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Musicians band together for Surf & Song Festival to benefit ‘Navigating Autism’

By Staff | Mar 28, 2012

If you love live music, don’t miss the annual Surf and Song Festival to be held March 30 and 31 at Centennial Park and in the River District in downtown Fort Myers.

The event, hosted by the Surf and Song Foundation, will feature 109 bands, many local and many national acts, with some popular and legendary musicians.

There will also be arts and crafts, a Kids Zone and lots of food and drink.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the new “Navigating Autism” program at The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, said Fritz Caraher, Surf and Song Foundation president and festival chairman. “This is a very unique event,” he said. “There’s nothing like it anywhere in the country.”

It’s an all-charity music festival, to help benefit families affected by autism.

“We have gathered some great national music acts and local arts and crafts vendors to help shed light on an important issue affecting a growing number of local families and local children with autism,” Caraher said.

“We encourage everyone to come out and make a difference in our town.”

The Surf and Song Festival will feature 15 music stages throughout a six-block area of downtown Fort Myers.

National headline acts include Cracker, John Waite, Matthew Ryan and Johnny Rzeznik, lead guitarist, singer and songwriter for the Goo Goo Dolls.

“Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, will also be there; they are just coming off tour date with O.A.R.,” Caraher said.

There will also be a special surprise guest appearance by “someone” from Bon Jovi, but Caraher isn’t saying who.

“It takes so many local people to do this, people from the Cape, Naples, Fort Myers and more working together,” he said.

Local musician Jimmy (“Longhair”) Merrins, who has worked with such bands as KISS, Bryan Adams, Peter Frampton and John Entwistle, said it is an entertainment event not to be missed.

“If you do not come down and see this, you will miss an opportunity to see some of the greatest local musicians from anywhere in Florida,,” he said.

Locally he said many have performed at BackStreets, Leapin Lizards and more.

“Cape bands include Pulse, Traffic Jam, The George Lewis Project, The New Vinyls, Joe Virga and Headcount,” he said.

“This is all charity – the only gig in Florida where all these bands do this.”

For the full concert line-up, visit surfandsongfestival.com/band-lineup/.

The event kicks off March 30 in Centennial Park. Gates open at 4 p.m. and the music starts at 5 p.m.

On March 31, gates will re-open at 11 a.m., with performances beginning at noon.

Advance tickets for Friday are $25 and are available at surfandsongfestival.com/tickets/. Tickets are $30 at the gate. On Saturday, donation tables will be set up all over the downtown area for admission.

“Our singular focus is to support The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and help meet the challenges presented to children in our community who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” said Mike VonPlinsky, Surf and Song Foundation executive director and festival vice-chairman in a prepared statement. “We are delighted to be an integral part of the creation and maintenance of the hospital’s ‘Navigating Autism’ program through the funds raised at our annual festival and all pre-festival events.”

Autism now impacts 1 in 110 children, according to Dr. Guillermo Philipps, a pediatric neurology

specialist at The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

“Experts are also saying that could go to one in 70 in the next decade,” Caraher added.

The Children’s Hospital’s “Navigating Autism” program is designed to assist all families, with the “Navigator” providing support and connections to medical and community resources.

The Surf and Song Foundation is a charitable, nonprofit organization supported by musicians, artists, businesses and the public to raise awareness and funds for local charities in the community.

For more information on the Surf and Song Foundation and this year’s festival, visit surfandsongfestival.com.