In terms of community events with a hometown flair, 2009 is off to a great start.
An art festival, a nationally renowned bike ride, a festival and a carnival are all set for this weekend and next in Cape Coral.
Add in a couple of art events, a bike night and a music festival in neighboring communities and area residents have plenty of options, many of them free.
The big event in the Cape is, of course the Festival of the Arts. Organized by the Rotary Club of Cape Coral and co-sponsored by the city, the two-day street show to be held downtown is one of the largest events of its kind in the Southeast.
The 23rd annual Festival of the Arts is set for today and Sunday. Cape Coral Parkway will be lined with more than 300 booths displaying the works of invited artists and crafts people while food and drink vendors will add to the street fair atmosphere.
The event is one of the Cape's biggest draws, with 100,000 people expected from all over Southwest Florida over the two days.
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The city of Cape Coral's Tour de Cape Bike Ride, a traditional partner of the Festival of the Arts, also runs today and Sunday with all events beginning at Rotary Park, 5505 Rose Garden Road.
The event steps off with a 5K run/walk today and continues with a variety of rides, including 15-, 30-, 60- and 100-mile tours on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Weavers of Char-Lee will hold the group's annual Roc Day Festival today at the Cape Coral Library. Roc Day, an international tradition, is dedicated to the appreciation, encouragement and preservation of fiber traditions, and locally features weavers, spinners and others committed to the arts.
If games of chance, rides and cotton candy are enticing, one of the largest carnivals of the year is coming to the Cape Thursday.
The St. Andrew Catholic School 2009 Festival begins Jan. 15 and continues through Sunday, Jan. 18.
The four-day carnival on the school grounds off Del Prado Boulevard is a major fund raiser for the school and a popular event with Cape kids as well.
Raffles, food, games galore and plenty of rides offer lots to do for a good cause.
In neighboring communities, art lovers who can't get enough at the Festival of Arts may want to add the Island Coast Weekend on Pine Island. The event kicked off Friday night and continues today at a variety of galleries in Bokeelia, St. James City and Matlacha.
In Fort Myers, the Alliance of the Arts' "Walk Through the Arts" will focus today on many artistic mediums, including performance art, something that's absent in the Cape event. The free event will be held at 10091 McGregor Blvd.
Also in Fort Myers today, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates will hold the Estates Annual Holiday Sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Shoppers can park free in the Estates main parking lot and should bring bags and boxes to stock up on decorations and retail items including wreaths, ornaments, ribbons, fabrics and merchandise. All proceeds from the sale benefit the Estates education and community programs. The sale will be held in the Estates public garden area and is free to the public.
If you'd like to top today's activities off with a little night-life, the first Bike Night of the new year will be held in downtown Fort Myers tonight.
The Fort Myers River District Bike Nights is set for 6 to 10 p.m. Live music and more than three dozen street vendors will provide a party atmosphere and many downtown businesses will remain open to accommodate the crowds.
For full information on all of these events, check out the wrapup story on page 1A of today's Breeze or here on-line under local news.
And if you're still looking for something to do, how about two more: A radio-controlled air show and a two-day jazz fest?
The Cape Coral R/Seahawks will host their first airshow of the year, Warbirds Over Paradise at Seahawk Park, 1030 N.W. 28th St., Friday through Sunday, Jan. 16 - 18, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Full details can be found on page 1B of today's Breeze or here on-line under lifestyles.
Jazz On The Green, a two-day music festival, will be held Friday and Saturday in downtown Fort Myers.
Food, fine art, a variety of activities and, of course, great music, highlight the annual event, which always draws a crowd.
Tony Pastrana and New York/Latin Jazz will perform at the Reserve Cigar & Wine Bar 10950 S. Cleveland Ave. Friday night. The doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for e-fans; $15 in advance or $20 at the door.
The main event takes place Saturday, Jan. 17, at Centennial Park, 2100 Edwards Drive. The gates opening at 3 p.m. The festival features Arturo Sandoval along with Four 80 East with Nils & Shilts, BK Jackson and Wendy Renee.
Tickets are $30 for e-fans; $35 in advance or $45 at the gate. Children 10 and younger will be admitted free.
A two-day pass for both Friday night and the Saturday main event is $40, on-line sales only.
Tickets may be purchased at SunTrust Bank or online at www.JazzOnTheGreen.com
Money raised will be benefit two local charities whose mission is to help women and children in our community, Footsteps to the Future and Mary's House of Hope.
A veritable litany of events, all organized by communities or community organizations.
We thank the organizers and we thank the hundreds of volunteers who make these festivals, fairs, carnivals, concerts and celebrations possible.
Plan to come out this weekend or next. Start in the Cape and then branch out if you still have the energy.
Celebrate all of the good things our community has to offer.
- Breeze editorial