more on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

LEE COUNTY, FL – In addition to great weather, shell-drenched beaches and the sparkling Gulf of Mexico, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in southwest Florida is the setting for award-winning, nationally-recognized festivals and special events each year. Visit www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com for information, great deals and assistance in planning a trip to the area during these events.

Island Hopper Songwriter Fest
Sept. 26-28 on Captiva Island and Oct. 3-5, 2014 on Fort Myers Beach

www.islandhopperfest.com.

The first Island Hopper Songwriter Fest will bring nationally-acclaimed singer-songwriters to the islands of Captiva and Fort Myers Beach this fall. Presented by BMI, along with iHeartRadio, Cat Country 107.1, and The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, the festival will take place over two weekends, Sept. 26-28 on Captiva Island and Oct. 3-5 on Fort Myers Beach, at popular island venues. Most performances will be free of charge. With dozens of shows to select from, attendees will have the unique opportunity to experience the voices, back stories, and personalities of the artists in intimate island settings. Check website for complete details and line-up.

25th Annual J.N. "Ding" Darling Days, Sanibel Island
Oct. 19-25, 2014
239-472-1100 
www.dingdarlingdays.com

Mark your calendars for “Ding” Darling Days birding and eco-festival at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island Oct. 19-25. Family Fun Day kicks off the week with free activities on Oct. 19 with refuge tours, live wildlife presentations, archery clinics, hot dogs, a touch tank and butterfly house and kids’ nature crafts. Muppeteer Jim Henson’s daughter, Heather Henson, will return with performances featuring life-size endangered animal puppets. Conservation Art Day winds up the celebration on Oct. 25 with visits from Federal Duck Stamp and Junior Duck Stamp winners and nature art workshops. Free and discounted birding, biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, sea life boating, and interpretive presentations will fill the week. The 25th annual “Ding” Darling Days celebrates the birthday of the refuge’s namesake, father of the Federal Duck Stamp program and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Jay N. “Ding” Darling. Check website for detailed schedule

2nd Annual Surf & Turf Experience
Oct. 17-19, 2014 Captiva Island 
239-433-7189 
http://www.dvic.us/coverage/surf-turf

Sports enthusiasts and outdoorsmen will enjoy the return of the Surf & Turf Experience Oct. 17- 19 at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. Proceeds from the event help support the mission of Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers Inc. to educate, train and create meaningful employment opportunities within the insurance industry for disabled veterans. The event is a three-day, two-night sportsman’s weekend consisting of individual competitors on teams of three. The competition includes fishing and golfing components. Visit site for schedule and registration information.

29th Annual Oktoberfest, Cape Coral
Oct. 17-19 and 24-26, 2014 German-American Club 
239-283-1400 
www.capecoraloktoberfest.com

Hosted by the German-American Club, this huge celebration includes German culture, food, music and dancing. Highlights include authentic live entertainment with large musical groups from Germany, along with enough German food and beer to make anyone do the "Chicken Dance." There is also a carnival area for kids. Call or check website for schedule and ticket information.

Cape Coral CoCoNut Festival, Cape Coral
Nov. 6-9, 2014 
239-573-3121 
www.cocofest.com 
Sun Splash Family Water Park

The Cape Coral CoCoNut Festival celebrates Cape Coral's reputation for coconuts, multi-cultural food, boating, fishing and wildlife. The festival will feature a national musical act, gymnastic entertainment, carnival rides, water-ski shows, tropical food, contests, coconut crafts, fireworks, and more. Visit website for schedule.

9th Annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference
BIG ARTS and Sanibel Island Public Library 
Nov. 6-9, 2014 
239-590-7421 
www.fgcu.edu/SIWC/about.html

Participants at all stages of development, from notebook scribblers to published novelists, are invited to attend workshops in fiction, poetry, songwriting, children’s literature, journalism, screenwriting, creative nonfiction, publishing and editing, along with nightly readings and concerts. All scheduled events are presented by celebrated and experienced writers and teachers, and are open to full-time registrants. The conference welcomes any aspiring writer who wants to create new work or refine a project already in progress. Keynote address will be presented by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Richard Russo. Visit website for registration details, schedule and costs.

28th Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship, Fort Myers Beach
Nov. 21-30, 2014 
239-454-7500 
www.fmbsandsculpting.com

Come and join the fun on Fort Myers Beach for the 28th Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship and Beach Festival. Sponsored by the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, this fun-filled event will include world-class master sand sculptors, a state championship contest, amateur contest, quick sand speed sculpting, sand sculpting demonstrations and lessons, chain saw art, flying colors, a kids activity area with bounce houses and slides, and more than 60 vendors. Master sand sculptors will gather in front of the Wyndham Garden Hotel, forming the largest sand sculpting event in the state with an all new layout. USA Today listed the event as one of the 10 best sand sculpting competitions and the Southeastern Tourism Society recognized the American Sand Sculpting Championship as a top 20 event. Visit website for schedule details.

The 30th Annual Christmas Luminary Trail and Open House, Sanibel and Captiva islands
Dec. 5 and 6, 2014 
239-472-1080 
www.sanibel-captiva.org

This popular event draws visitors from all over the world as they join local residents to celebrate the season. Three miles of luminary candles line Periwinkle Way 5:30-9 p.m. on Sanibel Island on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 on Captiva Island. Businesses are decorated for the holidays with 2,000 candles illuminating pathways, storefronts and homes. For event details, visit http://sanibel-island.sanibel-captiva.org/Events/details/sanibel-luminary-festival-2014-7173

39th Annual Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers
Nov. 28, 2014-Jan. 2, 2015 (Event closed Dec. 24 &25) 
239-334-7419 
www.edisonfordwinterestates.org

Edison Ford Holiday Nights reflect the many contributions of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and their families. It was chosen by the editors of USA Today as one of the 10Best Historic Homes for the Holidays, which also included The White House, Mount Vernon, Monticello and the Biltmore in North Carolina. To view the article visit: http://www.10best.com/interests/trippics/historic-homes-for-the-holidays/.

A not-to-be-missed holiday tradition, the historic buildings and acres of gardens are decorated with lights, traditional decorations and Edison and Ford inventions. A behind the scenes tour, Children's Holiday Tree Trail, Santa visits in the Ford Santa Workshop, refreshments and shopping in the Holiday Cottage Shoppe, Museum Store and Garden Shoppe are some of the planned activities. For admission and details: www.edisonfordwinterestates.org/events/annualevents/holiday-nights/

Captiva Holiday Village, Captiva Island
Weekends Nov. 28-Dec. 14, 2014 
www.captivaholidayvillage.com

Beginning Nov. 28-29 with a tree-lighting and fireworks, this popular southwest Florida barrier island transforms into a Holiday Village with events every weekend through Dec. 14. Enjoy gulf beaches, great dining, accommodations and unique holiday shopping. This themed, funfilled holiday extravaganza, is set against the backdrop of the shimmering Gulf of Mexico and breathtaking sunsets. Visitors to Captiva Island during Captiva Holiday Village weekends enjoy a Mullet Band parade, lighted boat parade, South Seas holiday strolls, a Junkanoo Parade, a carol sing at the Chapel by the Sea, sunset arias, a holiday golf cart parade and much more. Check website for details and a complete schedule. For information on accommodations, visit www.captivaholidayvillage.com/accommodations-getaway-vacations/

30th Annual Cape Coral Festival of the Arts, Downtown Cape Coral
Jan. 10-11, 2015 
239-699-7942 
www.capecoralfestival.com

Sponsored by the Rotary of Cape Coral, the festival was selected one of Sunshine Artists "200 Best." With fun for the whole family, it includes kids activities and a variety of food vendors and local restaurants.

ArtFest Fort Myers, Downtown Fort Myers
Feb. 6-8, 2015 
www.artfestfortmyers.com/artfest-overview/

Southwest Florida's premier art festival fills the Fort Myers waterfront with exceptional art, entertainment and children’s art activities. Visitors discover original art by more than 200 artists. Whether you’re a new or experienced art lover, you’ll find something to add to your collection. Visit website for details.

77th Annual Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade, Fort Myers
Feb. 21, 2015
Parade begins at 7 p.m. at Edison Stadium and continues to the Fort Myers Downtown River
District.
239-334-2999
www.edisonfestival.org

During February, Fort Myers celebrates the birthday of its most illustrious historical resident, Thomas A. Edison, in befitting fashion. Edison, who built a home on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River and spent 46 winters there, invented the light bulb. So it’s appropriate that the month of activities culminates with a lighted night parade. Invention competitions, parties, craft shows and a 5K run are all part of the festival. Celebrating 77 years, the month of February is filled with special events. Visit www.edisonfestival.org/events for details and a schedule.

Spring Training 2015, Fort Myers

The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins. What could be better than beautiful spring days and great baseball? The destination makes it easy for fans to take advantage of all that it has to offer along with great accommodation deals for spring training. For a complete listing of packages, special rates and information on a spring training vacation, visit www.FortMyersSanibel.com.

For schedules and ticket information: 
Boston Red Sox spring training 
JetBlue Park in Fort Myers 
For tickets and package information, go to www.redsox.com or call 
239-334-4700 or 877-RED-SOXX.

Minnesota Twins spring training 
Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers 
For tickets and package information, go to www.twinsbaseball.com or call 
800-33-TWINS 

57th Annual Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival and Parade, Fort Myers Beach
March 14 and 15, 2015 
239-463-6986 
www.beachshrimpfestival.com

Activities for the 57th annual Fort Myers Beach’s shrimp harvest event will include a parade, crowning of the Shrimp Queen, craft vendors, the boiled shrimp concession, and other seafood booths set up both days at Lynn Hall Memorial Park. For a schedule and details, visit website.

78th Annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show, Sanibel Island
March 5, 6 and 7, 2015 
Sanibel Community House 
239-472-2155 
http://www.sanibelcommunityhouse.net/events

Sanibel Island, named the best shelling beach in the U.S. and one of the best in the world, hosts shelling enthusiasts who gather each year for the shell fair that draws visitors from around the globe. One of the most unique events in the country, it began on a porch with just a few islanders and has evolved into today's fair that includes demonstrations, shell displays, crafts, prizes, food and entertainment. Visit website for details and a schedule of events.

9th Annual Fort Myers Beach Film Festival, Fort Myers Beach
April 22-26, 2015 
www.fmbfilmfest.com

Back for its ninth year, the Fort Myers Beach Film Festivals attracts independent film fans, filmmakers and distributors to spend four days on Fort Myers Beach to exchange ideas, make new contacts and enjoy some compelling and interesting films encompassing a wide range of tastes. Events are presented for all ages and area accommodations are offering special rates and packages to support this international celebration of independent filmmaking. For a list of films, locations, schedule and other event details, visit website.

Fort Myers Beach Bash
May 22-23, 2015 
Bay Oaks Community Park 
www.flhelps.org/events/

Family activities, live music with a "tropical rock" theme are just a few of the fun activities planned for this art and food festival. Visit website for schedule and details.

MangoMania, Pine Island
July 2015 
Pineland Marina 
239-283-0888 
www.mangomaniafl.net/

The mango is the star attraction for two days each summer on Pine Island. Go wild for fruit as you sample locally-grown delicacies at this annual affair, an unusual celebration of all the tropical fruit grown on the island, which includes lychee, carambola, longan, papaya, and “chocolate pudding fruit.” Fruit, exotic fruit trees, and fruit-related products are available for purchase. The 2015 festival will take place at the Pineland Marina. This fun, family event celebrates Pine Island's mangoes and other tropical fruits. In addition to mango food and beverages, the event features live music, art and craft vendors, food and recipe contests, activities area for kids and a chance to meet the Mango Queen! For more details and schedule of events, visit the website

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in southwest Florida includes: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer islands, North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres. A comprehensive media kit and images are available upon request.

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Lee Rose, Francesca Donlan