Sunny skies and warm temperatures brought out the crowds for the annual Taste of Pine Island 2014 Saturday and Sunday at the Bobby Holloway Memorial Baseball Field at Phillips Park.
"The entertainment this year was exceptional," said Taste chairman Pat Burman. "Our feature band for Saturday was the Grayson Rogers Band. This band was named the 2013 Country Band of the Year, male vocalist of the year, and band of the year at the Spot Magazine Awards in Southwest Florida. We are very excited that they were able to fit us in to their busy schedule."
In addition to the Grayson Rogers Band, there were many of the areas best local bands WildCaught, Strange Arrangement, The Wholetones and Pine Island Steel.
The Taste of Pine Island attracted large crowds over the weekend.
The Taste of Pine Island is the primary fund-raiser for the Kiwanis Club of Greater Pine Island Youth Scholarship Fund. This year the club hopes to raise more than $25,000 at the event to assist Pine Island students with their higher education costs. Since 1985, the Kiwanis Club has provided over $200,000 in scholarships and has helped many other island organizations.
For the kids there was face painting, a bounce house, pony rides, rock climbing and extreme bungee jumping. Mark Ashton brought his 5 year-old granddaughter, Caelih Windsor, from Cape Coral.
"This is a great event and my granddaughter is having a wonderful time," Ashton said. At the extreme bungee jumping attraction, "Caelih was so light her feet couldn't reach the floor to push off so the operator helped her. Each time she reached new heights she screamed with delight."
Of course, the Taste of Pine Island is all about the food. Olde Fish House appeared to have the longest line serving all local fresh fish right off the boat - smoked mullet, fish dip, crab cakes, lobster chowder, lobster salad sliders, fish tacos, gator gumbo, fried shrimp and buffalo shrimp.
Pine Island's newest restaurant, Flathead's Roadhouse, was also there serving cheesesteak sandwiches made from beef tenderloin with homemade potato chips. Jonesez brought its famous barbecue, chicken, ribs, pulled pork, dirty rice, collard greens, baked beans and cole slaw.
Little Joe's served sausages, Philly steak, corn dogs, burgers, chicken on a stick, fries, hot dogs and gyros, chicken kebabs, Med rice, Greek salads and spinach pies and Cabot Cheese returned with "The World's Best Cheddar."
The Fish Drop was a huge success with all of the 2,384 tickets sold out by 2 p.m. on Sunday. The winner has yet to be determined.
The annual seafood Chowder Cook-off contest was held Saturday and the Chili Cook-off contest Sunday. This is where the professional cooks vie for cash prizes.
Each participant provided a sample of his/her chowder and chili for judging. Once the votes are tallied, the winner of the "People's Choice" award will be announced. Past winners of the People's Choice Award were the Waterfront Restaurant, which won in 2004, '05 and '06; the Lazy Flamingo restaurant in 2007; The Perfect Cup from Matlacha, Bokeelia Cracker Cafe and Reds Fresh Seafood in Bokeelia.
There were over 90 vendors at this year's event.
"This is just as good as the last three years we were here," Alan Parker, of Art's Farm Fresh Produce, said. "A couple years ago it was so cold and windy you could hardly keep the tent on the ground but this year the weather's great. We have a nice crowd here today (Saturday) and I think it will be a very good weekend."
"Taste of Pine Island 2014 was a huge success and better than past years," Burman said. "The weather was beautiful on Saturday and Sunday was a little cloudy but the crowds kept coming. All the restaurants who attended Taste this year sold out and had to change their menus for the next day. Most of the vendors sold out of their products, too. The local restaurants involved this year - Olde Fish House in Matlacha, Domino's Pizza in St. James and Flathead's a new restaurant in Bokeelia. These restaurants obviously care about their community and their place in it and the Kiwanis appreciate their participation. I am looking forward to chairing 2015 Taste.
"I would like to thank all of the Pine Island residents and off island residents who worked at this years Taste. Without your help this job would be impossible."
He continued, "Also, thank you to all of our sponsors: Cambio Dermatology, Sun Trust Bank, Lee County Electric Co-op, Pine Island Water Co., Adams & Brinson, Attys., The Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, Champion Self Storage, Ad&PrintCraft Printing and Marketing Co., PineIslandNews.com, Cabot Cheese, Budweiser, Honc Industries, Capital Bank, Pine Island Realty, Pine Island Eagle, Cover Farms, 96.9 more FM, 93X and 94.5 The Arrow."