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Mad about mangos

Annual island tropical fruit festival attracts large crowd

July 25, 2012
By TIFFANY REPECKI (trepecki@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

Local resident Rhonda Kolko decided Saturday to visit the 16th annual MangoMania festival with friends, despite the likelihood of rain and an overcast sky.

"Last year it poured, too," she said, adding that the bad weather in 2011 kept her away from the event.

A first-timer to the festival, she would not let it ruin her plans this year.

Article Photos

Michael Pistella
Savanna Odjick, 2, samples a piece of Kent mango from the folks at the Bokeelia-based eatmoremangos.com.

"It just looked like so much fun," Kolko said. "It was a really good time."

She browsed the crafts that vendors had on display, checked out the plants and trees that were for sale and took in the mix of foods and drinks on hand.

"I spent a fortune," Kolko laughed, adding that she purchased jewelry and flowers and tested the mango ice cream.

"Everybody was awesome, " she said of the vendors.

Kolko wants to buy a mango tree next year, and maybe an avocado.

"I'd like to get one next year," she said.

By attending, Kolko said she also helped support the local artists.

"They depend on us," she said. "They're a treasure to this community."

MangoMania was held Saturday and Sunday at the German American Social Club, located on Pine Island Road. The event highlights everything mango - for mango season - and features contests, performances and activities.

This year's mango queen, Pine Island resident Cassy Skau, participated in many of the activities and contests. She said one of her hardest jobs was judging the mango pie eating contest and trying to see who ate the most.

Her favorite contests were the longest mango throw and mango cornhole, which was held for the first time and involved mangos instead of bean bags.

"They liked it a lot," she said of the public's reaction to the new game.

As the mango queen, Skau noted that she got to meet a lot of people over the weekend, some from outside of the United States, like Denmark.

"It has been so much fun," she said, adding that they expressed to her how wonderful the festival is and that they intend to attend again if possible.

"They've never seen anything like it," Skau said.

Asked if there were any hiccups during the two-day event, she said the restaurants ran out of food an hour or two before closing Saturday.

"They brought more stuff in," Skau said of the solution.

She estimated that the attendance this year was better than 2011.

"We had a wonderful turnout," Skau said.

"I just hope everybody comes next year," she added. "We had a great time."

Cynthia and Kati Welch, owners of the Pine Island-based Paradise Gardens, which makes jams, preserves and chutneys, also called it a good event. They compared Saturday's numbers to last year's numbers and came out even.

"I'd say we're right on target, too," Cynthia Welch said for Sunday.

It marked the 10th year that the business has taken part in MangoMania.

"Each year we get bigger and better," she said. "It's a fun festival to do."

The Welches explained that they know a lot of the vendors and growers who attend the festival, so they get to spend the weekend with friends. Weekend sales are a mix of new clientele and regular customers who are stocking up.

"We always add one new product every year," Welch added.

This year it was Tropical Jam, a mix of mango, pineapple and coconut. The jam took second place in Saturday's recipe contest, then flew off the shelf.

"As a result, we sold out of that product," she said.

This year, the cost of admission was $5 in advance or $6 at the door. Children 10 and younger were free. The event featured a children's area.

For local resident Jerry Croley, his wife and daughter, MangoMania was all about the plants for sale, specifically, Asian trees that were available.

"We wanted some of the special trees and fruits," he said.

They dropped by both days as they did not get everything Saturday.

According to Croley, they bought a lemon tree, a dragonfruit tree and chili and pepper plants. They even got a mango tree, though it was not on the list.

"We weren't looking for mango," he said.

Asked about the selection, Croley would have liked more variety.

"I think they need more booths," he said. "It's small - there's maybe a couple of stands."

The German American Social Club is at 2101 S.W. Pine Island Road.

 
 

 

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