If last year’s combined attendance of more than 700 people at MargaritaFest is any indication, Jamie Munro and the staff at The Dock on Princess know how to throw a party!
However, the Dock general manager says that this year, they’re preparing for much more fun and many more people.
"Bigger is better is kind of the motto this year. So we’ve increased our capacity," he said. "We worked very hard with the city, the health inspectors, the liquor inspectors, fire safety, etc. etc. in order to generate more space.
"The city has been very co-operative in helping us get some variances to help block off the parking lot, which expands our area that we’re able to work out of."
As you would imagine, the bigger space makes for a bigger stage, which will be able to hold a bigger and better sound and light system, thanks to Duane and his crew from Studio Productions. The bigger stage makes for a better live entertainment experience since the bands will have more room in which to work.
Speaking of bands that create a great live music experience, the Dock has lined up some of Brandon’s best to help kick off the entertainment each night.
Just 4 Kicks will do the honours Friday night and Misty Street will get the crowd going Saturday night. Headlining the whole soiree both nights will be Brian Neale and Northern Harbour — their shows will obviously be bigger and better than last year when Neale did solo performances.
Munro says he’s also looking forward to Northern Harbour’s happy-hour sets.
"This will be the perfect opportunity for folks to kick off their shoes, sandals, flip-flops or whatever footwear they may have on and have a great time on the beach!"
Transforming your parking lot into a beachfront like party zone is no small task but Munro says you just have to "do whatever it takes to create that atmosphere that ensures people get into the beach party mode and have the best time possible.
"We made the festival space bigger, which meant hauling in more sand. We guarantee that authentic beach feel and what better way to enjoy it than kicking your footwear off, especially to dance or boogie on down in front of the stage area."
Folks may also want to put some extra thought into a costume as there’ll be contests that will add to the fun and flair of MargaritaFest. Munro says the contests just make for more of a beach party experience.
"We’re really looking forward to the best dressed parrot head contests. You can’t have a MargaritaFest without incorporating a little Jimmy Buffett," he said. "Brian and his band do an amazing job of their Jimmy Buffett tunes ... so we also expect plenty of tunes with which people can sing along.
"We’ve also got some great ideas for how we’ll be welcoming people to the event. There’ll be some freebies handed out ... plus we’re selling a beach party and what’s a beach party without getting your lei at the door.
"We’re calling it all the fun without the hassles at customs. Once you enter our little pat-down at the door, you’re walking into a beach party and there’s no planes, there are no airports — just booze, great food, great people, great music and a great time."
Neale and his band Northern Harbour will perform happy hour sets both Friday and Saturday along with their evening performances starting around 8:30 p.m.
He formed Northern Harbour in early 2003, after many years of performing Buffett material solo and in combos. He has won numerous awards and contests, and studied music and voice in Vancouver.
Over the past two decades, Neale has performed in the U.S., Dominican Republic, Germany, Austria, Barbados, Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark. He also wrote and recorded several commercial jingles in the 1990s.
He’s also a highly trained actor, and has starred in many productions both locally and abroad. He has worked with artists such as Jim Vallance, Al Harlow (Prism), and some guy named Jimmy Buffett. Northern Harbour delivers a veritable buffet (ahem,…) for the ears that encompasses a wide breadth of popular music.
But it’s a show designed to fully entertain, and leave a little sand in your dancing shoes. For a sure fire fun time, the professional party-makers of Northern Harbour are a sure bet. Nothing but Jimmy himself comes close — ask any Northern Parrot Head!
As far as food in the parking lot beach setup is concerned, Munro says they learned some lessons last year and decided to keep it quick and easy for patrons outdoors with pizza by the slice and perhaps a few other smaller menu items that will be available under the tents.
"Basically business as usual in the restaurant and party in the parking lot," he said. "But if people want to order the larger entrees, they can do takeout. Our culinary team have come up with some very unique beach-themed specials for the weekend, just to keep with the theme.
"There’ll be lots of options for our guests as we’ll just try to keep everyone happy and have one heckuva good time."
One of the other big changes this year will be the hours.
"We’re going to pack the party into two days instead of the three-day format from last year," he said. "We’ll be going from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. both nights, Friday and Saturday. The live entertainment, however, will have to cease at midnight due to the city noise bylaw."
The Dock’s patio will be transformed into the VIP area for MargaritaFest. Not including the bar and the patio area, they’ve been licensed for a capacity of 600 people. Bigger and better indeed — Munro says capacity is their goal.
"We would love to see 600 people here!" he said. "We’re advising people to get here a little bit earlier than they did last year. Last year people were a little bit late to arrive and I think people really didn’t know what to expect."
Tickets are $12 in advance and if you buy early, you have a chance to get in on an all-inclusive trip for two to Las Vegas for four days, courtesy of Planet KIA. Advance tickets may be purchased at the Dock until closing time this Thursday night (1 a.m. Friday).
Tickets will also be available at the door for $15 each night or you can purchase weekend passes for $20 in advance, $25 at the door on Friday.
Munro says they’ve organized a safe and sure way for those who wish to continue partying after the parking lot party ends at midnight,
"Your ticket to MargaritaFest gets you express entry to Houston’s for the after-party," he said. "And we’ve set up shuttle service to Houstons as well, just to make it safe and easy for everybody looking to extend their evening festivities."
Frank McGwire is a veteran of the local radio industry, a musician and booster of the music scene in Brandon and Westman.