Sanibel Island was forever changed by the late Sam Bailey. He was a strong advocate for his community and Islands Night at Ham-mond Stadium is one of his many legacies. Twenty years ago Sam Bailey envisioned an event for his beloved community to enjoy.
Without an appropriate venue on the islands, Sam turned to the Fort Myers Miracle baseball organization for Hammond Stadium in nearby Fort Myers. "Somehow Sam started talking with the Miracle organization about an island-wide gathering at the ball field," said Richard Johnson, general manager of Bailey's General Store. In true Sam Bailey fashion, he had far greater plans than discounted tickets as first offered by the organization. "His idea was we will rent the entire stadium," said Johnson.
The Fort Myers Miracle miraculously agreed to rent the stadium to Sam.
Sam Bailey’s Islands Night will be May 15 at Hammond Stadium. This 20-year tradition was started by the late Sam Bailey, who was an activist for his beloved island community. The event features food, games and a parade, still led by Sam’s old Ford Model-T prior to the Fort Myers Miracle baseball game.
He quickly began the tasks of finding a way to pay for the stadium and planning what is today's "Sam Bailey's Islands Night." As a business man, Sam reached out to other island business owners for support; and together formed a committee to carry out his vision. "The current Islands Night committee made a commitment to Sam (before he passed away in 2010) that we would continue his tradition, which started 20 years ago this year," said Johnson, who recalled that Sam didn't expect anything less.
Islands Night continues to honor Sam's vision of an island-wide gathering with pre-game food, activities and a parade still led by his old Ford Model-T. Islands Night will begin at 6:15 p.m. May 15 at Hammond Stadium; tickets are free of charge and can be found at most island merchants, including Bailey's General Store, 2477 Periwinkle Way. There will be a special beer concession on the veranda of the stadium, along with a food concession staffed by Annie's team of volunteers.
In addition to an exclusive evening at the ball field, Islands Night raises funds to support island youth and non-profit organizations. Proceeds from the beer concession and partial proceeds from the food concession, as well as sponsorships go towards helping island youth with their future endeavors. "He always talked with the youth at the (Bailey's) store," said Johnson. While the Sam Bailey formula is still in place for Islands Night, the committee has decided to offer youth scholarships this year. They will continue to the tradition of helping island youth, something that was important Sam Bailey.
If You Go:
What: Islands Night
When: 6:15 p.m., May 15
Where: Hammond Stadium14400
6 Mile Cypress
Pkwy., Fort Myers
Tickets: Free of
charge from most
Islands Night can not be discussed without mentioning rain -- the uninvited guest that has turned into a tradition. "There would not be a cloud in the sky all day," says Charlene Kocinski, a current committee member.
"As you drove across the bridge to the stadium, there would be a dark cloud hovering just in that area." It may have rained on Sam's parade nearly every year, but it provided inspiration for his Islands Night poems and never blinded his vision.