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Bluegrass, Brew and BBQ to benefit for Operation Open Arms

By Staff | May 13, 2016

By MELIASS?SCHNEIDER

mschneider@breezenewspapers.com

For the third year in a row, the Bluegrass, Brew and BBQ benefit will be held on Fort Myers Beach Memorial Day weekend.

The event will be held Saturday, May 28, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., at Matanzas on the Bay, benefitting Operation Open Arms, a Southwest Florida charity dedicated to the care and treatment of PTSD in military personnel and veterans, as well as supplying on-leave military personnel with unforgettable retreats in paradise.

The patriotic event will feature live music from the Bugtussle Ramblers and the Cooter Creek Bluegrass Band, craft draft beer from Fort Myers Brewery, alligator wrestling from “The Gator Crusader,” and a $15 barbecue buffet cooked up by the legendary Chef Dave Chetwin.

“It doesn’t get more patriotic than bluegrass, craft beer and barbecue on Memorial Day weekend for this great charity, Operation Open Arms,” said Glen Petrarca, general manager of Matanzas on the Bay. “Bluegrass is a great American tradition. As Memorial Day weekend and a benefit for our troops, what better way to raise awareness for Operation Open Arms. All of the benefit money raised that day will be given directly to the foundation. They do a lot of work in the community and elsewhere for military personnel suffering from PTSD. There is no greater honor than being able to encourage and thank the members of our military who are fighting for our country’s freedom.”

The bluegrassin’ Bugtussle Ramblers will kick off the music that day, from 1 to 4 p.m., followed by the Cooter Creek Bluegrass Band from 5 to 8 p.m.

“We’re really happy to have both of these great bands returning,” Petrarca said.

Keep cool with craft brews from Fort Myers Brewery, offering their High-Five IPA and Gateway Gold on tap from the craft beer tent on the bay, along with Matanzas additional tasty beer selection.

Chetwin is cooking up a patriotic feast, featuring smoked pork shank, barbecue ribs, his famous potato salad and corn on the cob, all buffet style, all for $15, with half of that price going directly to Operation Open Arms.

The Gator Crusader, making a special trip south from Orlando, will be entertaining with his alligator allies and ferocious feats.

Additional funds raised that day will be through a 50/50 drawing and many raffle prizes that will be called off, offering anything from champagne cruises and golf packages, donated by Capt John “GiddyUp” Bunch, and a two-night stay at Matanzas Inn, as well as a selection of other prizes.

“New this year we will have a silent auction featuring two-night stays at local resorts, restaurant gift certificates and golf for four to some great local courses,” Petrarca said. “When I first learned about Operation Open Arms, I was immediately attracted to this organization’s mission to provide service men and women with the opportunity to enjoy an all-expense-paid retreat in Southwest Florida upon returning from foreign duty.

“Over the years, Matanzas on the Bay has contributed free dinners and hotel rooms to Operation Open Arms in order to support the soldiers within the organization. What better way to honor our soldiers than by giving them a relaxing vacation that will allow them to spend time with their loved ones? As of this year, the foundation has raised over $12 million in direct benefits for our veterans without having $1 spent on salaries! Incredible, really!

“As general manager of Matanzas on the Bay on Fort Myers Beach, I want to use our resources to help Operation Open Arms to continue serving our U.S. soldiers and veterans. As longtime supporters of Opeation Open Arms, our company wanted to take the next step in supporting this organization. Last year, more than 800 people came out to enjoy great food and entertainment and help us support a great cause during our inaugural Bluegrass, Brew and BBQ benefit, raising $7,500 for the foundation (the year before that was $2,200). This year, we’re hoping our benefit will be even bigger and better than the last.”

For more information on the second annual Bluegrass, Brew and BBQ for Operation Open Arms, call 239-463-3838 or visit Matanzas.com.

Matanzas on the Bay is at 416 Crescent St. on Fort Myers Beach.