Our little island plays host to a lot of unique festivals throughout the year. From Sand Sculpting to the Shrimp Festival to the Film Festival – these special celebrations go a long way toward defining us as a community and giving our visitors more reasons to visit and islanders a chance to have fun. This Saturday, May 7th, a new festival is coming to Fort Myers Beach that organizers hope will become part of that yearly tradition: the 1st Annual Mother’s Day/Mother Earth Rhythm of the Island Songwriting Festival, which will be held in Santini Plaza from 9am-1pm. The brainchild of a group of locals who were looking for a way to celebrate our town’s natural beauty, this festival is – like the others – uniquely our own.
A little more than a year ago, the Marine Resources Task Force (MRTF), an advisory board to Town Council, were looking for a way to increase their efforts in environmental outreach and education. To date, this committee – which was the first advisory committee formed after the Town incorporated – has been responsible for: crafting the original jet ski/parasail ordinance, placing recycling bins at beach accesses, creating FAQ’s for Beach Patrol, the BeachScape dune planting program, helping to create a partnership between Island Coast High School and Beach Elementary, creating educational stories and brochures and implementing the popular Adopt A Beach program. So when Vice-Chair Keri Weeg brought up the idea of hosting an Earth Day type festival, the rest of the committee readily agreed. Then, when Chairman Bill Veach suggested adding a local songwriter’s competition to attract people to the event, the festival – once approved by Council, of course – was born.
But where to hold it?
That is where Bonnie Roberts and Santini Plaza came to the rescue. After meeting with event organizers Weeg and Veach, she spoke with Fish Tale owners Al and Kathy Durrett and Marketing Director Janeen Paulauskis, who graciously agreed to allow MRTF to ‘piggyback’ onto their Mother’s Day event scheduled for May. The burgeoning festival received even more good luck when local rising star Sheena Brook came to a MRTF meeting in February and agreed to help. As the VCB (Visitors and Convention Bureau) representative for the Island Hopper Songwriting Festival that comes to our island in the fall, Sheena offered to provide a slot at that exclusive event so the winner of MRTF’s competition could have a grand prize worth singing for.
In addition to the competition, Saturday’s event will also feature representatives from Estero Bay Buddies, Fish Tale Marina, Turtle Time, Crazy Woman Kayaks, the Audubon Society and MRTF – all with representatives who will take the stage between performances to answer questions about their environmental education efforts. The highlight of the speakers’ portion of the program will occur at 10am, when Town Environmental Technician Rae Blake will good-naturedly participate in a game of ‘Stump the Scientist’ where she will be blindfolded while attempting to identify creatures found on the beach.
As so many of our readers are aware, no event of Bonnie’s would be complete without her 20+ handpicked arts and crafts vendors, many of whom are creating special Mother’s Day gifts for Saturday.
“Just to name a few, we’re going to have hand-painted canvas bags and hats by Mara Balodis; Sean Conway’s handmade pottery; Barbara Denslow’s charm earrings; fair trade leather goods from Ana Kovacevic; Sheri Levine’s handmade pillows and Connie Eugenio – who makes stainless steel engraved rings on the spot,” Bonnie told us. “Skye’s Mexican and More will be on hand with a full bar, beer and wine, Bloody Mary’s and margaritas and Bonez Brothers’ Todd Noon will be cooking up his award-winning BBQ.”
And if all of that isn’t enough to make for a great festival, national recording artist and local songstress Jo List has agreed to join the event for a special performance – accompanied by her talented keyboardist Joe McConaghy – at 10:45am. Sheena will also perform a couple of her original show stopping tunes at the end of the event, including one with the winner of the competition.
At press time, six competitors had agreed to take part in the event, singing and performing their original tunes:
Alan Bradford is a unique guitar player and an old soul singer/songwriter. A musician who can deliver hours of covers, as well as original songs; he is an all around entertainer who can “read the crowd” and cater the music to their desires. Alan started playing music while growing up in New Jersey. In college in the early 70’s, Alan had the opportunity to play with many touring professionals, two of whom became great influences: Harry Chapin and James Taylor. Alan’s love of music led him to write and record his own songs. His CD of original music, “From the Heart,” came out in 2011; and Alan is now recording his second CD (due out later this year). He’s having great success with his newest songs, “Johnson’s Farm” and “Cowboy Heaven,” which are getting worldwide airtime.
Bob Covington – ‘SWFL’
Bobby Covington is a singer/songwriter of mostly humorous material. Bobby relocated to southwest Florida from the Reno/Tahoe area where he had a comedic show playing in local casinos. The show “Reno Valentino, For The Love Of Women” was a big enough hit that Americas Got Talent contacted the band. Locally, he has greatly enjoyed the singer/songwriter friendly venues. The Alley Katz Band, of which he was a member, played over 70 gigs this last season. This included opening for a national act for Bonita Springs’ largest event, “Celebrate Bonita’.
David Hintz – ‘I Don’t Worry About Going to Heaven’
David has been performing and writing songs since 1970. After a 25+ year hiatus from performing David is back at it again. Now older and somewhat wiser, his songs are a combination of humor, wit, tradgedy and love, with a bit of protest thrown in for good measure. Whether it’s the honest story-telling of his original songs, or his interpretation of well known or obscure covers, David’s powerful voice will remind you of John Prine, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Hayes Carll and others of the folk, outlaw country and Americana genres. David is a founding member of the Ft. Myers, Fl. based ‘Americana Community Music Association’, and has produced two CD’s – “Rode Hard and Put Away Wet” in 2013 and “Out With a Bang” in 2015.
Mike Leising – ‘Trolley Riders’
Mike Leising is a Lee County volunteer who leads beach walks at Bunche Beach and leads the Sundown Singalong (during season) at Bowditch Point where they sing classic songs from the 60’s, then watch the sunset. He also plays at the Pickle and Pub at Thursday night’s acoustic jam with Steve Lutke and James ‘The Vegetable Stand Guy’. Mike is a retired Middle School Principal and Teacher/Coach.
Caleb Neff – ‘In Another Life’
Born and raised in SWFL, Caleb is a pastor, record producer, songwriter, husband and father of two. His alt. country/rock songs are reflective and alternately lighthearted and heartbreaking, in the vein of John Prine, Jeff Tweedy and Tom Petty.
Bob Williams – ‘Fort Myers Beach’
Bob Williams has been writing songs since he picked up a guitar back in Massapequa Long Island forty plus years ago. Happily retired on Fort Myers Beach with years of songs waiting to be heard and with encouragement from friends and family in March of 2015, Bob has released his first CD No Apologies. Bob’s music is all-inclusive Americana. With all the great music in the sixties what truly spoke to Bob was a mix of Folk-Rock, and Country-Rock. What people hear on this CD and Bob’s shows are the ingredients of many different influences that create a unique sound that is all his own. Bob’s amusing stories of how his songs originated always brings a smile. Bob is also the VP of the Americana Community Music Association, which promotes original singer songwriters with a strong focus on local artists.
To avoid the worst of the early summer heat, Saturday’s event begins bright and early at 9am, with the first performances scheduled for 9:30 and the winner announced at 11:20am. So come down to Santini Plaza, grab a Bloody Mary and a gift for Mom, and help us celebrate everything that is wonderful about Fort Myers Beach!
Keri Hendry Weeg