The 18th annual MangoMania Tropical Fruit Fair kicked off under sunny, warm skies Saturday morning. The purpose of the event is to showcase the diversity of all Pine Island has to offer Southwest Florida and to promote island growers and businesses.
"We have nearly 100 vendors here," event coordinator Jennifer Jennings said. "Everything from fruit growers to local restaurants are represented. Everything came together with very few issues and as you can see people are arriving early to enjoy the day."
The event was held at the German American Club on Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.
Valerie Hedmon served as this year’s Mango Queen.
Opening ceremonies began with the Honor Guard from the American Legion Post 136 consisting of Post Commander Frank Trauger, Rick Alvarez, Dick Thomas and Peter Trazzera displaying the colors and the national anthem sung by the crowd.
Doug Floweree, owner of The Mango Factory, gave a 30-minute presentation on "It's all about the mango."
Floweree is convinced that the mango is the original "forbidden fruit" - the fruit that got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
"Most people think the apple is the forbidden fruit but the apple didn't come along until thousands of years later," Floweree said. "The mango was there, ripe for the picking.
"This year we are having a shortage of mangoes on Pine Island," he said. "We think the trees over produced last year and are taking a rest this year. Our trees bloomed late this year and some trees didn't bloom at all. Some of the most popular varieties of mangoes are Valencia Pride, Hayden, Kent, Keitt and Irwins."
Pine Island probably got its first mangoes back in the 1920s. Then in the 1930s, the University of Florida began experimenting with "hybrid mangoes." The best tasting mangoes today are hybrid mangoes, according to experts. One of the best tasting mangoes is the Valencia Pride grafted in 1941. The flesh is described as sweet, aromatic, firm and fiberless and one of the favorites in Southwest Florida.
The amateur and professional food contests are always a crowd pleaser at MangoMania. This year's food judges were Sue Trimble Pine Island Chamber, Billy Crooks from 94.5 Arrow and Julian Glover Fox 4.
Approximately 15 children entered the Mango Hat decorating contest. Anna Bella Brown, 7, from Cape Coral was the winner.
Mango Queen Valerie Hedman welcomed guests throughout the event.
"I didn't realize how much work there is," Hedman said. "But it's all fun and I want everyone to know some growers haven't been experiencing shortages. We brought 2,000 pounds of mangos ready for sale they're almost ripe. You really don't want perfectly ripe mangoes because you have to eat them right away. You want almost ripe mangoes."
Mary and Scott Moore brought their daughters, Sally and Jackie, to the fair. "This is our first MangoMania, we moved here about two years ago and missed it last year," Scott Moore said. "The girls are really enjoying the balloon houses and rides."
The Hot Flashz Dancers took the main stage. The Hot Flashz is a dance team composed of women 45 years and older. Their love of dancing is clearly evident in their performances and the crowds responded with cheers. Hot Flashz raises funds for Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis, Fla. The camp, founded by the late Paul Newman and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, is a year-round camp for children with various chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
Entertainment was provided all day Saturday and Sunday by Strange Arrangement, Trailer Park Barbie and the Boys, Gators in the Sawgrass, HipNauticals and Bonham528. Calendar Girls performed on Sunday.
This year's adult T-shirt design was won by Joanna Bro and the children's T-shirt winner was Brianna Whitley.
"This year's MangoMania went very well," Jennings said. "Everyone worked very hard to make this MangoMania the most successful one yet. And now we begin working on next year."
MangoMania food contest winners
Amateur Winners Jellies and Jams
1st Place - Valerie Hedman
2nd Place - Beth Smith
3rd Place - Juan Capastrano
Amateur Winners - Chutneys/Relish/Salsa
1st Place - Ron Sullivan
2nd Place - April Gifford
Bread - Cindy Raskin
Cookies - Marlene Everly, Ron Sullivan & April Gifford
Dave Brown made a Mango Wine
Professional Winners - Mango Appetizers
1st Place - Red's
2nd Place - Saltwater Smokehouse
3rd Place - Olde Fish House
Professional Winners - Entree
1st Place - Saltwater Smokehouse
2nd Place - Red's
3rd Place - Olde Fish House
Professional Winners - Mango Dessert
1st Place - CW Fudge
2nd Place - Mullettville
3rd Place - CW Fudge