Blues music will be on tap at Estero Island's largest food festival this year.
The Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce's 19th annual Taste of the Beach on Old San Carlos Boulevard will feature a Baywalk Blues Festival on Sunday, May 4. The Sean Chambers Band, a contemporary blues group, will headline the all-day entertainment, which will include musical acts Wendell Ray and The RH Faktor.
While the food portion of the festival event was foreseen within the downtown "entertainment" district, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council did not approve a special permit request to allow open containers of alcohol and amplified staged music for the fenced-in event until Monday.
Old San Carlos Boulevard will once again be busy during the 2014 Taste of the Beach, slated for Sunday, May 4.
The overriding factor to allow the requested music appeared to be the location of the stage and the direction where the music was aimed. The stage may either be built up over the street end of the Town fountain or on the usual grassy area adjacent to Marina Village at Snug Harbor and angled toward the Gulf. Much support for the overall event came through public comment.
"We have moved and rotated the music stage so that most of the music no longer bounces between Marina Village and Nervous Nellies and instead is directed down San Carlos Boulevard," said FMB Chamber Board chair-elect David Anderson. "This mitigates, as much as possible, the sound to Marina Village as well as the full-time residents outside the 500-foot radius."
Marina Village board member Paul Rosen, who has been opposed to music-based events in that particular part of the neighborhood in the recent past, was also among the supporters for the Taste event due to the location of the stage. FMB Chamber President Bud Nocera met with Rosen and other officials on that board last week to work out an arrangement. He also met with a sound engineer to get advice.
"We're trying to mitigate the noise as much as possible," he said. "I talked to the sound man and asked what is the minimal amount of amplification necessary to have a successful event. His suggestion was to use four 12-inch speakers on tripods, with each being self-amplified."
The permit approval also grants a Town fee waiver for parking meters and barricades
The "Taste" will once again showcase Beach restaurants that will display their signature fare and compete for six best dish awards in three categories -appetizer; entre; and dessert. The entree category will involve meat (beef/pork/chicken), fish, shellfish and non-meat. Best Spirited Decorated Booth and People's Choice Award will also be awarded.
This is the second consecutive year that the island's main food festival will be located in the BayWalk area of Estero Island's downtown district. The entire event will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., while music is being scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. The awards ceremony will be held at 4 p.m.
The event will act as a fundraiser for the Greater Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts. The Beach Chamber will share beer sales revenue with the 501C(3) group, which may also offer 50/50 raffles to support their mission to facilitate and fund arts presentations in the greater Fort Myers Beach area.
The field of participants and judges are set.
The participating restaurants for 2014 TOB include Matanzas on the Bay, Beach Pierside Grill, Parrot Key Caribbean Grill, Royal Scoop, Castaways Bar & Grill, Skip One Seafood, Yucatan Beach Stand, DiamondHead Beach Resort's Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill, Pinchers Crab Shack, Nemo's on the Beach, Pink Shell Beach Resort's Bongo's Bar and Grill, Lani Kai's Island View Restaurant, Nervous Nellies Crazy Waterfront Eatery, Beach Bums, Jolly Roger on the Beach and Big Game Waterfront Grill.
Food judges will be Chef/Town Councilman Dan Andre of Mango Street Inn, Beach Elementary School Principal Larry Wood , Gator Country's Val St. John and Scott Fish and Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott.
At 2 p.m., the fan-favorite server competition will be held in the parking lot at the corner of Old San Carlos Boulevard and Third Street. The three-man teams will fight for bragging rights and cash. First-place winners receive $75 apiece, while second place gets $50 per server and third takes home $25 per person.
Sponsors for Taste of the Beach 2014 include Budweiser, Gavins Ave Hardware, Krusty Pete's On-The-Beach, Liberty Coast Construction, Advance Disposal, Jerry's Tire, Paradise Tropical Wines, Paradise Beach Taxi/Local Motion Taxi, Nervous Nellies Crazy Waterfront Eatery, Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, Smokin Oyster Brewery and Caribbean Pearl as well as corporate sponsors News-Press and Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina.
Admission for the gated event is $5 per adult and children over age 12. Children under 12 are admitted free. Food tickets are $1 apiece.
Steve D'Angelis will once again serve as event chairman.
"To all of our local restaurants and food-lovers, alike, we invite you to come to Old San Carlos Boulevard Sunday, May 4, for great food and great music," he said. "We're additionally excited this year because we're bringing in some live entertainment, incorporating a blues-festival-type atmosphere, including headliner Sean Chambers Band.
"The best part about it is the annual Taste of the Beach signifies the end of the season for local restaurants, so it's a great opportunity for the local restaurants to come hang out again, see their fellow restauranteurs, and compete once again for the Best Server competition. It promises to be another great Taste of the Beach."
For more information, go to www.tasteoffortmyersbeach.com (as updated information will appear on website as the event nears) or call the Beach Chamber office at 454-7500.
Special event process looks to be streamlined
Council is looking for ways to streamline the special event process on the Beach.
The current process has been criticized for requiring too many approvals and too much paperwork to be filled out. The ordinance is being looked into from a legal standpoint.
"I think we need to redefine special events," said Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros.
Mayor Anita Cereceda is seeking a "blanket signoff" for established recurring events that feature the same format, location and such. Punta Gorda is one community that has its own board that includes police, fire, town and other officials that have permit signoff capabilities.
"What we need is a list of major large-scale events that can be signed off at the same time," said Cereceda. "I think it will improve the safety conditions and the event itself if it can be planned in advance. It would take away a heck of a lot of staff time."
One of the Town committees -possibly the Community Resources Advisory Board- may be assigned to look more into this process.