FOLKS Luau, Welcome Center Fundraiser


    Hawaii may be almost 5,000 miles from Estero Island, but on Thursday, April 11, the Friends of Loves Key State Park (FOLKS) brings “The Aloha State” just off the southern end of Fort Myers Beach with the 2nd annual “Luau On The Beach” fundraiser, with all proceeds going to the soon-to-be-under-construction Welcome & Discovery Center!

    “The ‘Luau On The Beach’ will be on the beautiful Lovers Key State Park (LKSP) Beach on Thursday, April 11, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.,” said Rich Donnelly, FOLKS President. “It will feature roast pig, chicken, appetizers, desserts and other exotic treats and beverages, with complimentary tram transportation from your car to the beach gazebo. There is a cash bar for beer and wine, with your first drink part of your admission. Guests will enjoy tropical music and dancing by ‘Steely Band’ and the nimbler can challenge themselves with the traditional Limbo contest or play Bocce, Corn Hole, or revive your Hula Hoop skills, with Hawaiian leis to all the winners.”

    FOLKS has been hosting a beach party fundraiser theme for many years, Rich explained, “with this the 2nd consecutive time we are throwing a luau. These outings are tremendously important for FOLKS because it is our task to raise money to support LKSP through a series of yearly events, and the luau is one of those. Our Events Committee comes up with the different concepts that they feel will be popular and well-attended, and these ideas are even more important now that all the funds go toward the Welcome & Discovery Center.”

    For Rich, his favorite part of the luau: “Probably the food! The dancing and games and contests, however, are all so much fun, and they really bring you back to the days of your youth. When last year’s initial luau was ending and we began to transport people from the beach and gazebo by the tram back to their cars, it was amazing how many guests were still laughing and singing and waving to everyone else, so you could tell just how much they really enjoyed the evening!”

    Luau cost is $60-per-person or $55 for FOLKS members that includes park admission and one complimentary drink ticket. There are roughly 40 luau tickets still available, with advance purchase required by Sunday, March 31, at

    Welcome & Discovery Center

    While the State of Florida will fund the $4-million construction price of the new Welcome & Discovery Center that will begin this Fall, the non-profit FOLKS committed to pay the $900,000 for the Center’s state of the art educational and environmental exhibits, already in the planning phase by Split Rock Studios from St. Paul, Minnesota. FOLKS pledged to raise an additional $600,000 for building furnishings.

    “The Welcome & Discovery Center will provide Lovers Key State Park with a whole new dimension,” Rich offered, “as well as a different viewpoint of everything that can occur in the park. Up to now, there has been no enclosed and air conditioned space for the park ranger manager and staff and volunteers and FOLKS to host educational programs, to get the community more involved with Lovers Key State Park, so that more people recognize that it is so much more than just a beautiful beach, but a barrier island ecosystem that deserves to be discovered and appreciated. The Welcome & Discovery Center will be much more than just a new building, but a headquarters for programs, events, lectures and many other types of things.”

    Rich stated, “The Welcome & Discovery Center will have two main components: the Community Room to host lectures and educational programs presented by visiting experts who will discuss significant environmental issue like water quality, as well as student groups, from grade school straight through university-level programs, to learn about the importance of LKSP. The second aspect is the Exhibit Hall that will house over $900,000 worth of interactive displays to address the four unique ecosystems that exist in LKSP and how they complement one another. What you will learn in the Community Room, you will see in the Exhibit Hall, then will experience in the park, as they are all connected to each other!”


    By Gary Mooney