Organizers say Fort Myers tree lighting is safe

Posted at 9:26 AM, Dec 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-03 09:26:46-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Downtown Fort Myers is gearing up for the holiday season. This Friday is the Fort Myers Holiday Stroll, along with a special tree lighting ceremony in the Historic River District.

But after the shooting death during ZombiCon in October, there are questions as to how safe this downtown event will be.

While the police department is taking this very seriously, event organizers are confident this tree will be surrounded by smiles and goodwill, and the mayor says he will be standing right there come Friday night.

Meanwhile, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the district.  Wreaths line the light poles, ribbons adorn street signs, and of course Christmas trees are decorated with bright shiny ornaments.

But this year the holidays are a little less cheerful downtown.  The search for the October ZombiCon shooter stretches on, and the trail has gone cold.

"I think we've been in a dark place. After the last couple of months after ZombiCon, or city has really been a in a cloudy place.  But hope is starting to rise," says Pastor Will Hutcheron at Next Level Church.

Organizers of the Holiday Stroll and  tree lighting ceremony say they're not worried about security.  Pam Lemmerman operates The French Connection and says business has been great.  "We have family down here every night, every day. Strollers still going down the streets. It's a safe environment."

And Mayor Randy Henderson, along with the police chief, says that safe environment has only been enhanced. "What's been explained to me is that very strategically security is being organized around this event."

"This event coincides with Art Walk, and yes additional officers have been added," says Police Chief Eads.

While tourists and shoppers soak in the festive mood in downtown Fort Myers , many say they're looking forwards, not backwards.  "I think it's great, what about you Virgil? No, I think it's great. I'm very comfortable here."

The mayor points out that random acts of violence like what happened at ZombiCon are just that -- random. 

Starting at 5 o'clock on Friday, Santa will arrive at Centennial Park and then it will be a procession all the way through downtown, where they will have a lighting ceremony.  Along the way there will be concerts and also some other activities for everyone to enjoy.