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Royal pages holding Thomas Alva Edison busts
Royal Pages of the Edison Pageant of Light holding Thomas Alva Edison busts. Photo: Robert Fulton

Edison Pageant of Light

Each February since 1938, Fort Myers, winter home of Thomas and Mina Edison, has commemorated the life and accomplishments of this remarkable man in its Edison Pageant of Light.

In 1887, Edison built his first laboratory on his Fort Myers estate, located on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River, and imported a steam engine and dynamo, giving Fort Myers pioneer citizens their first taste of incandescent light. Edison had first moved to Ft. Myers, his "adoptive home," as he called it for health reasons; he attributed his "rapidly returned health" to Ft. Myers'3 perfect air, "constant succession of blue skies and warm sunshine." As Edison grew older, his birthday party became a Ft. Myers event, bringing many notables to the area, including Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford, who purchased property next door to Edison so he might enjoy working vacations with his friend. After Edison died in 1931, an annual memorial service was held for seven ensuing years on his birthday.

In 1938, Ronald Halgrim, a personal friend of the great inventor and editor of the Fort Myers Press, suggested that more elaborate tribute might be in order, and spearheaded the effort to make the Edison Pageant an annual event. At Halgrim's urging, the Fort Myers Women's Community Club joined the Junior Chamber of Commerce in sponsoring a three-day pageant to honor Edison. It was held in conjunction with the memorial service and the Southwest Florida Fair.

The first Edison Pageant was a three-day affair held on February 11-13, 1938, providing entertainment for locals and for Florida's many winter visitors. The Royal Pageant culminated with the crowning of a king and queen of the mythical realm of Edisonia; this tradition has survived to this day and is a cornerstone of today's Edison Pageant of Light. Additional activities include the Edison Birthday Party, the annual memorial service, and a Grand Parade with many bands and floats, a Baby Parade, fireworks, Stadium Show, a juried flower show, arts and crafts show, golf and tennis tournaments, professional square dancing and musical performances. A Coronation Ball is held in the best traditions of the realm of Edisonia.

Except for a five-year hiatus during World War II, the Edison Pageant of Light has been held faithfully every year in Ft. Myers. It is a mystical, mythical event that has been staged with love, appreciation, and good humor for six decades: a fitting tribute to a man who gave the world the incandescent light, phonograph, motion picture camera, and 1000 other inventions, one of the greatest inventors of the modern era.

The project is documented by an exhaustively researched 38-page essay with endnotes and bibliography; twenty 8 x 10 photographs; and a video entitled "Edison Pageant of Light History."

Originally submitted by: Connie Mack,Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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