Rain no match for Tortuga Festival in Fort Lauderdale

Thousands attended the Rock The Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival on Fort  Lauderdale beach on Saturday, April 13, 2013.
Thousands attended the Rock The Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival on Fort Lauderdale beach on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

Jenna Bittner sat under an umbrella — on a beach blanket — with a direct view of the main stage as the rain poured down.

Bittner, 21 and her boyfriend Dom Baugus, 21, who protected his clothes with a poncho, were not deterred by the bad weather.

“We are dedicated,” said Bittner, who said a little rain couldn’t stop them from enjoying Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival.

“You can’t get any better than country music on the beach,” she said.

Saturday’s morning downpour was no match for the festival — a two-day beachfront affair meant to marry education and entertainment on the sands of Fort Lauderdale Beach.

One woman did get an electrical shot from lighting that struck a nearby pole — but according to Fort Lauderdale police, she was OK.

In the true South Florida spirit, the heavy rain gave way to the sun as acts including Gloriana and Mac McAnally took the stage Saturday. Multi-platinum country singer Kenny Chesney was expected to take the stage Saturday night and other stars including Eric Church were set to perform Sunday.

“It is all for a greater purpose,” said McAnally, who was named musician of the year five years in a row by the Country Music Association, after his show.

McAnally, who is from Mississippi, said the beach unites people.

“You got the breeze, the sand and the ocean right there. It couldn’t be any easier to spread the message,” he said.

Hundreds of people gathered around one of three stages to watch McAnally, who toured with Jimmy Buffett, perform his songs including When the Coast is Clear, which he co-wrote with Buffett.

“It seems appropriate today,” he said to the crowd, many of whom donned bathing suits, cowboy hats and boots.

Among those who watched: Kevin Murray and his partner Clint Noble, who stood in front of the stage tapping their feet along to the music.

Murray, who is from West Palm Beach, said that he was impressed with the line-up and conservation message. “Honestly I think its the greatest thing to happen to Fort Lauderdale,” he said. “What they are doing to save the ocean makes it even better.”

Performances will obey a 9:30 p.m. curfew as to not disturb turtles who nest on the beach where the festival is being held.

The centerpiece of the festival was the Conservation Village, where festival-goers could pick up trash in exchange for a t-shirt and meet Guy Harvey, a well-know artist and conservationist.

Within the village, festival-goers looking for a break from the music learned about marine life, conservation and caught a glimpse of a marine inspired sand-sculpture being built. A chef from Oceanaire was also on hand giving samples of Lion fish, which is plentiful.

“We are calling it edutainment,” said Steve Stock, the president of The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, which is based in Davie, as he munched on lion fish. “This is the perfect example of conservation.”

Megan Carter and Liz Guanci spent a half hour Sunday picking up cups, bottles and other trash left behind by festival goers.

“People were asking if we were clean up crew,” said Carter, 28, who came with her friend from Fort Myers to enjoy the music. “I think it’s a great idea though.”

Danalie Ramirez, her sister Denise and her boyfriend Danny Rojas said they were impressed with the village and didn’t realize the festival was about conservation until they got there.

“This is awesome,” she said, saying they were spending more time in the village than by the stage. “I just thought it was a stage on the sand.”

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