The Cape Coral Coconut Festival opened late Thursday afternoon at Sun Splash Family Waterpark, adding a day to the popular annual event that features lots of live entertainment, carnival rides and street fare.
The new "soft opening," was Coco College Night, a prelude to Coco County, Coco Rock and Coco Family days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively.
Todd King, special events coordinator for the city, said he is hoping the use of social media, heavy marketing in the schools, and word of mouth would bring in the students on opening night.
The city also offered buy one get one free admissions with a valid college ID from the area schools.
"We've never opened on a Thursday before. We're marketing it to the college kids by bringing in lots of electronic music," King said. "We've learned a lot over the years and found out a lot of people wanted something on Thursday."
About 5,000 were expected to show up for the first day, which featured electronic dance music and the area's best house DJs.
Among those who were first in line were Michael Martinez and his girlfriend, Kaitlyn Murray, who is not a college student but came in from Naples to check out the music, some of the DJs are their friends.
"DJ Pandamonium and EDM are playing here tonight. They're our friends and we're here to see how it goes," Martinez said.
He added his girlfriend wanted also wanted to spend some money and ride some rides.
"I haven't been to a carnival in a while. I'm really excited," Murray said.
Thursday also featured the first Student Art Competition. Starting next year, there will be competition for prizes, organizers said.
Martinez and Murray didn't have to wait much in line, at least in the beginning.
But things are expected to get busier, a whole lot busier, as the weekend progresses and the established Coco events and their red-hot acts take over.
Friday begins the headline entertainment, with Travis Tritt getting top billing for Coco Country along with the Rachel/Hughes Band and the Grayson Rogers Band.
On Saturday, Brian Howe of Bad Company will open for Starship's Mickey Thomas at Coco Rock.
Fireworks will be held at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, just before the headliners take the stage.
Last year, between 25,000 and 30,000 people attended the festival.
Cost of admission is $7 each day, with children 5 and under free. It is $20 for one-day, unlimited ride bracelets, which includes the price of admission.
Friday's Coco Country night will run from 5 p.m. to midnight.
Travis Tritt will take the stage at 9:30 p.m.
Preferred seating tickets are available for $15 and include admission into the event. Chairs and blankets are welcome.
Preferred tickets can be purchased at City Hall or charged by telephone at (239) 573-3128.
Coco Rock, on Saturday, will run from noon to midnight.
Brian Howe of Bad Company will take the stage at 7:30 p.m., followed later by Starship featuring Micky Thomas at 9:30 p.m. The performances will be split by another fireworks show at 9 p.m.
Preferred seating tickets are again available for the Saturday night concert.
Also on Saturday, the Coco Cheerfest will run from 1 to 7 p.m. and the Coconut Festival Queen will be crowed at 8:45 p.m.
Coco Family Day on Sunday, which will feature a mix of community groups performing on the main stage including local schools, dance teams, gymnastic programs and more, will run from noon to 10 p.m.
Sunday is also buy one admission, get one admission free for the public.
Associate Editor Tiffany Repecki contributed to this report.