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Bluegrass, Brew and BBQ: Benefit on the Beach for Operation Open Arms
May 22, 2015
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

For the second year in a row, in honor of Memorial Day, Fort Myers Beach, is eager to host the Bluegrass, Brew and BBQ benefit.

The event will be held Saturday, May 23, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., benefitting Operation Open Arms, a Southwest Florida charity dedicated to the care and treatment of PTSD in military personnel and veterans, as well as supplying on-leave military personnel with unforgettable retreats in paradise.

The patriotic event will feature live music from the Cooter Creek Bluegrass Band and the Bugtussle Ramblers, craft draft beer from Fort Myers Brewery, alligator wrestling from “The Gator Crusader,” and a $15 barbecue buffet cooked up by the legendary Chef Dave Chetwin.

“It doesn’t get more patriotic than bluegrass, craft beer and barbecue on Memorial Day weekend for this great charity, Operation Open Arms,” said Glen Petrarca, general manager of Matanzas on the Bay. “Bluegrass is a great American tradition. As Memorial Day weekend and a benefit for our troops, what better way to raise awareness for Operation Open Arms. All of the benefit money raised that day will be given directly to the foundation. They do a lot of work in the community and elsewhere for military personnel suffering from PTSD. There is no greater honor than being able to encourage and thank the members of our military who are fighting for our country’s freedom.”

The bluegrassin’ Bugtussle Ramblers will kick off the music that day, starting in the early afternoon, followed by the Cooter Creek Bluegrass Band headlining from 5 to 8 p.m.

“They reunited last year at the restaurant for our inaugural event, so we’re really happy to have them back,” Petrarca said.

Fact Box – Operation Open Arms

Operation Open Arms is a nationally acclaimed military outreach program founded in 2005, the only 501(c)3 public Florida charity honored by two sitting U.S. Presidents. Designated a public charity by the IRS in 2008, Operation Open Arms has no payroll or salaries. Since 2005, Southwest Florida has become our nation’s most popular leave destination for US Troops for good reason. Those serving in combat or foreign duty stations can visit Southwest Florida and enjoy R&R benefits free of charge, thanks to the Operation Open Arms’ network of local sponsors of the charity. Operation Open Arms of Southwest Florida has provided charitable resources for over 1,900 U.S. troops and their families since its founding.

The organization has a very simple mission statement: To provide U.S. Service men and women visiting Southwest Florida every conceivable benefit during their two-week combat leave or return from a foreign duty station.

For further information on the foundation, to find out how you can help, or to make a donation, email jb@operationopenarms.com or visit OperationOpenArms.org.

Keep cool with craft brews from Fort Myers Brewery, offering their High-Five IPA and Gateway Gold on tap from the craft beer tent on the bay, along with Matanzas additional tasty beer selection.

Chetwin is cooking up a patriotic feast, featuring smoked pork shank, barbecue ribs, his famous potato salad and corn on the cob, all buffet style, all for $15, with half of that price going directly to Operation Open Arms.

The Gator Crusader, making a special trip south from Orlando, will be entertaining with his alligator allies and ferocious feats.

Additional funds raised that day will be through a 50/50 drawing and many raffle prizes that will be called off, offering anything from champagne cruises and golf packages, donated by Capt John “GiddyUp” Bunch, and a two-night stay at Matanzas Inn, as well as a selection of other prizes.

“In addition to the fund raiser that day, we’re donating 10 percent of the entire day’s revenue to the cause, and offering roasted oysters for $1 each, all of that?going to Operation Open Arms, as well,” Glen said. “When I first learned about Operation Open Arms, I was immediately attracted to this organization’s mission to provide service men and women with the opportunity to enjoy an all-expense-paid retreat in Southwest Florida upon returning from foreign duty.

“Over the years, Matanzas on the Bay has contributed free dinners and hotel rooms to Operation Open Arms in order to support the soldiers within the organization. What better way to honor our soldiers than by giving them a relaxing vacation that will allow them to spend time with their loved ones?

“As general manager of Matanzas on the Bay on Fort Myers Beach, I want to use our resources to help Operation Open Arms to continue serving our U.S. soldiers and veterans. As longtime supporters of Operation Open Arms, our company wanted to take the next step in supporting this organization. Last year, more than 800 people came out to enjoy great food and entertainment and help us support a great cause during our inaugural Bluegrass, Brew and BBQ benefit, raising $2,200 for the foundation. This year, we’re hoping our benefit will be even bigger and better than the last.”

For more information on the second annual Bluegrass, Brew and BBQ for Operation Open Arms, call 239-463-3838 or visit Matanzas.com.

Matanzas on the Bay is at 416 Crescent St. on Fort Myers Beach.

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