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'Rock The Arches' Music Festival to help bring a bit of history back to life May 5

May 2, 2018

A free concert to help restore an historic beach icon is set for 4 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Bonita Bills Waterfront Cafe.

"Rock The Arches," will feature live music, raffles and more to benefit efforts to restore the old Beach Arches, a landmark razed in 1979 to make way for development.

Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches, Inc., a non-profit neighborhood association, is behind effort - and the music festival organizers say was nearly two years in the making.

The decision to hold the festival on Cinco de Mayo was made to honor the Spanish style arches on San Carlos Island that were built in 1924 for Tom Phillips' San Carlos on the Gulf housing development.

"We will say with hundreds of voices, 'Rock the Arches' - literally and figuratively," said Steven Ray McDonald, president of Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches, Inc. "My mother cried real tears in 1979 when they were destroyed. She was not the only one. People picked up pieces of them as they saw them in ruin next to the road."

Yet the remains of the arches still lie in a rubble heap from the contractor paid to remove them.

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"He knew the importance and we want to incorporate that history in a new Arch, bigger, taller, wider, and bridge the gap of that sad day in history when they were torn down," McDonald said. "Over 70 percent of those polled want them back over the road and so do I."

Now everyone wants to put their saved pieces into a new arch.

"Many of us think that in 1979 there should have been a way to preserve that beautiful piece of history," McDonald said. "Many will ask why now and yes, 39 years later, it is still the right thing to do. (We want to bring) back a part of history that mattered; a gateway that many feel should have never been destroyed in 1979."

McDonald said holding the concert at Bonita Bill's was also a very conscious choice.

"It is a beautiful venue on Matanzas Pass," McDonald said. "Just bring your chairs and hang out. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying an evening there and Bonita Bill's is just yards away from that original location of the Arches. I think that may tug on a few hearts strings."

The Arches are important to Fort Myers Beach's history as well as McDonald's memories of growing up on the island.

"They were some of the earliest historical parts of the island, and I used to stare at them for hours fishing off the old swing bridge," McDonald said. "I rode my bike through them to the beach in the free range parenting era of the 1970s and my mother and father took me under them a thousand times."

Playing from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. is the duo David and Jenny. Attendees will enjoy the mellow modern rock and roll of this very young team of David Rojas Jr. and Jenny Ve. They have been described as the future of the Fort Myers Beach music scene.

Playing from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. will be solo artist John Sherman. Sherman, along with his wife, will perform his special 1960's rockabilly.

Then from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. get ready for the headliner and local rock and roll band sensation Bad Latitude, which will finish the night with 1970-1990's hard rock and roll. They are the area's premiere rock and roll act and who knows, Bonita Bills may stay open later just for the jams.

"(There's) no registration (and) no cost (to attend), McDonald said. "We are just asking for donations and to participate in the raffles. Although I must say, some of the certificate sponsors were very generous and their generosity will be raffled off to help us in our endeavors."

A big thanks goes out to the two gold sponsors Bonita Bill's (Venue Sponsor) and Oyster Bay RV Park (Cash Sponsor) and many gift certificate sponsors including the following: Pierside Grill, Matanzas on the Bay, Bonita Bill's, Pinchers (Phelan Brands actually includes Pinchers), 96K Rock (Live Broadcast Even), SignTech (Contributed Venue Signs), Bridgettes Place, Skye's, artist Chester Rodgers, Publix, Doc Ford's, Matanzas Inn, Lighthouse Resort Inn, Yucatan Beach Stand, Lighthouse Tiki Bar, and Key West Express.

"We will have the best raffle I have ever seen and we will be making announcements about upcoming events and fundraisers," McDonald said. "We will also have a question-and-answer session as well but Rock the Arches will be about having fun with great music and so many prizes available to win."

McDonald and his group are not only asking for the community but also for Lee County, Fort Myers Beach and FDOT for assistance and help. They are also working with LeeTran to fund the concrete and stonework repairs to the 1924 Tom Phillips Stone Monument built the same time the Arches were constructed.

"We hope to raise enough to have USF CVAST to 3D imagining of the arch remains;l this is the key to any hopes of using those remains in any future project, we have to know what is there," McDonald said. "Whatever local planners intend to do with these remains, we must know the specifics of what we have left so they may be incorporated these remains into any new Arch or project."

These short-term goals are critical to the group's continued success as a recently formed non-profit group.

Bonita Bills Waterfront Cafe is at 702 Fisherman's Wharf Drive on San Carlos Island.



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