FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — A Fort Myers Beach staple is closing the curtains on a show that’s been hitting the sand for more than two decades.

The Cincinnati Firefighter Show Group has performed at the Lani Kai resort on Fort Myers Beach for about 20 years. The variety show would feature professional firefighters from Cincinnati who would sing, dance, and strip on a stage for a large, captive audience. 

Joe Diebold is one of the founders of the show group, he said the idea began about 30 years ago when he and his buddies would come to Fort Myers Beach for fun.

“We went year after year and we’re having fun on the beach. Next thing I knew, people were watching our antics,” said Diebold.  

With the growing attention, Diebold and his friends decided to put on ten shows over the span of ten days that would raise money for local charities. The show first helped local children with medical conditions, then it transformed into donating to the Fort Myers based Araba Shriners who would transport child burn victims to a burn ward in the Tampa area.

“For us, it was great to be able to give back in a fun way,” said Diebold. “We raised 150,000 just for kids with the Shriners alone. We paid for an ambulance with Arabba Shriners.” 

Some who have been frequenting the Lani Kai for years, like Summer Niemeier, bought the firefighter’s calendars to help support the cause. 

“I think it brought a lot of excitement and a lot of people out for the event,” said Neiemeier. 

The show was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID. Now, the show has been permanently put on ice. Diebold said a combination of the Lani Kai becoming more family-friendly, covid concerns, and difficulty getting permits from the town council all factored into their decision. 

“With COVID and everything else I think the shelf life there was expiring,” said Diebold. “We had a really good run. Between us, the Lani Kai, and the current council’s feelings on a show like ours, we felt it was maybe best-between all the parties to kind of maybe just, move on.” 

Now, the group is hoping the show will go on at a venue on Clearwater Beach. 

“We love Fort Myers beach. It’s tough. We’re going to miss it, no doubt,” Diebold said.

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