For the third consecutive year the two Rotary Clubs and the Kiwanis Club on Marco Island are working together in an unusual and very successful joint venture: the Marco Island Seafood Festival, the island’s largest single annual community event. Saturday, March 26 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and Sunday, March 27 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Veterans Park , in the center of Marco Island, turns once again into a spectacular variety of continuous entertainment by nine performers and bands, some of the best seafood offerings in Florida, a special “Kids Zone” and over 60 arts & craft vendors. One can park anywhere in the center of the island, or along South Collier Boulevard and flag down one of the bright colored Seminole Casino busses for a free ride to Veterans Park. See www.marcoislandseafoodfestival.com for bus route.
It all began with local realtor, Stan Niemczyk, who at the time was president of the Sunrise Rotary Club on the island. Bringing several children a year to famous institutions like Joe Di Maggio Children’s Hospital in Miami for surgery for serious health defects, is not inexpensive despite donations of time and knowledge of the hospitals and staff. Stan decided it was time to do some serious fundraising. The charity event he had in mind was too large an undertaking for his club alone, so he asked Val Simon, president of the Noon Time Rotary Club at that time. Val agreed it was a great idea to do a joint project. Two Rotary clubs joining efforts and splitting expenses and income for a good humanitarian cause was not unusual, but Stan’s wife Donna Niemczyk was president of the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island. It seemed only natural to get her on board as well. This was an innovative idea. The organizations have similar goals, but work in different ways. The hurdles, personalities and policies between the different clubs are now something of the past as the core group of StanNiemczyk, Ewout Rijk de Vries, Dennis Pidherny, Stef Stefanides, Al Diaz, Wanda Day and Val Simon have gotten to know each other well spending six months ahead of the festival working together. During the festival itself, the group increases to over 200 volunteers and organizers point out proudly that there is not one paid staff member in the organization.
The first year was a tremendous success with some 9000 people attending from all over the state and from as far away as Atlanta, Georgia. This year, organizers hope for more visitors coming through the entry gates than there were permanent residents living on Marco Island some fifteen years ago.
At a time of a still lagging economy it is amazing that the festival now has a record number of eighteen individual sponsors and commercial enterprises like the Seminole Casino in Immokalee, Mutual of Omaha Bank and Comcast giving a combination of much needed cash and services. All local newspapers between Marco Island and Ft Myers have generously offered advertising support and not to forget the tremendous cooperation of the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce and help from the City of Marco Island.
In addition to 100% of the monies raised, going directly to the local and international humanitarian programs, there are added benefits for our area. Hotels have seen increased occupancy during the festival. Even restaurants on the island are busier, because the festival closes down late afternoon and this is expected to further increase restaurant business because organizers have decided to close down earlier on Sunday at five o’clock.
The Marco Island Seafood Festival is a true community event, bringing islanders together, understanding each other and having a good time together. And at the same time it brings people and business to the island like no other event. Festival organizers and the three service clubs solicit your attendance for its continuous success.
Saturday, March 26 from 10 – 6. Sunday, March 27 from 10 – 5. Entry $6. Kids under 12 free. More information is available at www.marcoislandseafoodfestival.com