MARCO ISLAND — The sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and attendees at the 22nd Annual Taste of Marco enjoyed a beautiful afternoon along with music, games, and food and drink from 20 local eateries. The pleasant spring weather was notable on a weekend when many area events were forced to cancel, or dealt with heavy thunderstorms.
“Ordinarily, things are starting to die down a little at this time in the afternoon,” said David Longfield-Smith, between handing out chilled bottles of water at the Costco booth. “People weren’t sure how it was going to be, and now they’re coming out, and then calling their friends.”
The courtyard at the Esplanade was packed with people in party mode, nibbling plates of food and “groovin’” to the sounds of the Greg Miller Band, who indeed played that hit by the Rascals, perfect for a Sunday afternoon, along with “Mustang Sally” and “Easy Like Sunday Morning.” Singer Greg Miller even risked getting himself into trouble with the ladies, singing “It’s a Man’s World,” circulating through the crowd with his cordless mic.
All food and drink was available for tickets only, and over at the ticket booth, Barbara Mayer and Colleen Mescall didn’t let their volunteer work selling tickets get in the way of enjoying the music, moving and shaking behind their table as they made change.
But the Taste of Marco was all about tasting food, and people moved around the booths sampling, then coming back for favorites or moving on to try something new. Lonnie Atton enjoyed a fish taco from Nacho Mama’s, while Mindy Star went with the chicken quesadilla.
The Hilton made a hit with their chicken tikka, spicy and salmon-like, and potato-wrapped shrimp. Next door, the Marriott featured Cuban sliders. Those booths, along with Toucans, the Crazy Flamingo, and Nacho Mama’s, had the best location in the house, with a view of the sparkling waters of Smokehouse Bay behind, and the breeze blowing through.
Guy Verdi of the Philly Grille was done by 2 p.m., out of stock, having gone through over 600 orders. “It’s not cheese steaks. True Philadelphians say ‘steak sandwiches – with or without,’ ” he said, the “with” being Cheez Whiz.
Mango’s Dockside Bistro, on the other hand (and next door), had an extensive menu, from tropical conch salad and mango sesame tuna to sushi, shrimp cocktail and vanilla mousse, with many of the items served in miniature ice cream cones. Stonewalls featured sliders, meatballs in a cup and seafood chowder, while Vandy’s offered pizza, garlic knots, and cookies. Anna DeMoya shared her crab cake, from Kretch’s, with Micah Neely.
Out front by the Esplanade fountain, event chairperson Allyson Richards multi-tasked, doubling as traffic cop.
“We’re so lucky. The wind was ferocious earlier, and now it’s gorgeous,” she said. “We have a lot of great volunteers, and the Esplanade has been wonderful.”
The Taste of Marco benefits the Greater Marco Family YMCA, and Y executive director Cindy Love was equally enthusiastic.
“The weather, the weather,” she exulted. “We have people coming down from Bonita, and all over. The Taste has never been rained out,” she added, tempting fate for future events, but did rap her head as she said it.
Kids played in the bounce house, and made colorful sand art projects, and the Waiter/Waitress Races returned to the Taste, with Jason Gibbs of Davide taking top honors. Emcee Steve Reynolds enjoyed nestling between co-hosts Karla Ray and Saundra Weathers from NBC-2, and a good time and good food was had by all.