By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - Two weeks before the Nov. 2 kickoff of the Pineapple Festival, a representative of the Jensen Beach Chamber of Commerce is selling VIP tickets to buyers in New York, Palm Bay, Jensen Beach and Port St. Lucie, who want to see rocker Eddie Money perform.
"This gives you an idea right there about the festival's popularity," said Ron Rose, executive director of the chamber, which organizes the three-day affair that attracts tens of thousands from across the state.
"It's a regional event, but we have people from Orlando, Melbourne, Miami, Boca Raton. We've had people plan their vacation around it. We've also had seasonal residents tell us they've come down earlier to be part of this."
The annual festival is the biggest on the Treasure Coast and typically attracts about 35,000 attendees to Martin County's tourist hub. It has drawn as many as 55,000 attendees for its three-day run, and infuses the picturesque, beach-front community with a vibrant mix of art, live entertainment and exotic food.
Most participants come from Martin, Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Indian River counties, but others travel from across the country and the Bahamas to attend.
This year, the Nov. 2-4 event has grown, adding two afternoon concerts, a comedy show and a musical lineup featuring country, hip hop and classic rock headliners.
Taking the stage on Nov. 2 will be country star Chris Cagle, whose hits include "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out" and "Let There be Cowgirls."
The following night's main attraction will be Eddie Money, who gained fame in the 1970s with hits such as "Baby Hold On" and "Two Tickets to Paradise." His later releases, including "Shakin" and "Can't Hold Back," made it to the Top 40 charts and Billboard Hot 100.
Also taking the stage will be rap sensation Vanilla Ice, who will close the festival with performances of his greatest hits and new releases from "Bi-Polar," his first album in three years. The rapper has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide. He will perform some of his biggest hits, including "Ice, Ice, Baby" and "Play that Funky Music, White Boy." His real name is Rob Van Winkle and he's also known for his home improvement appearances on TV's DIY network.
Comedian Tim Wilkins will perform during one of two new afternoon shows. The veteran stand-up comedian, television and radio personality, writer and entertainer has opened for Aretha Franklin, Earth Wind and Fire, Julio Iglesias, Bob Newhart and Dennis Miller. He has also made national television appearances on HBO, ESPN2, HSN, Fox Sports, TLC, Nickelodeon, CMT and other networks.
The other afternoon show, set for Sunday at 2 p.m., will star children's entertainers, the Bugaroos.
"People who attend the Pineapple Festival for the first time are always impressed with our world-class concert stage," Mr. Rose said.
The festival will also feature a magic show, arts and crafts, Bahamian market and carnival rides with a special "ride all the rides" for $20 offered on the last day from noon to 6 p.m.
"Our 25th-year celebration will be among the most memorable Pineapple Festivals," said Mr. Rose, who founded the fair.
The event also launches a slew of activities leading to Jensen Beach's 125th anniversary on Nov. 13, 2013.
"It's been an asset to the community of Jensen Beach as far as promotion and creating awareness of the community," Mr. Rose said, so organizers will use it as the launch pad for spreading the word about the area's milestone event next year.
The festival also celebrates the sister-city relationship between Jensen Beach and Governor's Harbor on the Bahamian Island of Eleuthera, and serves as an opportunity for cultural exchange. It features a traditional Junkanoo parade with rousing Bahamian folk music.
General admission is $15, with no charge for children 12 and younger who arrive with an adult. For middle and high school students who show their student identification cards, the fee is $5. Discounted tickets, priced at $10, are available from Seacoast National Bank Sonic drive-in restaurants until Nov. 1. VIP tickets cost $50.
A free bus service will run every 15 minutes from Jensen Beach Elementary School, located at 2525 N.E. Savannah Road, next to the post office.
For more information or to order tickets, call (772) 334-34444.