What began as a patriotic party among close friends has blossomed into an amazing gathering of friends, families and neighborly islanders, all raising funds for a great local cause. All in the name of kids, Popeyepalooza will be taking over Valerie's Lounge, 17264 San Carlos Blvd., in the Indian Creek shopping plaza, Sunday, Sept. 1, from noon to 8 p.m.
This annual event offers amazing music from a wealth of talented local musicians, tons of fun and games, thousands of dollars worth of prizes up for grabs, all donated by local businesses, and a great, warm, happy vibe, all centered around the tantalizing tastes of benefit founder and lead coordinator Chef Mike "Popeye" Dearden's culinary expertise his scrumptious and savory world-famous barbecue, catered-in for the benefit.
Popeye explains how it all began.
Mike “Popeye” Dearden, right, hands the check raised from last year’s Popeyepalooza event to Fort Myers Beach Youth Soccer League president, Rick Loughrey. Photo by MELISSA SCHNEIDER
"So far, we've raised over $3,000 to date," he said. "It all started because of my annual Memorial Day barbecue was blossoming into a major party. At my ninth annual, I had 75 people at my house. Thinking out loud, I stated to my friend standing next to me, 'This is nuts! If I'm going to get this many people together to party, I might as well raise money for something!'"
His friend then mentioned the local kids' soccer league, as "Every kids' sports venue needs help."
Popeye agreed, and shortly after that, "Another friend was raving about the good time to a DJ on 99X, who proceeded to give three shout-outs to what he called 'Popeyepalooza' on Fort Myers Beach. We had our name. And here we are."
Now on a mission to not only have a great time celebrating Labor Day weekend and all it stands for, but to help a local cause, Popeye and his very helpful staff of volunteers have been working diligently to make this the biggest Popeyepalooza yet.
"We're offering an $8/plate donation for a hearty serving of Popeye's Capt. Morgan BBQ chicken wings; Capt. Morgan BBQ hog wings, Popeye's Jack Daniels BBQ baked beans, chips and a dinner roll," the barbecue master said.
During the catered goodness, take your chance at winning one (or several) of the fantastic prizes available in the raffles, along with 50/50s, featuring anything from stays at local hotels, local cruises, a luxury beach villa for two nights, to an A200 autographed guitar, gift certificates aboard the Key West Express and much more.
"With well over $2,000 worth of door prizes already in, this is just a smattering of what's to be won including real gold from the 1620 Spanish shipwreck Atocha! Each pendant is worth $100! We've got more local cruises and hotel stays than ever before to give away, as well as a regulation-sized dartboard from Fireball Whiskey, a speaker chair from Budweiser and did I mention a guitar?!"
Be sure to join in for the cornhole tournament, and as for live music that day, get ready to party "Beach-style," with this dynamic line-up so far:
Noon: Dave Collaton
1 p.m.: The Oysters
2 p.m.: T Bone Funk and Friends
3 p.m.: Steve Lutke with Habitat for Harmony
4 p.m.: To be announced
5 p.m.: Jeff Greene
6 p.m.: Smack Daddy
7 p.m.: Wallow Sound
"We moved the event to a larger location this year, because as Fort Myers Beach Youth Soccer League president, Rick Loughrey told me the league has grown," Popeye said. "It's more than just a beach league anymore. They take in kids from all over Lee County, and these kids are leaving this program to enter scholarship programs. Our mission is to help the league make it possible to fulfill these youth's desires to participate."
Sign-up sheets and information on the morning cornhole tournament are at Valerie's. Feel free to stop by before the event to register.
"And, the Tabarrini Foundation, who contributed the new and autographed A200 guitar, is also providing a couple of beautiful ladies to run the tournament," Popeye said. "We will also have event T-shirts available in all sizes for $15 each!"
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Fort Myers Beach Youth Soccer League, or any businesses wishing to contribute door prizes for the raffle, can contact Mike "Popeye" Dearden, at 239-244-4437 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.