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Bigger and better Coconut Festival to open Friday

By Staff | Nov 10, 2008

The fourth annual Coconut Festival is just around the corner, ready to spread family fun all over the Sun Splash Festival Grounds starting next weekend.

This unique blend of live entertainment, carnival rides, food and more is being billed as the largest ever festival to hit the shores of Lake Kennedy, featuring Grammy Award-winning musical acts from all varieties of popular music.

More than 30,000 people are expected to descend on the festival this year, making it one of the premier events in not only the Cape, but maybe even all of Southwest Florida.

Todd King of the city’s Special Events Division said the Coconut Festival, along with the Jazz Festival and the Bike Nights, are all aimed at showcasing the Cape, as well as giving back to the residents.

“They (the city) wanted me to develop a signature city event the entire community could celebrate,” King said. “We have a great time. We married fireworks with food, a carnival and national recording acts.”

King said there has been some debate during the events tenure as to whether the festival is actually three or four years old.

King took over the organization of the festival three years ago. During its initial year, the event was much smaller and didn’t feature much of what the event has come to be known for.

“The first year it was much smaller, and didn’t have a lot of the large elements it does today,” he said. “We do two major events a year. Jazz and blues in the spring and this one in the fall. It’s all about getting Cape Coral on the map in Southwest Florida.”

This year’s festival features even more than previous years. On Friday, Nov. 7, the evening’s theme will be “Coco Country” as Country Music star Craig Morgan will take the stage to perform a few of his hits, including “Red Neck Yacht Club.” Morgan was recently inducted into the Grand Ole Oprey Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, the stage becomes “Coco Rock n’ Roll,” when a Journey tribute band proceeds the big event, Grammy Award-winning band Survivor, whose major hit “Eye of the Tiger,” was featured in multiple “Rocky” films.

Sunday’s event features something brand new this year, an X Games BMX show with X Games athletes featured on ESPN.

“For the first time ever were bringing in X Game star athletes to perform BMX stunts on a giant half pipe. These are the guys you would see on ESPN,” King said. “The value of the event really is unparalleled.”

Value is at the heart of the festival — It’s only $3 per person for each day. Every admission includes all the live entertainment, plus street performers, children’s crafts and games.

Then there’s the carnival itself, with its funhouses, giant Ferris wheel, kiddie rides and just about every carnival favorite from the Tornado to the Zipper.

“Were using a brand new carnival company this year,” King elaborated. “They also do the Lee County Fair. Its going to be the best we’ve ever had.”

Another value will be the $20 carnival ride wristband, which offers the wearer unlimited rides on all the attractions throughout the day.

The wristbands are available at all Riverside Banks. Along with Chico’s Industries, Riverside Bank is one of the co-sponsors for the festival.

Riverside Bank Community Ambassador Joanne Cicone said the Cape-based financial institution has been involved with the Coconut Festival for the past three years, and plans to continue the relationship indefinitely.

“This is our opportunity to be part of the biggest event that Cape Coral puts on,” Cicone said. “This is really a way for us to give back.”

Riverside Bank was in the final throes of putting together its volunteer corps for the event on Thursday.

According to Cicone, volunteering is all part of the Bank’s CORE program, which stands for Community Outreach of Riverside Employees.

For every 16 hours of volunteer time a Riverside employee works, the bank donates $100 to a non-profit organization of the volunteer’s choice.

Cicone said volunteers will be able use their time at the Coconut Festival to put toward their favorite charities.

“Riverside donates money to where the employees hearts are. They (the employees) know they are going to give money to the community in some way, shape or form,” She said. “I think its awesome.”

Live music at Lake Kennedy may become a permanent fixture, as the city has explored establishing a waterfront concert venue on the lake, to host these type of music driven events on a regular basis.

King said a design was “in the works” for the festival grounds, to be revealed sometime in the near future.

“The Sun Spalsh Fest Grounds are the thing we’re trying to brand out there,” King said. “We’re letting people know we’re making Sun Splash a full-time event.”

A word of note, the Lake Kennedy Boat Ramp will be closed Nov. 6 – 9 due to the Coconut Festival, and reopen on Monday, Nov. 10, according to city officials.

For additional information about the Coconut Festival, call the city Parks and Recreation Department at 573-3128.