It’s the first thing you see – or is it? Ask most people about the entrance to the Original Marathon Seafood Festival (set for this weekend) and you might get some squinty-eyed attempt to picture the monolith of greenery in the shape of an arch. It might be a bit overlooked in the excitement to get inside.
And yet, it takes a little work and a lot of ingenuity to put the arch together. With the retirement of “Jamaican George” after 30 years at the helm of arch construction, a new guy is taking over the reins.
“I got my screw gun and a saw, and I’m not scared,” said Tom Fago, while cooking paninis in the galley of his 46-foot “Marlin Mujer,” docked at Keys Fisheries in Marathon. Fago said Jamaican George will be showing him how to intertwine the palm fronds through the chicken wire the day before the event.
Basically, Fago was voted into the position of arch master because he missed a crucial seafood festival organizational meeting, but said he couldn’t be more honored to help local commercial fishermen. “Georgie takes all the credit,” said Fago. George, whose last name is unknown and who apparently does not have a widely publicized telephone number, is moving.
The arch is made with a pickup truck bed’s worth of freshly cut palm fronds donated by Dot Palm Landscaping in Marathon. Owner Gigi Harrison said they have been doing this for quite a long time, although she couldn’t pinpoint a date. “Typically, we don’t trim our trees all year and then only trim them for the festival,” she said. “But, because of the hurricane we will have to do a little outsourcing. But come hell or high water, we will find enough to make sure the arch is there.”
The string of buoys may also be 30 years old, held in storage year after year.
Fago became involved with the festival four years ago. He owns the commercial stone crab boat “Ocean Horse.” His claim to fame stands as the “ice man” after Hurricane Irma, when he helped coordinate tractor trailer truckloads of ice in the aftermath.
“This town is built around fishing, and I love fishing,” he said. “We are a big family around here and this is a tightknit community.”