Ringling Bridge to be lit throughout year with colors reflecting variety of observances

City Commission approves list for FDOT

This still from a City of Sarasota video shows the Ringling Bridge’s Pride Month lighting in June 2021. Image courtesy City of Sarasota via Facebook

On April 18, the Sarasota city commissioners unanimously approved a list of holidays and other annual observances that they want to mark by having the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) adjust the lighting scheme for the Ringling Causeway Bridge.

The maximum number of consecutive days that the bridge can be lit is seven, City Manager Marlon Brown pointed out.

Brown had met with each of the board members to ascertain their choices of holidays, he noted — though Commissioner Hagen Brody voiced his objection to that process having taken place outside of an open meeting.

Brown reminded Brody that the commissioners had directed him to conduct those one-on-one sessions.

Nonetheless, regardless of those discussions, commissioners this week asked for the addition of six other events in the resolution that will go to FDOT. Those will be Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Animal Abuse Awareness, Hispanic Heritage Month, Valentine’s Day and a lighting scheme to represent awareness of the fight against cancer.

This is the list that the city commissioners had approved before their April 18 discussion. Instead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the city will observe a general awareness of cancer. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Vice Mayor Battie asked for the latter, noting that he lost both his mother and sister to the disease, but they were not victims of breast cancer. Therefore, he did not want to see the bridge lighting to focus just on breast cancer.

Commissioner Brody first asked whether child abuse awareness was already on the list.

“It is,” Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch replied. (The list was in the materials provided to the commissioners and included on the city’s website for the April 18 meeting.)

Commissioner Hagen Brody. File image

Then Brody asked about the final list.

“It’s up to the commission,” Brown told him.

“And [others] can be added to over the course of the year?” Brody asked.

Every year, Brown explained, the commission will have the opportunity to update the list. If the board members wanted to adjust observances earlier, Brown added, they would have to approve a new resolution for FDOT.

At that point, Brody proposed the recognition of Hanukkah, noting that the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee had asked for that.

The color scheme for Hanukkah would be blue and white, Brody continued. (Hanukkah is one of the FDOT options, as noted on the list provided to the commissioners.)

“I think it would be really, really cool,” Brody told his colleagues. “We have a number of pillars and columns under the bridge.” One pillar could be illuminated each successive night of Hanukkah, he said, up to the eighth day of that holiday.

Several rabbis also had requested that observance, Brody continued. “Just given the instances of just anti-Semitism [in the community],” he added, “I just think it’s really a great opportunity for us to use the symbolic gesture … to show our Jewish community that they’re welcome, appreciated …”

He further noted that he had discussed the Hanukkah color scheme, with a pillar added each day, with the new FDOT secretary, Jared W. Perdue, when Brody recently was in Tallahassee. Perdue indicated that that would be fine, Brody said.

Referencing the FDOT list, Mayor Erik Arroyo noted that the Ringling Bridge could be lit for Hanukkah from Dec. 18-24, instead of through Dec. 26, as indicated on that list.

Additionally, Brody told his colleagues, “I would rather have Christmas just red and green,” without white, which was included with the other two colors on the FDOT options list.

Arroyo indicated the rest of the commissioners’ preference for the “Holidays” option that FDOT offers from Dec. 25-31, instead of “Christmas.”

“OK, I get it,” Brody responded after sighing.

Commissioner Liz Alpert. News Leader image

Commissioner Liz Alpert voiced concern about whether Kwanza also should be observed through a bridge lighting display, though she acknowledged that she was unaware of the color scheme or dates.

Battie said he believed both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa should be on the FDOT list.

Battie also pointed out, “I’m an animal lover,” so he wanted to see the bridge lit in recognition of Animal Abuse Awareness Month, which is April.

Brown did caution the commissioners, “Remember: There’re a lot of remembrance days that clash with each other.” For example, he said, Kwanzaa overlaps the “Holidays” period on the FDOT list.

Arroyo called for the inclusion of Hispanic Heritage Month, noting that the teal and orange colors “just look beautiful together.”

Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch offered her support for that and the general awareness of cancer. Then she pointed out, “It’s impossible to say you don’t support any cause, right?”

Brody made the motion calling for the observances for Hanukkah, Hispanic Heritage Month, Animal Abuse Awareness and Cancer Awareness. He then suggested adding St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. “They’re just fun.”

City Manager Brown noted that St. Patrick’s Day already was on the proposed list.

No one in the community had asked him about a Kwanzaa observance, Brody said. “Do we want to include that? I don’t know. … If the community wants it, I’m OK with it.”

After searching online, Alpert reported that Kwanzaa takes place from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, and the color scheme is red and green.

Brown said Kwanzaa would be recognized as part of the “Holidays” lighting.

This is a partial list from FDOT about the awareness days and holidays for which it will adjust bridge lighting, at a local government’s request. This was included in the commission’s agenda packet for the April 18 meeting. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

When City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs called the roll, all of the commissioners voted for the list with the additions.

Among other observances marked by the lighting of the bridge will be Equality Day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Victim’s Rights Week, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Juneteenth, Pride Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Women’s History Month.