Everglades City Seafood Festival attracts thousands to small town
About 75,000 people attended the Everglades City Seafood Festival over the weekend. Jessica Rodriguez, Naples Daily News
Thousands of seafood enthusiasts gathered in Everglades City for the 49th annual seafood festival Saturday.
The festival was expected to attract about 75,000 people over the weekend to the town of about 300, offering a combination of live music, carnival games, rides and the best foods from the sea.
City attorney Chris Lombardo encouraged the crowd to donate $5 for sewer improvements and promised to engrave donors' names to the new plant. For $10 he promised to add the name of someone the donor dislikes inside the sewer.
Everglades City still is struggling with its sewer plant after damage by Hurricane Irma more than a year ago.
"We still don't have any money from FEMA, so we've all had to pick up the shovel and help bring the city back together," he said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We're in much better shape than last year."
Lombardo has attended the Everglades City seafood festival since 1983. The best part for him is seeing people from all over the country gather in the small town.
"I love the people," he said. "Every year, people from all over the nation enjoy the festival, even if it's hot, cold, wet or dry."
It was Denine Priddy's 11th year at the festival. She drives a 22-foot trailer for Festival Food Concepts in Port St. Lucie. Over the weekend, she served as a cook and produced crab cakes at a quick-enough pace to keep the crowds full.
Husband and wife Joe and Quinn Maiocco were responsible for the kettle corn smell that filled the air. The two have been attending the festival as vendors for five years.
"The people here are absolutely amazing," she said. "It's incredible to see how hard they work to put this together."
It was Dave Robach's first time at the festival. The Michigan native enjoyed the warm weather along with some shrimp jambalaya.
"I will definitely be back next year, I love it," he said.
Sloan Wheeler, an 11-year-old singer from Everglades City, sang the national anthem for the crowd. Charlie Pace, 15, another Everglades City native, also sang for the crowd.
"We make sure our kids are at the center of the stage for this," Lombardo said.
Other performers at the festival were: Tom Petty tribute band The Petty Hearts; Rambler; Let’s Hang On; Tim Elliott; The Lost Rodeo; Tim Channon; Electric Lipstick; Lauren Mitchell; Gator Nate; and Nadia Turner, a Miami resident who competed in the fourth season of "American Idol" on TV.
The festival will continue through today with a final performance by The Petty Hearts at 4:30 p.m.