Fort Myers was just a small fishing town when Thomas Edison built his winter retreat here in 1885. The man with more than 1,000 patents now draws more than 200,000 people to the annual celebration held in his name. The Edison Festival of Light is Southwest Florida’s largest and longest running festival of any kind.
The legendary inventor and businessman started building a home here in 1885, searching for a warm weather retreat and place to relax. The estate, later called “Seminole Lodge,” was also home to a tropical garden and laboratory. With the help of tire tycoon Harvey Firestone and Edison’s friend and neighbor Henry Ford, over 17,000 plant samples were investigated here leading to the discovery of a new homegrown source of rubber.
It’s just one of the incredible stories found in the 20-acre Edison & Ford Winter Estates, among the most visited historic homes in America. There’s always more to see and learn at the site’s year-round tours and activities. His home, discoveries and legacy are a cherished part of Southwest Florida’s history.
Seven years after his passing in 1931, Fort Myers held the first Edison Pageant of Light. It included a coronation ball, parade, concert and memorial service. The three-day event was an instant success, drawing visitors together from not just the community, but also the country at large. The Edison Festival of Light tells an important story. Not just of Edison’s global impact, but also about the significant mark he made on our local culture and community.
Since its start in 1938, the festival has only grown and in 1989, the Edison Festival of Light, Inc. was established—taking responsibility for the event. One addition is the STEMtastic Day of Discovery, an award-winning event that provides kids and families with hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering, math and the arts. It’s a free and fun way to honor and continue the work of a great inventor.
Among the other events in the weeklong celebration are a 5K, classic car show, craft market and dog parade. Check out the calendar and make a plan to join us for this illuminating tradition.
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