Rock on the Rock: Marco Seafood Festival features classic rock cover bands

Marco Island rocked out over the weekend. While there are regular big band concerts on the island catering to those who came of age in the 1940s, the 4th Annual Marco Island Seafood Festival, Saturday and Sunday at Veterans’ Community Park, featured oldies about a generation ahead.

Headliners the Landsharks, a Jimmy Buffett tribute band, played to a lawnful of music enthusiasts as the sun set on a beautiful Saturday evening. Along with all the expected Parrothead favorites, they threw in the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” Don McLean’s “American Pie,” and the too-seldom heard Southern rock classic “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” by one-hit wonder the Georgia Satellites.

“This is just feel-good music,” said Karen Sonderman of Wisconsin, dancing along to the Landsharks as the sky grew dark. “I love this – it reminds me of when life was easier.” She said she had college-age children “sitting over there, embarrassed.” But hey, what are parents for?

Along with the food, the music was a big draw for the thousands who came out to be part of what organizer Steve Stefanides called “the island’s biggest party.” Before the Landsharks took the stage, with the sun setting behind them, Southwest Florida rockers the Gema Pearl Band, featuring lead singer Gema Pearl, along with bass player and music director Lee Brovitz, took a turn pumping out the classic rock standards, playing songs such as “Rock Steady” and “Only You Know and I Know.”

Now that winter is officially over, the hot day didn’t seem so out of place, as opening acts the Del Prados and the Gladezmen kicked off the musical entertainment. Between bands, as the stage was set up for the next group, local entertainer Jim Long sang, accompanied by backing tracks and DJ Steve Reynolds on congas, showing off unsuspected talent.

There was plenty of seafood, from local establishments and vendors from up and down the East coast, merchandise to browse, and a climbing wall and tethered trampoline for the younger set. Publix offered grouper and salmon burgers, plus crab and corn chowder and shrimp scampi. The Ee-to-leet-ke Grill at the Seminole Casino showcased their Icy Hot Shrimp, with watermelon, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, sprouts, napa cabbage and hot Asian dressing, along with laktes and lox, for those nostalgic for the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

The casino also provided free shuttle bus service around the island, for those who didn’t want to hassle with parking, or perhaps were planning multiple trips to the beer truck.

Paul Hazelwood of Indiana, with daughter Emma Grace, 7, in tow, patronized the Florida Cracker Seafood booth, selecting fish and chips from offerings which included clam baskets, hush puppies, crab cakes, shrimp and frog legs. The frog legs, said Paula Carvis of St. Pete, behind the counter, are provided by food-service giant Sysco, and come from Asia, despite the millions of pairs available “on the hoof,” just a few miles to the east and south of Marco Island.

Lisa O’Geary, although from New Jersey herself, cooked up arepas, a Venezuelan treat advertised as being entirely gluten-free.

Local favorites the Wholetones kicked off the show on Sunday, with music that’s newer and bluer – as in bluegrass, and original – than the classic rock of the previous day, followed by the Hot Damn Duo and the Danny Morgan Band. Thousands attended, raising money for the good works of the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, and everybody on hand seemed to be having a great time.

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