Seafood lovers mark their calendars for the annual Everglades Seafood Festival, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 6, 7 and 8, 2015, in Everglades City, gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands.
This free event packs ‘em in for fresh seafood, country music, carnival rides, crafts booths — with an estimated 50,000 people expected to attend to pack this small town (population 500) the three-day event.
Everglades City, Florida’s “stone crab capital,” is an off-the-beaten-track pocket of Old Florida with many original buildings and a rich history steeped in the lore of pirates and smugglers, murder and mayhem, and some of the best fishing and freshest seafood anywhere in the state of Florida.
The old-fashioned neo-classical City Hall once served as Collier County’s main courthouse until the county’s population shifted north to nouveau Naples, 40 miles away. Everglades City, settled in the 1880s, has retained its small-town charm, if not it’s legendary character and characters.
The town’s first Seafood Festival was held in 1970 to raise money for playground equipment, and that charitable tradition is still alive and well with proceeds from the festival going to local causes and college scholarships for local students.
In addition to shiploads of fresh seafood served up by local fishermen and restaurants, this year’s festival will feature 100 arts and crafts booths, a carnival and continuous country music and bluegrass throughout the weekend.
It’s too early for 2015 schedules, but here’s information from 2014:
Traditional festival schedule:
Friday — 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday — 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday — 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
And there’s music — lots of it!
Here’s what the festival offered in 2014:
5:45 p.m.– Houston Brown
6:50 p.m. – The Dance Company (from LaBelle, FL)
7:30 p.m. – Let’s Hang On
9:00p.m. – Tim Elliott
10 a.m. – Opening Ceremony
10:30 a.m. – The Dance Company (from LaBelle, FL)
Noon – Grayson Rogers Band
1 p.m. – Them Hamilton Boys
2:15 p.m. – Brad Anderson
3:30 p.m. – Casey Weston
4:30 p.m. – Parmalee (Nashville)
6:30 p.m. – Angela Marsaglia with South 41
7:45 p.m.– Tim Elliott
11 a.m. – Opening Ceremony
11:30 a.m.– The Gladezmen
12:45 p.m. – Wendell Ray
2 p.m. – The Tim Charron Band
3:15 p.m. – Tim Elliott
4:30 p.m. – Jimmie van Zant
Traffic can be tricky, so arrive early and bring your patience. (Many avoid that problem by arriving on motorcycle. This is a favorite group outing for motorcycle clubs from Miami and Fort Lauderdale.) Parking is provided by local charities within walking distance of the festival.
A few tips: No pets, no coolers and be prepared to walk.
The Tamiami Trail makes a scenic route to Everglades City — here’s our guide to that road.
From the north, you can also take I-75 south to Collier Boulevard (County Road 951), south to U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail), then east to State Road 29, which will take you south into Everglades City.
From the Atlantic Coast, take Alligator Alley (I-75) west to SR 29, then straight south to Everglades City.
To help plan your trip:
- Everglades Seafood Festival website
- Guide to Tamiami Trail
- Loop Road: Storied road through the Everglades
- Eating stone crabs in Everglades City
- Shark Valley entrance to Everglades National Park
- Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery
- Ochopee Post Office
- Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
- Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Nearby RV and/or tent camping:
- Collier Seminole State Park
- Glades Haven
- Chokoloskee Island Park
- Outdoor Resorts of Chokoluskee Island
- Big Cypress Preserve — 6 campgrounds
Find a room:
The Ivey House and Everglades Rod and Gun Club are historic lodges in Everglades City that are popular with visitors. Check availability of rooms at these and other hotels on Hotels.com: Find a room in Everglades City