Fishing and Country Music
By Rudy Garcia La Voz de Mexico
The headline of this week’s column sounds more like it belongs to a story about life in the Deep South in the United States than something that should relate to life in the Mexican Caribbean. However, there is a method to our madness. Great fishing is one of the chief attractions of the Mexican Caribbean. As a consequence, starting especially as we enter the “winter” season here – there really is no such thing for those of you used to the cold of the northern climes – there is no dearth of fishing opportunities in the way of tournaments scheduled during the first six to eight months of the year here. And, of course, among the many anglers who visit the region to take part in those events are a goodly number who enjoy country music.
Well, it just so happens that there is one event, held on Isla Mujeres during the month of February, that combines both. It is the Island Time Fishing Tournament on behalf of The Little Yellow Schoolhouse program that provides rehabilitative support and treatment for indigent children on Isla Mujeres who are victims of debilitating illnesses.
It just so happens that a number of top notch country music composers and performers have purchased condos on Isla Mujeres or else rent them for the season. We are talking about many considered Nashville greats. When they learned that an American couple were responsible for founding and operating The Little Yellow Schoolhouse and that the folks at Jax Bar & Grill on the island were putting together a fishing tournament on the program’s behalf, they jumped on board. They contended that such an event should have a music component and, lo and behold, they prevailed upon some of their cohorts to join them in offering country music concerts during the period of the fishing tournament. The result is one of the most exciting and attractive events of the year and all for a very worthy cause.
By the way, we are talking about multiple country music Grammy Award winners, Country Music Association nominees and winners and such who make up the musical component of the event. They even have been known to auction off guitars signed by country music greats.
Of course, the event has grown almost exponentially since its start just a few years ago and, as a consequence, there is a great deal of interest in it. The fishing tournament really is first class, conducted under all of the internationally recognized rules governing such events. And, as mentioned, the live country music is first rate. The local tourist industry has taken note of the event and has joined in by offering all manner of packages that include hotel stays, tickets to the dinners and concerts and the like. It should be noted that Island Time Fishing relates to the usual laid-back nature of life on Isla Mujeres rather than any very specific time limit on the fishing.
So, anglers and country music aficionados should be gearing up to come to Isla Mujeres for this event. The web sites for both the Island Time Fishing Tournament as well as for The Little Yellow Schoolhouse contains a wealth of information concerning the rules for signing up for the fishing tournament as well as the country music performers who have committed to take part in the event. There also are links to hotels and travel agencies who are working with the event and are offering special room and transportation packages.
If you are a devotee of the sport of fishing, you are not limited to just this one event. As mentioned, there is great fishing available here in the Mexican Caribbean just about at any time. The proprietors of Jax Bar & Grill on Isla Mujeres also have a fishing boat charter business that includes captains knowledgeable about where the fish are running at any time of the year.
And, in Puerto Morelos, you can access the same thing with one company, Diving Dog, offering your choice of fishing or else exploring the underground rivers and fresh water pools called cenotes, another great adventure.
Where that is concerned, you usually can make reservations for one or two of you or a group in advance, once again by going to your computer and getting on the Internet. Because we are entering into the busy tourism season, it is best to try to make confirmed reservations in advance to make sure you will have the chance to fish on the day or days you would prefer when you are here. All it takes is a bit of planning and…
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Joanna Smith to perform at Isla festival
We have been telling you that the Island Time Fishing Tournament and Festival that will be taking place on Isla Mujeres from the 15th through the 19th of February promises to be a major event The Festival portion involves what really is a country music festival and proof of the pudding is the news we recently received. New country music star, singer-songwriter Joanna Smith, will be performing at the Wednesday night diner-show of the Festival.
The single Joanna Smith released on Sony records a short time ago, “Getting Married,” has shot up the country music charts and her debut album, by the same name, looks headed in the same direction. (By the way, legendary country music singer Patty Loveless, sings another of Joanna’s songs, “Borrowed Wedding Dress,” on that album.)
Joanna is the writer or co-writer of the material she sings and has composed for others as well. For instance, Billy Ray Cyrus recorded her song, “Flying By,” on one of his recent albums.
Joanna is a true farm girl, having been raised on her Daddy’s farm-ranch in rural Georgia. However, from the time she was three she knew she wanted to sing country music. That was when she started singing in church. At the age of five, her mother put her into a children’s beauty pageant for the sole purpose of having her learn poise and grace, advising her that she was not expected to win. In the talent portion of the contest, she sang a country song. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she noted she was already a country singer but did not get a chance to go on stage. Coincidentally, that evening, at a dinner, the star of the show began singing the same song Joanna had sung in the pageant and the pageant director stopped the show, carried Joanna on stage and said: You don’t get the chance to go on stage, well, here you are. And, Joanna, without skipping a beat, sang her song for the crowd. From then on she was invited to different pageants throughout Georgia and elsewhere.
After a year at Auburn University, she dropped out and went to Nashville. In Music City, she was a regular at a night club for four years before finally being signed by Sony Records. She now claims a degree from the School of Hard Knocks.
In any event, Joanna Smith will be performing at the Island Time Fishing Festival this year, along with a slew of other Nashville singer-composers, artists who have written songs for a galaxy of country music stars. The great thing about the event is that every dime collected goes to The Little Yellow Schoolhouse, the organization that offers medical services and support for indigenous Isla children and their families. The organizers, including Mim Gallagher and her staff, dig into their own pockets to pick up the cost for most expenses related to the event, along with monies provided by other sponsors. You can visit the web page www.islandtimefishingfestival.com for more information.
As a country music fan, I can’t wait for the Festival and you can bet your bippy you will see me there...
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Even Isla Mujeres is beating Cancun to the punch
Ever since the annual Cancun Jazz Festival was cancelled more than six years ago, this tourist destination has been bereft of any real international music festival. Thanking the fates for small favors, the Riviera Maya Tourism Promotional Trust jumped into the breech and created the Riviera May Jazz Festival that has become one of the ten best in the world according to many critics of the genre. We have ranted and railed in this space about the need for major music events in Cancun more times than we care to mention. However, it is clear that no one in charge here has paid any attention.
Now Isla Mujeres has beaten Cancun to the punch with a combined fishing tournament and country music festival that will be taking place next week, from the 24th to the 27th. What started out to be the First Annual Island Time Fishing Tournament, thanks to the efforts of Jackie and Michael of JAX Bar & Grill on Isla Mujeres, has become a combined fishing and country music festival. Some top Nashville performers as well as composers will be taking part in this event that will include music and food on the beach and at JAX. And, a testament to the interest in country music here and among tourists is the fact that tickets to at least one of the concerts, featuring composer-singer Phil Vassar, who also owns a home on Isla Mujeres, on Feb 24, have been sold out.
It s clear that the interest in this event is such that it not only bodes well to be an annual event but that there is a likelihood that it will become a major country music event in this area in years to come. Simply be scheduling some of the concerts for late afternoon or making arrangements for later crossings by the ferries that connect to Cancun, an Isla Mujeres Country Music Festival could become quite meaningful as a tourist as well as local attraction. There are many country music fans among Mexicans living here who have spent some time living in the States, particularly in the West and Southwest.
We have been touting the need for a country music festival here as one alternative for replacing the Cancun jazz festival as an attraction. Now it seems as if Isla Mujeres has taken the lead in creating just such an event.
That does not mean that there are no more alternatives for Cancun, as far as possible music festivals are concerned. For instance, among Latinos from all over, including the United States and Canada there is extraordinary interest in salsa music. And it is not only Latinos who love the music. Salsa music is hugely popular in Europe and Asia as well. There is so much interest in it in Japan that there even is a popular Japanese salsa orchestra that plays in concerts throughout the world, La Orquesta de la Luz. And salsa bands out of New York, Puerto Rico, Columbia, Venezuela, Cuba and other Latin American countries routinely sell out Japanese venues.
This curious admixture of Afro-Cuban/Puerto Rican/New York music has become a worldwide phenomenon and has been such for quite a few years. Fans of some of the bands have been known to travel long distances in order to see and hear them live and dance in the aisles while they are playing. Its popularity here can be seen in the crowds of locals that fill places like the Mambo Café and Sabor Latino in downtown Cancun and Azucar in the Cancun hotel zone, especially on weekends and well into the night, drawing from tourist industry employees working shifts that end late in the evening.
A properly organized, funded (with sufficient sponsorship not just from the Cancun Visitors and Conventions Bureau but also from other government entities and private industry leaders like the hoteliers and bar and restaurant owners) an promoted Cancun Salsa Music Festival could turn out to be a major event drawing worldwide interest. For instance, there are several very good Cuban Salsa bands that are somewhat limited in terms of appearances in the United States because of opposition from the very vocal Cuban exile community that could appear here without any problem. They sure would draw quite a number of visiors. And if you added a salsa dancing contest to the mix the draw would be immense.
There really is no reason why Cancun should not be host to a major music festival on an annual basis, except for the lack of vision of the local leaders of the tourist industry.
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Fishing tourney with country music this week on Isla
Event to benefit Little Yellow Schoolhouse promises to be fun and unique with a number of Nashville music types participating.
The idea for the event started with a conversation being held among several of the island condo owners, principally Tony Gallagher, who spends four months of the year in Cape Cod, Mass. and the rest of the time on the island with his wife, Mim. They noted there were a lot of sports fishermen on the island at this time of year when the bill fish are running, who go out every day. Tony and his pals also are supporters of The Little Yellow Schoolhouse on the island, an organization that provides services for children with cerebral palsy. They came up with the idea of putting just a bit of competition into the fishing and creating this tournament. They checked the calendar and almanac to determine when the week before the full moon in February would be and chose that as the best time for the tournament.
There happens to be a condo development on IM , Tony is one of the owners, which hosts quite a few country music industry types, including Phil Vassar, noted singer-composer, his agent and several others. Of course, they felt that the event needed an entertainment component, so Vassar immediately offered his services and began recruiting others.
“This thing started taking off and took on a life of its own,” notes Tony, who with Mim handling the paperwork and accounts and help from a couple of other island residents involved in fishing and such are responsible for the entire event. The thing is that from the very beginning it was determined that no one associated with the event would receive one cent of whatever was raised. In fact, they all chipped in from their own pockets for things lie flyers, tickets, etcetera. Jackie and Mike Walker of JAX Bar and Grill also made their place available for some of the nighttime country music events. However, a lot of the entertainment, including music, will take pace on the beach from where the fishermen competing in the event will be sailing and returning.
The event could have turned out to be even bigger, in terms of country music, with many performers expressing interest, except for the fact that there was a conflict in dates with the annual meeting of the Country Music Radio Association in Nashville. Tony hopes to get such a conflict resolved by next year when an even more important country music event can be scheduled, along with the fishing, on Isla Mujeres and all to benefit The Little Yellow Schoolhouse.
Tickets to tonight’s performance by Phil Vassar have ben sold out, however there still is room on the beach and spaces available for other performers. Lovers of country music should really plan to make it to IM tomorrow, Thursday or Friday for all of the fun. You might consider booking a room to stay over at least one of those nights given that the ferries returning to Cancun stop running at a relatively early hour of the night.
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What a party is going on at IM
There really is a great party going on at Isla Mujeres this
weekend and anyone familiar with and who enjoys country music, Billy Rock (or
Country Rock as some call it), pop songs, indeed, most popular musical genres,
would do well to take the time to visit the island today, tonight, tomorrow
and/or Saturday night. When you do and make it to the each and then to Jax Bar &
Grill at night for the concerts you will be privileged to see and hear some of
America’s top composers offering their creations to a very appreciative crowd.
Most are there at the urging of one of Nashville’s top
singer/composers, Phil Vassar, who opened the festivities on Wednesday night and
played and sang for more than three hours straight, without a break. He is a
still young man who was a chart-topping songwriter prior to signing a record
deal to perform as well as write. Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Jo De Messina are
just three of the great country music performers who have recorded Phil Vassar
songs, and there are several more he has collaborated with like award-winning
Apart from the enormous talent he displayed on stage on
Wednesday night, Vassar never lost sight of the purpose of this event that
combined a mini country music fest with a fishing tournament. He kept reminding
the audience, including his fellow composers, that everything they were doing -
including drinking since the proceeds were going to the charity being supported
(The Little Yellow Schoolhouse on Isla Mujeres) that provides services for
children with cerebral palsy - was “for the kids”. And not only that, he lent
himself for other fundraising shticks, like offering to sing “Piano Man” with
the highest bidder, with the bidding starting at $1,000 USD.
One lovely lady promptly put up $2,000 USD and got to sing
with Phil and Jackie. The latter, along with husband, Mike, are the owners of
Jax Bar & Grill, a hangout for most of the Nashville types, along with a slew of
retired Americans and Canadians. Needless to say, Jax is a major contributor to
this effort to support the Schoolhouse, a project created by another Isla
Mujeres couple, Lindell Lehrer and her husband. I had a chance to talk with Phil
for a while after the show and he is as warm and down-to-earth in person as he
is on stage. What’s more, he had mentioned during the show that this was one of
the best gigs he had performed in a long time and promised he would be back next
year and as often as they would have him. He owns a condo on Isla Mujeres and
returns frequently. His next visit will be with his two daughters Haley, 11 and
Presley, 6. “They love it here and can’t wait to visit,” he points out,
reminding me that this is his second home and that he loves Mexico.
I could go on and on about the show, the party atmosphere ad
what awaits all who go today and tomorrow. It was one of the best events I have
attended in the 10 years I have been here in the Mexican Caribbean and reporting
on music, etcetera. The cause is one to which we all can subscribe and those
responsible for organizing it are truly committed, covering all expenses out of
pocket so that every dime goes “for the kids”.
The municipal authorities of Isla Mujeres, starting with the
mayor, all deserve mention as well. They proved fully supportive of the effort,
providing spaces, facilitating permits, in short, doing everything possible to
make certain of its success. This is so different from what the authorities in
some other locations do in terms of supporting this type of event, especially
when it is conceived by “visitors” rather than by “natives”.
By the way, the opening act on Wednesday, the performer chosen
to warm up the crowd, is a singer/composer who has chosen to live in Puerto
Morelos for a time and spend a year up and down the Mexican Caribbean coast. He
appears one night a week at the Ceiba del Mar hotel in Puerto Morelos and at
other venues there and in Akumal, Tulum, Puerto Aventuras and the like. He will
be at Jax on Saturday night as well and his name is Mark Mulligan. He really is
quite good and well worth going to see.
Of course, with spring breakers coming in this weekend there
will be a lot of stuff going on at night in the way of entertainment here in the
Mexican Caribbean. However, pardon the redundancy, for a truly fulfilling day
and night out, make it to the Island Time Fishing Tournament and Country Music
Fest this weekend. You will have a ball and will truly...
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“I don’t care if I’m not the first...
Today (Saturday” is the last day of the 1st Annual Island Time Fishing Tournament and Country Music Fest on Isla Mujeres, so, in honor of the slew of great country music composers who are taking part in the event, I have chosen this song to be our guide this week for what to do, see and hear in the Mexican Caribbean. I happened to mention to some of them the other evening that I am a country music fan from way back when and my selection of this song is intended to confirm it. It was written by the great Webb Pierce and Cindy Walker back in 1955. Pierce’s version made it to the top of the country charts that year and remained number one for twelve weeks. In 1982, Ricky Skaggs recorded a cover that also reached the top of the Billboard Country Music charts for a week, proving its endurance as a country standard.
“Now I don’t care if I’m not the first love you’ve known; just so I’ll be the last.” Well, that is about as true as you can get about how we feel about all of you who are here visiting us. We know that there is a likelihood that you have visited other destinations earlier on in your life. What we hope is that what you have found here during your stay will lead to you come back often and make this your vacation destination of preference. We are doing all we can to entice you to do so. Fo instance, the three levels of government, federal, state and municipal have just spend tens of millions of dollars on a beach recovery program that has restored all of the eroded beaches in the Mexican Caribbean and even expanded some, all for your benefit and pleasure.
“And I don’t care if I’m not the first one you kissed. Darling I’ll never ask.” We really aren’t all that interested in where you have been before. What is important is that you are here now and can enjoy some of the attractions we have to offer, like the great theme parks, Xcaret with its commitment to the preservation of Mayan and Mexican culture and traditions; Xel-Há, the aquatic nature preserve that is considered one of Mexico’s seven natural wonders; Xplor, the new adventure park that already has exceeded expectations in terms of the number of visitors because of all it has to offer; Delphinus the two dolphinariums where you can swim with those fun loving sea mammals and have a video made of the experience for a lasting memory.
“Yesterday’s gone. Just love me from now on. Be true to me, forget about the past.” Whatever you did before, in terms of vacation doesn’t count. The important thing is what you will be doing from now on. For instance, there will be a beach polo tournament held next Friday and Saturday in the Cancun hotel zone put on by the El Rey Polo Country Club whose headquarters is in Puerto Morelos on the Route of the Cenotes. It will feature teams from Argentina, Mexico, Germany and Ireland and should be something to see.
“For I don’t care if I’m not the first love you’ve known. Just so I’ll be the last.” That is what we keep aiming for. For instance, that country music fest I mentioned at the beginning may end tonight but plans already are being made for an even bigger and better Country Music Festival there on Isla Mujeres about this same time next year and the municipal authorities are full-square behind it. That should make all of you country music fans here on holiday plan on returning next year and spending a few days on the island to enjoy all of the events including the live music on the beach. That includes a Phil Vassar concert given his promise to return.
And we will continue to offer a plethora of places where you can hear live music, not too much country except for Wednesdays at Ceiba del Ma in Puerto Morelos and Saturdays at Jax Bar & Grill on Isla Mujeres when singer-composer Mark Mulligan will be holding forth. But there is jazz and rock and Latino at a number of venues and, of course, lots of places for dancing. So, while you are here now and, really every time you return...
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