The annual St. Andrew Catholic School Festival kicks off on Thursday, offering thrilling carnival rides and live entertainment to thousands of visitors over four days, along with a $10,000 raffle drawing.
The event, which is celebrating its 23rd year, will run from 6 to 10 p.m., then from 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday. Doors open at noon on Saturday and Sunday, closing at 11 and 10 p.m., respectively.
"We're expecting a huge turnout, a serious amount of people," Marc Moore, co-chair of this year's festival, said Tuesday. "Because this is the biggest festival in Cape Coral all year long."
In 2013, an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 people attended over the four days.
"We're expecting more," Moore said of this year. "The weather is supposed to be perfect - it's supposed to be comfortable, not hot and muggy, and it's not supposed to rain."
The festival features midway rides and carnival games for all ages.
"We've mixed the rides up for newer rides," he said.
One new ride, called Speed, involves speed and height and the youth reportedly love it.
"It's an extreme ride," Moore said.
A "premium" ride that reaches more than 100 feet in the air has also been added.
"It's like a swing ride, but it goes up 110 feet in the air and spins," he said.
An area set up for smaller children consists of age-appropriate rides and games with free prizes.
"So, it's not just for big kids," Moore said. "There's small rides for the little kids."
Unlimited ride bracelets can be purchased in advance for $55 and will be available until 5 p.m. Thursday. After the festival opens, the bracelets cost $75 and are available through Sunday.
Throughout the four days, live entertainment will be provided by local dance teams, performing arts groups and music academies. There will be Irish dancers, martial arts demonstrations and a choir.
"We have multiple acts," he said.
The Miss Cape Coral Pageant will be held Thursday from 8 to 10 p.m., and DaBomb Entertainment will host a live game show with cash and prizes from 10 to 11 p.m. Friday. Hung Jury performs from 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday, and DJ Chris Cammarota will host Juke Box Hero from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday.
On Saturday and Sunday, the St. Andrew Talent Show will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
A $10,000 raffle drawing will be held, with the winner picked at 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are currently on sale and also can be purchased at the festival. The winner does not have to be present to win.
"That's our big draw also," Moore said.
The event also features a silent auction with hundreds of items.
"That has everything that you can think of," he said. "Our silent auction is a huge draw."
This year's items range from gift baskets and certificates, to jewelry, lotto tickets and even a puppy.
"We've had kayaks and canoes," Moore said of previous years.
The silent auction closes at 6 p.m. Sunday, and the winners are announced an hour later.
Along with the fun and excitement this year, visitors can expect the typical carnival fare like snow cones and funnel cakes, along with some new selections like alligator bites and grouper bites.
"All kinds of food and different food vendors," he said.
Proceeds from the festival benefit the St. Andrew Catholic School.
"It's actually a fund-raiser for the school," Moore said. "It's our largest fund-raiser."
He explained that the annual event is a local tradition with a lot of community involvement.
"It is a Cape Coral event as much as it is a St. Andrew event," Moore said.
"This is a great chance to get out and meet new people and enjoy the fun," he said.
To purchase ride bracelets in advance, visit online at: saintandrewsfestival.com/ or stop by the school grounds from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays.
St. Andrew Catholic School is at 2628 S. Del Prado Blvd., a few blocks south of the Veterans Overpass.
Free parking is available on the church grounds, as well as at the adjacent Breeze Newspapers, Busey Bank and Fifth Third Bank parking lots.
For more information, call (239) 772-3922 or visit the festival's Web site.