One of Lehigh Acres' largest and most fun attractions is set to open on November 14 and run for four days. It's the 19th annual St. Raphael Fall Festival held on the church campus at 2514 Lee Blvd.
It's one of the largest fun events in Lee County and attended by thousands from all over. It rivals the Lehigh Spring Festival which is held in March of each year.
The Fall Festival has a large midway with plenty of rides. Plenty of parking is available on the church grounds.
St. Raphael Fall Festival logo.
Oscar Gamble and Mike Wheeler are co-chairmen of this year's festival and they say visitors can attend a celebration with rides, food, music, bake sales, a silent auction and lots of games.
The cake sale may be one of the few in Lee County left. It is a popular event as it has been for years at earlier church and other festivals.
Motorists can't miss seeing the festival on Lee Blvd. because of all the lights and the giant Ferris wheel each year.
Events begin Thursday, Nov. 14 at 5:45 p.m. with a flag raising ceremony with activities beginning at 6 and continuing until 10 p.m. "Live and Learn," a four-piece band that plays a little bit of everything from rock to country will perform, Wheeler said. All entertainment and most events are under a big top tent.
"They are a great group and have a big following," Wheeler said.
On Friday, Nov. 15 the festival is open from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Beginning at 6 p.m., Pattie Snyder, Lehigh's own Festival Lehigh American Idol from the Lehigh Spring Festival competition will perform From 8 to 11 p.m., Jay Frost 3 & Below," a country and southern rock band will also perform under the big top. They have played at the legendary Tootsies in Nashville and have also performed with Keith Urban Little Texas, Trace Adkins and the Bellamy Brothers, Wheeler said.
On the third day of the festival, Nov. 16 from noon to midnight, rides start at 1 p.m. , but Wheeler and Gamble urge visitors to come out early to enjoy some delicious lunches. Then from 1 to 2 p.m., the Bayshore Cloggers will perform. They are favorites in the annual Spring Festival Parade and draw large crowds wherever they go.
There is a pie eating and chewing gum contest from 2 to 3 p.m. The Lehigh Community Concert Band performs from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
"The Art That Changed Me," a musical group will perform from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. and "Grupo Espali," the latest salsa band to come out of Southwest Florida will perform from 8 to 11 p.m.
Wheeler said they pride themselves in providing "the most danceable music" at the most professional level.
On Sunday, Nov. 16, the festival begins at 2 p.m. and continues to 10 p.m. From 2 to 3 p.m., "Footnotes" dance will perform and from 3 to 4 p.m., Wheeler said Footnotes music is performed and from 4 to 5 p.m., Troop & Pack 720 Pinewood Derby race is planned. From 6 to 9 p.m., "Hunker Down ," a local group that plays classic pop, current rock and country music will perform under the big top.
A silent auction will be held in the parish hall all four days opening Friday through Sunday at 10 a.m.
Wheeler said some of the items included are trips to Key West, a deep sea fishing trip, numerous restaurant certificates along with many new and slightly used items. Tickets for a 50/50 raffle with a minimum $250 prize guaranteed will also be available.
And Wheeler said you don't have to be present to win.
There's also a bake sale in the hall all four days with delicious home baked goodies.
On Saturday, from 5 to 8 p.m., a spaghetti dinner will be served in the parish hall.
Wheeler said that all during the festival, you'll be able to experience international cuisine at the food court along with hamburgers, hot dogs, Philly cheese as well as Papa Paul's award-winning barbeque.
Food tickets are a dollar each. Beer and wine can be purchased and there will be a large screen projection TV showing football games, Wheeler said.
And popular for the kids and the young at heart will be more than 30 rides in the midway. Tickets are $1 each or $20 for 24 tickets. Four-day armbands are on sale now after masses and all week at the parish office for only $45, Wheeler said. There is also a Saturday matinee special from 1 to 4 p.m. per armband.
A lot of work goes into making the Fall Festival one of the special events it has become in Lehigh and Wheeler and Gamble are urging everyone to attend.
"You'll have the time of your life; bring the kids so they can enjoy all the music and rides that are here. It is a great place to bring the entire family," Wheeler said.
While many people park across the street in the Walmart parking lot, it is not sanctioned nor encouraged by the church or the festival. Crossing the four-lane is dangerous and those who do park there should use extreme caution when crossing and they should look out for small children when crossing. It is one of the busiest roadways in Lehigh.