Memorial Day weekend may be one of the best times to throw an outdoor summer party or backyard barbecue, but historically there has not been an official Cape Coral event commemorating this American holiday.
Some local residents recently decided it was time for Cape Coral to begin an annual tradition.
Organizers from the Pearl Lounge in downtown Cape Coral announced they were kicking off the inaugural "Pearl Jam Memorial Block Party" at Big John's plaza.
Red Fish Blue Fish is Cayce Dillard, Nelson Carmona and Trae Budde. The group will perform next weekend during the Pearl Jam Memorial Block Party. The band members are all students at Ida Baker High School and performed together in the school jazz band.
"There is nothing that happens in Cape Coral, so we wanted to do a 'Taste of the Town' and looked to raise money for children," explained Alex Scalzo, general manager of the Pearl Lounge. "We all sat in a room and talked about ideas, and one idea popped and we went with it. It is great for the community and whole area."
The Pearl Jam Memorial Block Party will begin Friday, May 22, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., at Big John's Plaza behind Pearl Lounge at 1403 Cape Coral Parkway. It continues Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
The weekend block party will bring together 53 vendors from across Southwest Florida in the first ever Taste of the Cape, a Battle of the Bands with 30 bands, a Biker Bash welcoming motorcycles from all over Lee and a Kick Off Party with games, contests and a Kids' Zone.
What: Pearl Jam Memorial Block Party
When: Friday, May 22, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday,
May 23, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, May
24, 11 a.m. to midnight.
Where: Big John plaza at Pearl Lounge
"We have a couple of bike builders who are going to be there," he said. "We are trying to put it on as the type of music and atmosphere where if people want to bring their bikes in, they can bring them."
Unlike Fort Myers and Estero, the Cape has never hosted a Taste of the Town. Scalzo said approximately three quarters of the vendors are from the Cape and the remainder are from nearby communities. Unlike other Taste of the Towns, each vendor will individually sell samples and no food tickets are required.
Hooters and Stevie Tomatoes will also provide unlimited supplies of chicken wings or sliders for scheduled eating contests.
Simply purchasing a $10 one-day admission or a $15 weekend pass allows block partiers access to the party, where there will be $1 drafts, $2 bottles and $5 martinis, as well as non-stop live music throughout the entire event. Scalzo said that music fans can't find a better deal at any other local concerts.
"We are selling beers for a dollar. It's not like other big concerts where it is $25 or $30 to get in and $9 for a beer," he said.
Local amateur bands will take the stage for the Battle of the Bands alongside national recording artists "Stereoside" (www.stereoside.com) and Robert Van Winkle's (a.k.a. Vanilla Ice) band performing their classics and new hits.
"Higher Ground," a tribute band for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and "Live Bait," a Jimmy Buffet tribute band, will rock out Friday and Saturday night, while southern rock band "Down South Rockers" will salute Dixies' finest on Sunday.
In between main acts will be local groups battling for a $2,500 cash prize plus eight hours of recording time in a local studio. One of those bands, hailing from Ida S. Baker High, is Red Fish Blue Fish.
The three teenage members of the band - Trae Budde, guitarist; Nelson Carmona, bassist, and Cayce Dillard on percussion - formed their jazz and rock 'n' roll infused band a couple of months ago. This is the first time the band has performed in any competition and they'll have to finish a 30-minute set.
"I am sort of nervous but I am confident in our songs. It's always nervous being on stage with a whole bunch of other bands and sounds. You never know what the audience will think," said Budde.
The three sophomore musicians met while playing in the Ida S. Baker High School Jazz Band. Now they are bringing together their various musical styles in what they coined "a melting pot of different music." Most of the songs in their set are improvised, said Carmona, and can last anywhere between three to 15 minutes.
"It would be nice to win, but nobody wants to lose," said Carmona. "What we want to do is expose our music so they know there is a music scene like that around here."
A large share of the proceeds from the block party will benefit Journeys Academy, a private school specializing in students with ADHD, Down's syndrome, Tourette's or any other disorders on the autism spectrum. Located in North Naples, the academy serves all three local counties, explained Lisa Maglione, an event organizer.
"This event should help supplement the salaries and scholarships for students so parents don't have to pay," she said.
Other local charities and organizations will also benefit from block party ticket sales. Maglione said that clubs and school programs in Lee County will get some funds, including area JROTC chapters. Smaller amounts will also be handed to youth groups who volunteer to clean-up the grounds, act as backstage hands or assist with parking.
Maglione said she is optimistic that the event will be a hit and said organizers are already gearing up for a second block party.
"If this goes really well, we are already starting to plan a Labor Day weekend blast which will be a mirror image of this one but with different talents," said Maglione.
Daytime activities are tailored for children, she said, while adult-oriented events won't begin until the sun sets. The Kids' Zone will have games, face painting, a rock wall and other fun activities for children.
The South Cape Trolley is available for residents to go to the party from 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and makes a stop at Big John's plaza.