The Pine Island Chamber of Commerce held its 17th Mango Mania Festival this weekend. The purpose of the annual event is to showcase the diversity of all Pine Island has to offer and promote island growers and businesses.
The event was kicked off Saturday morning with the singing of the national anthem by "Trailer Park Barbie" and then the pledge of allegiance. The colors were provided by Commander Keith Keefer of Pine Island VFW Post 4353.
Nearly 100 vendors filled the grounds of the German American Club Saturday and Sunday.
Mango Queen Scarlet Player and Matt Mango.
"We re-configured the layout this year by keeping the vendors all along the walking paths," event coordinator Jennifer Jennings said. "This way we were able to accommodate more vendors and offer a wider variety of merchandise and services."
Mango Queen Scarlet Player was there to greet everyone along with MangoMania mascot Matt Mango.
"We already seem to have a great turnout," Player said early Saturday "Being Mango Queen I've enjoyed this experience of meeting and greeting people. And the kids are all smiles when they see my pink tutu."
The crowds began to build and by noon the park was teeming with people.
The MangoMania Food Contest attracted a large crowd. There were two classes of entries: amateur and professional. Of course, all entries had to include mango in the recipe.
The contest judges were Jo Deshaw (local resident), Alex Butler (Fox), Billy Crooks (94.7 Arrow), Lauren DiSpirito (NBC2) and Suzanne Trimble (local resident)
Amateur entries included jellies, jams, chutneys and desserts. There were eight amateur entries in all.
The amateur winners in Jellies and Jams were 1st Place - Paradise Gardens with a Mango Orange Jam; 2nd Place - Charlene Russ with a Mango Pineapple Jam; and 3rd Place - Lisa Evans with a Mango Hot Pepper Jam.
The amateur winners in Chutney/Relish/Salsa were, 1st place - Lynn Reed with a Mango Momma's Chutney, and 2nd Place - Charlene Russ with a Mango Chutney
There were three restaurants entered in the professional category: Olde Fish House Marina (Matlacha), Red's Fresh Seafood House and Tavern (Pine Island) and Lobster Lady (Cape Coral).
The professional winners in the Appetizer category were 1st place - Olde Fish House Marina - Mango Shrimp Jalapeno Popper, and 2nd place - Red's Fresh Seafood House and Tavern - Mango Seafood Dip
The professional Entrees winners were 1st place - Red's Fresh Seafood House and Tavern - Caribbean Mango Glazed Triple Tail, and 2nd place - Olde Fish House Marina - Mango Glazed Grouper
In the Dessert category for professionals, first place went to Red's Fresh Seafood House and Tavern - Baked Mango Cobbler, with second going to Lobster Lady - Mango Custard w/Vanilla Bean Drizzle
Saturday afternoon the first of two Mango pie eating contests was held. Jennifer Jennings, event coordinator said, "The pie eating contest is so popular, and we had so many entries, we were forced to limit entries to 10 contestants. But we are going to have a second pie eating contest tomorrow."
The winners was Mathew Ramajlco with Barry Roberts finishing second and aDaniel Morales taking third.
There was plenty of entertainment this year. Blues/rock artist Damon Fowler and the Aimee Linn Band, which performs new and classic rock, appeared. Debbie Davies, winner of the Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist for 2010, performed on Saturday.
Venders of all kinds lined the walkways: Traders Hitching Post, Great Licks Ice Cream, Paradise Garden, Catch a Fire, Personally Yours, Orgami Owl, Costume Jewelry Notorious Cigars, David's Bee Haven, Olde Fish House Marina, Red's Fresh Seafood House and Tavern, Cupcake Express, Island Times Diner, Mama Jugs (iced tea), Arts Produce (Pine Island Farmer's Market), Fruit Scapes Trees and Citrus plants, and many more.
Several of the vendors were there to educate the public. One was David Gatley of David's Bee Haven Apiary. Gatley stressed the importance of bees to our environment and their importance to our food sources through cross pollinating. It is estimated that one third of our food supply depends on pollination of bees.
"It is vitally important that we protect our bee population," he said.
Another educational vendor is Steve Cucura, a native of Virginia who moved to Pine Island to grow mangos about 16 years ago. His mango farm is Fruit Scapes, at 92 Ficus Tree Lane, Bokeelia. He explained why mangos grow so well here in Florida.
"Mangos grow well in Southwest Florida because the climate here is similar to their native climates in India and Southeast Asia." he said. "There are thousands of varieties worldwide and maybe a hundred here on Pine Island. I grow about 50 of the best tasting varieties. Some taste like pineapple, some taste like peach and some taste like coconut or lemon. My favorite is Him-Sager but the one I sell the most of is Valencia Pride."
Late Sunday afternoon, as the MangoMania festival wound down to a close, Jennings said, "At the end of the day I think it was a success. Even with the rain yesterday the turnout was great. Today the weather is cooperating and again the turnout is very good. I've spoken with some of the vendors and they are happy with everything and expect to be back next year. So I'm very happy with everything."