February is one of the busiest months out of the year here in Everglades City, and it’s also one of the most exciting because of our annual Everglades Seafood Festival.
Each year for the last 49 years, around 50,000-75,000 people drive down our two-lane road into town for great seafood, live music and other festivities.
The Everglades Seafood Festival first began in 1970 when the city bought land and wanted to build a park. They advertised and ended up getting a lot of people together to have a fish fry that raised money so the city could buy playground equipment. Since that first fish fry, the festival and event itself has grown tremendously.
In the past, the proceeds from the festival has helped our community in many ways such as getting a community center for the kids, a pavilion for the park and other beneficial things such as giving scholarships to the students graduating from Everglades City School.
The Everglades Seafood Festival consists of carnival rides, over 100 food vendors, arts and crafts booths, beer booths and live entertainment. The food ranges from fresh seafood such as stone crabs, crawfish, shrimp and fish to other local favorites like frog legs, gator nuggets and Indian fry bread burgers.
Where I live is practically two steps away from the festival, and time the food vendors open up I walk straight to them to get fresh gator nuggets and a few Indian burgers to bring back to my parents. Friday night is known as family night, where kids can buy a wrist band and ride all the carnival rides as many times as they want. I remember my mom picking my friends and I up from school on the golf cart and I would always get a giddy feeling seeing all the booths and rides and vendors set up and ready to go. Even today being in college I still go down every year to see my friends and family and still get that same giddy exciting feeling! Saturday is the biggest day. That’s when if you’re a local you can’t go five feet without seeing somebody you know or have heard of.
Everglades City School runs the Coke booths every year. The high school students as well as teachers and staff take turns working them each day selling the soda drinks, and all the proceeds go to the school.
The event is for tourists and people out of town to come and enjoy, but it’s also a huge reunion for the locals. Many of my family members and friends that moved, take off to come down for the weekend to reunite and have fun. A lot of people have made it a tradition to come to the festival. I started going when I was only five months old and never have missed one since.
Entertainment at the festival are both local and famous singers. My dad, for years, was one of the locals who would sing at the event. The event has been starting points for many Nashville stars, including but not limited to, Little Big Town, Billy Currington, Montgomery Gentry, Jerrod Niemann, David Nail, Parmalee and more. Not only have new Nashville artists rocked the stage, there have been older ones with number one hits as well such as Little Texas, John Anderson, Little Jimmy Dickens, Johnny Paycheck and David Lee Murphy.
This year the festival is the 8th, 9th, and 10th of February. If you want to see more information about the entertainment this year you can go on the Everglades Seafood Festival website to view the lineup. Also note that the event itself is free to attend. So, all you seafood lovers mark your calendars and come on down for our largest event of the year!