Heavy rain soaked Everglades City Thursday night, on the eve of the biggest event of the year. The 50th anniversary of the Everglades Seafood Festival had a logistics challenge to deal with on top of the myriad details that were already being dealt with. However, organizer Carol Foss knew the close-knit community would come through like they always do.
“The rain kind of snuck in and slowed us down a bit,” Foss said on Saturday afternoon. “We had water on the ground Friday morning. We had some fill brought in. Smoothed it around. It looked pretty good. It was dry Saturday morning.”
The festival opened Friday at 5 PM and wrapped up Sunday at 6 PM. Musical headliner, rising country star Walker Hayes, took the stage at 3:30 Saturday afternoon and was a crowd favorite. Hayes is best known for his 2017 hit single, You Broke Up With Me.
Foss was happy with the crowd as of Saturday afternoon and predicted that Sunday’s crowd might even be bigger. She thought the 50th–anniversary event could end up being the biggest-ever.
“We’d like to think this might be the biggest crowd ever,” she said. “Today’s been good. We’re thinking tomorrow might even be better. The weather’s beautiful. You couldn’t ask for better weather.”
Foss grew up in Everglades City and knows the history of the event. What was once a small, volunteer-run event has grown into a year-round business.
“Years past it was a lot of volunteer work,” Foss said. “But nobody wants to volunteer so much anymore. It’s hard to get help down here. We go all year long. Everybody thinks that Monday it’s done. But it’s not. We go all year long until the next one. This was our fiftieth, maybe we’ll go fifty more. Maybe we won’t. You never know.
“We’ve never run out of seafood,” she said. “Maybe stone crab or alligator, but so far we’ve never run out of seafood.
“There’s about five of us who put on this whole thing. We could probably use about 55. We have very few volunteers. We pay a lot of the help. In years past, when I was growin’ up, there was a big group that did it. And they all volunteered. All volunteer fishermen. But times change. I’m born and raised here.”
With all that goes on during the three-day period, one might wonder how long it takes to put tiny Everglades City back together after the festival ends.
“Monday morning you won’t even be able to tell there was a seafood festival here,” Foss said proudly.