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Tradition Turns 25: Islands Night hits the field May 9

May 2, 2018
By TIFFANY REPECKI (trepecki@breezenewspapers.com) , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Sam Bailey's Islands Night is celebrating a milestone anniversary as an island tradition this year.

Marking its 25th year, the Fort Myers Miracle will play the Charlotte Stone Crabs on May 9 at 7 p.m. at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. The gates open at 6 p.m., with the parade kicking off at 6:15 p.m.

"Islands Night was started by Sam Bailey, my great-uncle, as a way to bring the community together for an evening," Calli Johnson, whose family operates Bailey's General Store on Sanibel, said.

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According to the family, Sam Bailey first approached the Miracle organization about sponsoring a baseball game. He was able to negotiate the deal, but he then had to figure out how to pay for it.

Bailey worked with his brother, Francis, and the chamber of commerce. Island businesses were encouraged to help sponsor the game for just $100 and to invite everyone to attend. With a successful response, he was able to collect enough to rent out the stadium, plus give back to the community.

In 2004, Islands Night was renamed Sam Bailey's Islands Night in honor of him.

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Free tickets are available from Bailey's, Doc Ford's and other island businesses and sponsors.

"True to Sam's vision, we recruit sponsors to cover the cost of the stadium and are fortunate to be able to offer free tickets to attendees through those generous sponsors," Johnson said.

An ongoing island joke about the event is that the weather on game day is almost certain.

"It almost always rains, so attendees should be prepared," she said.

Still, it is one of the best attended games for the local team.

"While I don't know exact attendance, Islands Night is always the second most attended game for the Miracle, behind the Fourth of July fireworks show," Johnson said.

All the sponsors are invited to participate in the parade, a highlight of the event.

"There is no theme, but many sponsors that partake in the parade choose to throw candy or prizes," she said. "Each year, float numbers change with the weather conditions whether it rains or not."

The Kiwanis Club of Sanibel and Captiva Islands and the Young Professionals Association of Sanibel and Captiva will be selling beer, with the proceeds to benefit the Islands Night fund. The proceeds from the fund are distributed each year to several local organizations and even help to support scholarships.

"This event raises funds that support several college scholarships and contribute to many island organizations we all know and love," Johnson said.

Last year, three scholarships were awarded.

She noted that it is a community-supported event and there is no main sponsor.

"Coach's Team is group of volunteers that work to coordinate Islands Night each year that includes folks from Bailey's, but we contribute the same sponsorship other folks do," Johnson said.

Those interested in becoming a sponsor can do so up until game day.

For $100, base sponsorships includes recognition at the event and parade entrance.

In honor of the 25th anniversary, diamond sponsorships are available for $250.

Diamond sponsors will receive everything included with the base sponsorship, as well as a custom baseball jersey, with their name printed on the back, and a memorabilia anniversary seat cushion.

"The jersey is in lieu of the T-shirts we have done in the past and the seat cushions are an unprecedented addition to Islands Night," she said. "I would like to personally invite our past sponsors to join Bailey's and Doc Ford's in 'upping their game' to a diamond sponsorship this year."

For more information, contact Marie Ogden at 239-472-1516 or mogden@baileys-sanibel.com.

The community is encouraged to pick up their free tickets for the game.

"This is an opportunity for the whole family to come and enjoy a night of America's favorite pastime," Johnson said.

Hammond Stadium is at 14100 6 Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers.

 
 

 

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