MARCO ISLAND — Posted earlier
Crowds descended on Marco Island this weekend for the 2nd Annual Marco Island Seafood Festival Saturday and Sunday at Veterans Park.
Organizers hoped to replicate the success of last year’s event, which benefits the humanitarian programs of the Sunrise Rotary, Noon Time Rotary & Kiwanis Foundation of Marco Island.
Did they succeed? Check out a video and two photo galleries from the event and judge for yourself.
Thousands of people descended on Veterans’ Community Park this weekend for the 2nd Annual Marco Island Seafood Festival, which was a bigger and better hit with families this year.
Amy Boccard from Marco watched her son Robbie, 4, navigate an inflatable obstacle course.
“I like it better this year because of the kid’s area. The event is much more kid-friendly this year,” said Boccard, who attended the inaugural event last year as well.
Naples resident Shannon Horne and her daughter Darby, 8, practiced their dance moves in the open grass area in front of the stage, taking full advantage of the live music and fair-weathered day while it lasted.
The children’s play area was a new addition by the organizers of the festival, which is hosted by the Marco Island Sunrise Rotary Club, Marco Island Noon Time Rotary Club and Kiwanis Foundation of Marco Island. Parents were pleased to have a place for the children to play while adults enjoyed the live entertainment. Children frolicked in the bounce house, slipped down the inflatable slide and ran through an inflatable obstacle course. Sand art and face painting also appealed to the creative sides of the youth at the event.
Marco Island Parks and Recreation Teen Center leader Amber Prange organized a group of teenagers, who helped provide activities for younger children during the event. The teens provided face painting and help with art projects.
Teen volunteer John Paoletti, who was helping the younger kids color, said he wasn’t there just to help the children.
“We are here to have fun,” Paoletti said of the volunteer group.
The Seafood Festival stayed true to its name with the greatest attraction being a variety of stone crab claws, shrimp and fish. Long lines of seafood lovers waited patiently alongside their land-loving companions, who feasted on hamburgers, hotdogs and brats provided by the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce.
Kettle corn, ice-cream, cupcake and cookie vendors tantalized the sweet tooth of many a visitor, who also meandered through arts and craft vendors’ works.
A steady stream of beer and wine flowed throughout the weekend.
The event drew people from Marco, Naples and beyond.
Joanne and Brian Lithgow, of Boca Raton, were on-Island visiting friends. They said they made sure to arrange their visit so it corresponded with the Seafood Festival.
They were not disappointed with their choice.
“We are having a great time,” Joanne Lithgow said.
Clara Martinez from Colombia was in town visiting her son, Luis Manjarres, his wife Crystal, and children Luis Anthony, 10, and Samantha, 8.
This was Clara Martinez’s first time at the Seafood Festival.
“It is beautiful, beautiful entertainment, and beautiful people,” Martinez said.
She added that she tried the catfish and loved it.
Bill Stewart, from Salem, Wis., purchased a fish sandwich at the Florida Cracker Seafood booth. Stewart was in Naples on what he called a “working vacation,” helping a friend paint a condo.
“I am having a blast. I am ready to move down,” Stewart said.
The event did slightly better this year than last year in terms of attendance and fund raising, said Stan Niemczyk. He said they would certainly have been higher if the rain had held off a little longer.
The event drew slightly more people than last year with a total of 9223 visitors and 62 arts and craft vendors.
"However, our total monies collected for the humanitarian projects of Rotary & Kiwanis are up almost 30 percent, with an estimated total of just over $60,000," announced Ewout Rijk de Vries.
"All this was realized by volunteers and the organization was near perfect," de Vries added.
Niemczyk said the success may have been even greater if the rain had held off a little longer.
The wind and rain on Sunday forced the event to be shut down slightly earlier than expected.
That didn’t put a damper on many visitors’ appreciation, however.
“The event is much bigger and better this year,” said Kathleen Reynolds, of Marco, as she took a break from munching on a Caesar shrimp wrap made by St. Petersburg Concessions.