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30th annual Baileyfest set for this weekend

By Staff | Oct 22, 2015

A portion of the Bailey’s Center parking lot will be transformed into a little country carnival, complete with a stage and many booths during the annual Baileyfest this weekend.

“Baileyfest got its start 30 years ago and it’s original underpinnings were all about community,” Richard Johnson said of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. “It’s our opportunity here at Bailey’s Center, not just Bailey’s General Store, but Bailey’s Center to say thank you to our community who support us year round.”

The day of festivities kick off at noon and runs until 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25. The festival will include food, activities and constant entertainment.

“Sam started this 30 years ago,” he said. “Although Sam has been gone for several years, we still continue the tradition.”

The festival will kick off with an opening statement from Mayor Kevin Ruane, followed by the BIG ARTS Chorus singing the “Star Spangled Banner.”

“The BIG ARTS chorus is going to be our lead act at the stage,” Johnson said. “This has always been their opening event for the season for the past, as long as I can remember.”

The king and queen of Baileyfest, which are selected from essays The Sanibel School 5th grade class write about what it means to live on Sanibel, will then be crowned after arriving on wagon by the John Bailey Family mules, Emmer and Anner.

“The Sanibel Packing Company got its start when Frank Bailey was hauling fruits and vegetables from the fields to the dock,” Johnson said, adding that sailboats were packed and loaded, so the produce could be sailed across Punta Rassa. “They loaded it onto trains . . . tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, eggplant, key limes, oranges and grapefruit. There was no mechanization. Everything was done by hand with mules and horses and wagons and such.”

The entertainment will feature the Beacon Quartet, Diamonettes; Kellyn Irish Dance School; Buckeye Ken; The Country Chicks; Peter Redpath; Pat’s Country Rhythm Cloggers; Shining Star; Ron Nieoff; Mr. J. Roberts and Mr. Gringeco fourth and fifth grade chorus, Sanibel School Chorus and Steel Band.

“Literally the stage is busy and occupied for four straight hours,” Johnson said.

In addition to the entertainment, the festival will feature an array of food.

“We provide that to the crowd for a donation,” he said. “We don’t charge. We have a donation bucket at each one of the food booths.”

Such fair classics as cotton candy, popcorn, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, French fries and hotdogs will be available.

Dietz and Watson, who is a gourmet meat provider for Bailey’s, will travel from Pompano Beach to be on hand cooking bratwurst and hot dogs on an open grill for the crowd.

Beach Piez will have pizza, garlic knots and Italian sliders and The Sanibel Sprout will have some vegan options available.

“I want everybody on Sanibel to come,” Johnson said. “I want to run out of food.”

Pepsi and Coca Cola is donating soft drinks, among other beverages for the festival and Budweiser and Miller will provide beer.

Various activities will also grace the grounds of the Bailey’s Center for both children and adults. Up to seven inflatables, a rock climbing wall, a giant waterslide, and a giant sized air hockey game will be on hand.

“We will leave a few surprises (out),” Johnson said of some of the “neat” activities the festival will include.

Two raffles will also be among the festivities.

The day of raffle prizes will include a CopperTone surf board; Panama Jack beach cruiser bicycle and True Value Hardware outdoor griddle. Leading up to the festival, Bailey’s Center merchants contribute a raffle prize, which will be announced on the stage the day of the festival.

“You go and register at the merchant’s location,” Johnson said of the raffle. “You go in their store and while you are shopping and browsing their store, you can fill out a raffle and win their raffle prize.”

All of the raffles are free to enter, Johnson said because it is their way of thanking the community.

“You don’t have to have a ticket to get in. You donate for food and you don’t have to buy a ticket for a raffle,” Johnson said.

More than 30 not-for-profit Sanibel organizations, as well as organizations that have a strong connection to the island, will be present during the festival.

“We invite all of the island not-for-profit organizations to come set up an information table. So we encourage F.I.S.H., Community Housing Resources, SCCF, Ding Darling Wildlife Society, the Historical Village and the museum,” Johnson said.

Some of the proceeds from the food donations will be given to a handful of the not-for-profit organizations.

Baileyfest T-shirts went on sale this week for $10. This year’s design will grace the back of the shirt.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.