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Cape Coral Yacht Club’s 60th anniversary marked with gala — and a look back

By CJ HADDAD - | Jun 14, 2022

Tom Hayden, Cape Coral City Council member and one of the event hosts, speaks with Mary Lou Griffith, one of first employees with Gulf American, the development company that started Cape Coral. CJ HADDAD

As you walked through the Cape Coral Yacht Club doors Friday night, you were transported back in time.

Classic music of a bygone decade blared while the dance floor was packed with tie-dye, tassels, and groovy moves.

It was a special occasion. The Yacht Club was celebrating its 60th anniversary on the exact weekend it opened in 1962. And the city’s oldest and most historic venue got a proper bash.

Tales of yesteryear were told and the night was capped off with a special presentation of Waltzing Waters: a spectacular synchronized water and light show that was a major Cape attraction in the early years of the city. The event was put on by the Cape Coral Museum of History and sponsored by The Gunterberg Charitable Foundation.

“I got so much pleasure meeting people who came to celebrate our 60th anniversary,” said Cape Coral Councilmember Gloria Tate, who also serves as president of the museum’s board. “People who just moved here within the last few years were especially interested in our history. The medallions (each attendee received) were so special as they captured the essence of the building. Celebrating with so many wonderful residents was a memory I will cherish as I leave my political career.”

Fellow city Councilmember Tom Hayden opened the evening talking about the origins of the Yacht Club and the variety of uses the venue provided over the years. He spoke with long-time Cape residents and they told their version of what they remember. It was a time to reflect on six decades.

“It was fantastic to see the community come together to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Cape Coral Yacht Club,” said museum Executive Director Janel Trull. “The stories shared by some of our earliest residents were touching and really drove home the point that Cape Coral was built not just as a residential development but as a true community.”

Museum board member and long-time Cape resident, Linda Biondi, who played a major role in organizing the event, said: “Over the last 30 years, we’ve had many celebrations in the Yacht Club Ballroom. So, there are lots of fond memories. As for why it’s a special place; the Yacht Club itself as well as the ballroom is part of the history of Cape Coral. Our city has a habit of not preserving its history and for me, this is one of the last jewels.”

After some stories were swapped, it was time to hit the dance floor. Tunes that topped the charts six decades ago still rang true as attendees boogied the night away. Good eats were provided by Mission BBQ and the museum was showcasing its custom T-shirts for the anniversary.

“The food was delicious, the music was fun to dance to, and there was so much history discussed,” Trull said. “Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time. One person even told me that they got much more out of the event than they thought they would. I hope everyone left with a better understanding of the importance of the Yacht Club to the community and a renewed passion for the history of Cape Coral in general.”

At 9 p.m. at the Yacht Club pool, a special treat awaited. Keeping with the theme of the ’60s, Waltzing Waters showed its stuff to classic hits and artists, dancing and dazzling along the way.

Tate has always been a strong supporter of Waltzing Waters and its history in the city dating back to founders Leonard and Jack Rosen.

“My passion is the Waltzing Waters (Liquid Fireworks) ‘I have a dream: The Waterfront Wonderland Park’ located at the old Golf Course, with the Waltzing Waters in the middle, lots of green space, a small cottage style hotel and a Rose Garden,” she said.

The Cape Coral Yacht & Racquet Club is one of the oldest original amenities still standing in the Cape. It has been used as a community gathering spot for the past 60 years and is a location near and dear to so many of Cape Coral’s residents. Trull said the museum had already planned to do a 60th anniversary exhibition on both the Yacht Club and the Teen Club in the fall of 2022. As she researched, Trull noted the Yacht Club facility opened the weekend of June 9 – 10, 1962 with a full weekend of activities, culminating with a barbecue dinner and dance. Much like they had on Friday.

So, what’s next for the venue? Its future is still up in the air.

“I don’t know what will become of the Yacht Club,” Tate said. “I have high hope the next council will continue to have the vision of a great park featuring a beach for all, and boat ramps for anyone who wants to enjoy our waters. I would hope that the integrity of the building remains as a place where people can gather for many occasions. I also hope the fountain will always be there as a source of inspiration, a source of peaceful waters, and in many ways a miniature form of what our Waltzing Waters were.”

Biondi added, “It’s great that we’re going to expand the beach. The seawalls need to be redone in the yacht basin. The sad thing is that it seems that Yacht Club Ballroom will be taken down rather that renovated. I find that once again we cannot save history.

“It’s also upsetting that we are going to put a parking garage. I would hope that we would be able to add more parking spaces by reworking the spaces. Perhaps move the tennis courts to another location and that space would add a lot of parking spaces? For me, it’s the ambiance of the area.”

Whatever may come, the museum will always strive to preserve the building’s history.

“The Museum tells the story of the Yacht Club as part of its guided tour and showcases several artifacts from the early days in a permanent exhibit,” Trull said. “This fall, the museum will be curating a more in-depth temporary exhibition on the Yacht Club and Teen Center (now the Rotino Center) which will showcase additional items, photographs and more.”

The Cape Coral Museum of History is at 544 Cultural Park Blvd. For more information, visit capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

Editor’s Note: The Cape Coral Breeze published a special history section, “Cape Coral Yacht Club — 60th Anniversary: A Look Back,” to commemorate the Cape Coral Yacht & Racquet Club’s 60th anniversary. The stories included in the section, written by Cape Coral Councilmember Tom Hayden, may be found here at capecoralbreeze.com . We also invite you to check out CJ Haddad’s the photo gallery of the 60th Anniversary celebration.