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Romance and revue
March 28, 2018

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There was a little surprise in this year's Greater Cincinnati Firefighters show.

Flanked by his fellow firemen, firefighter Jesse Bologna and Ashley Pankow said "I do" on stage at the Lani Kai.

Bologna said he's been coming down with the show for about 15 years - and theirs was the first-ever wedding performed during the show.

"It was surreal to see all my boys on each side of us, with our family and friends, we wanted to make it a big event," Jesse said.

"It was perfect," Ashley said.

Angelo "Scar" Scarlato, who organizes the shows, was their officiant. He said he's known Jesse since he was a young teenager, and it was an honor for them to ask him to marry them.

Scarlato spends the show acting and dancing, but he was nervous to officiate - it was his first time.

"I stand around saying stupid stuff on that stage all day," he said. "But this time I had to say something serious."

The Greater Cincinnati Firefighters Show has been coming to the beach for 31 years. It started out as something just for fun - a group of firefighters would come to Fort Myers Beach for vacation and stay at the same vacation house each year. They started doing variety shows and dances for a growing audience - and it's morphed into a two-week, annual event and fundraiser. Nine years ago, they moved the show to the beach before the Lani Kai. Every year, the firefighters put on an almost-daily variety show with choreographed dances, skits and audience participation, and fundraise for the local Araba Shriners.

This year, 29 men filled the show. Most of them are Cincinnati-area firefighters, with a few from Columbus and Cleveland, Scarlato said.

They raised more than $17,000 this year.

While the Bolognas marked the show's first wedding, the firefighter's annual event breeds romance. Cleveland-area firefighter Brad Hoffman met his now-wife, Nicole, while performing on the beach in 2010.

Before the performances, the guys pick out the people they will interact with, Hoffman said, because it's difficult to make that decision while on stage. For one song, "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy," the guys pick girls to do a piggy-back race in front of the stage. He chose a girl in a black swim suit - and married her in 2015, he said. They got engaged in 2014 during the show on the beach.

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