COVID continues to impact Civic Center calendar
By CHUCK BALLARO
This week, one of the oldest events held at the Lee Civic Center was supposed to take place.
The annual Citrus Expo, an annual trade show which has been held for nearly 30 years, was cancelled two weeks ago, to be replaced by virtual seminars and continuing education classes the farmers need to continue their careers.
It is the latest event to be cancelled due to the pandemic at the center that is owned by the county but managed and programmed by the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair Association, which schedules other events when the fair isn’t happening.
“It’s understandable where we’re at in this pandemic. The Citrus Expo brought people in from outside the area and, with the social distancing and the masks, I understand them cancelling it,” said Mike Peak, a member of the board for the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair Association. “I’m sure many of them wouldn’t have come.”
When it opened in 1978, the Lee Civic Center was the only place in the area to hold a concert. Today, with many other state-of-the-art facilities, the place became the home for high school graduations until 2015, when the seating was condemned.
It has become a great location for trade and consumer shows, but the pandemic has rendered those events few and far between.
The only events that have occurred since the pandemic have been two Florida Gun Shows, the last of which was the first weekend in August, and the funeral service for Bayshore firefighter Dwight Henry.
Peak said that the Gun Show, which hosted by a private company, did a good job following the CDC guidelines. Masks were not required, but they were handing them out, encouraging them to be worn.
All other events, such as the Florida Sportsman Expo, Vintage Market Days and the Spring Nationals Car Show, have all been cancelled.
They hope Vintage Market Days will return Sept. 25 to 27, as well as the Fort Myers Home & Remodeling Show from Nov. 6 to 8. Those shows have not been cancelled.
“I think businesses are playing it by ear to see what happens with the pandemic,” Peak said.
Peak added that they are still planning to hold the fair, which begins the last Thursday of February and runs 11 days. Last year, the fair got in just before the pandemic shut everything down.
“We closed in Sunday, March 8, and the following Thursday Collier opened and they only went four days when they had to close,” Peak said. “We have our fingers crossed that there’s a vaccine.”