ESTERO — Southwest Floridians will get their chance to “pig out” and party this Saturday at the Third Annual BBQ & Family FunFest.
This signature event of the Rotary Club of Estero Foundation offers an array of barbecue and other food vendors, as well as a full lineup of onstage entertainment. Children will enjoy playing in the Kids Zone, while car enthusiasts will be able to admire autos from two car clubs: Corvettes of Naples and Gulf Shore Mustang Club.
“We’ll have both American iconic brands,” said event Chair Joe Faerber.
Barbecue vendors include City Smoke Barbecue, Simply Southern Barbeque, Southern Boys BBQ, Bonez Brothers BBQ, Fred’s BBQ and Pig In or Pig Out. Other vendors will offer typical festival foods, including Italian ice, hotdogs, funnel cakes, lemon shake-ups and kettle corn.
“We have a nice variety of vendors, and we have some great entertainment,” Faerber said.
In the Kid Zone, Xtreme Air Sports will provide an array of children’s activities from noon to 5 p.m., including inflatables, water balls, rock climbing and bungee jumping. Roving magician Keith Raygor will amuse and mystify as he strolls through the crowds waiting in line for barbecue or enjoying the live music.
The popular duo of Cahlua and Cream kicks off the onstage entertainment at noon, followed by The Calendar Girls, a team of boot scootin’ divas all over age 50. Other entertainers include We Ain’t Right, Chad Wilbur’s Taekwondo Black Belt Academy, Jeffrey Lawrence and Dead Letter Society.
Nashville recording artist, songwriter and guitarist Tim McGreary takes the stage at 5 p.m., with his popular “Americana” style of country music. The Tim McGreary Band returns to the BBQ Fest this year, having headlined the inaugural event in 2011.
At 6 p.m., trophies will be awarded to winners of the barbecue vendor contest. The judges -- Estero Fire Chief Scott Vanderbrook, Marilyn Edwards of the Estero Council of Community Leaders and Garth Errington of Rotary -- will determine the best barbecue vendor, based on visual, aromatic and culinary appeal.
Raffle winners will be announced following the trophy presentation. Raffle tickets will be sold throughout the event for six gift baskets: Wine, Day at the Beach, Cuisine & Home Cooking, Italian Cuisine, Easter Bunny and Spa Day.
Also throughout the day, visitors may enjoy an array of artwork on display from local elementary, middle and high schools. Participating schools include Estero High School, Three Oaks Middle, San Carlos Elementary, Three Oaks Elementary and Pinewoods Elementary, with each school contributing about 20 pieces to the show.
Beverly MacNellis, a retired art teacher of 25 years, has organized the Festival of the Arts since 2009, with support from the Estero Community Improvement Foundation. As a member of the Rotary Club, MacNellis proposed conjoining the student art show with the BBQ festivities, drawing larger crowds to both events.
Winners from the Estero Festival of the Arts will be announced onstage at 4:30 p.m., with cash prizes for the top three entries from each school, made possible through a sponsorship from Extra Space Storage. Awards also will be given to the most creative birdhouses decorated by fifth grade students from each elementary school.
MacNellis provided the birdhouses to local art teachers, encouraging students to use paint, paper shreds, organic materials or anything else they can dream of to make their birdhouses unique.
“So much of our youth feels, in order to be accepted and rewarded, they have to look like the others, dress like them, talk like them and copy them -- not so!” MacNellis said. “The arts in the public schools don’t get enough credit for teaching our children to think on their own and to become problem solvers.”
The day’s festivities also will include another Rotary event, the Day of Smiles, organized by Katy Errington. The Day of Smiles will take place in the morning, just as the BBQ Fest kicks off. A group of junior Rotarians -- the “RotaKids” from Three Oaks Elementary -- will hear from a dentist and other health professionals to learn about proper toothbrushing and hand washing. Then, they’ll put on hair nets and gloves to package pinto beans and rice for Interfaith Charities of South Lee.
“It’s a way of showing them what Rotary is about: trying to help people,” Errington said.
True to the Rotary Club’s mission, proceeds from the BBQ and Family FunFest will benefit local children’s charities. Instead of designating three specific charities as the Rotary Club has done in the past, this year’s proceeds will be used to support a variety of charitable organizations throughout the year, Faerber said.
Last year’s BBQ Fest netted about $10,000 to help Barbara’s Friends, Children Without and Gift of Life.
“Every year, we work to make it bigger and better,” Faerber said.
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IF YOU GO
Estero BBQ & Family FunFest
When: 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23
Where: Estero Community Park, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd.