Helping Locals at the Seafood Festival

Nonprofits and festival fun!

Marathon’s biggest event of the year is upon us: The Original Marathon Seafood Festival! This celebration of our commercial fishing heritage is incredibly popular because of the awesome live music, the array of vendors, the boat show, the fun kid stuff, and (of course) the best fresh local seafood! Stone crab, lobster, fish, shrimp and more all compete for your tastebuds. The only answer is to go both days and eat every meal there!

In addition to everything mentioned above, several local nonprofits have booth space to educate, inform, raise money … and give you the chance to win some very cool stuff!

The Rotary Club of Marathon is selling chances to win an attractive and functional Yeti cooler stocked with a plethora of fine spirits. All proceeds raised will go to the Rotary Club’s scholarship funds. Last year, the Rotary Club donated more than $40,000 to local students, including a four-year full ride scholarship through Take Stock in Children. Be sure and stop by, and maybe find out if becoming a Rotarian might be in your future.

It’s always Christmas at the Presents in Paradise booth — and the gifts could be yours! There are chances to win a well-stocked Yeti Tundra 45 of cheer, charter fishing and fun excursions, a resort stay, and a cruise! Stop by for a free candy cane, and revel in the festive holiday spirit! Presents in Paradise provided Christmas to nearly 340 local children last year, and all funds raised go to making Christmas happen for local Keys families.

The Turtle Hospital always features some amazing sealife at its booth. Often, they’ll bring one of their “patients” out to greet festival-goers. It’s all part of educating people about the hospital’s mission as well as letting people get up close and personal with a live sea turtle! Plus, you’ll find out all the reasons why you need to visit the Turtle Hospital.

Crane Point Hammock always has a lot going on — and they’ll tell you all about it at their booth. Discover why you should visit the large parcel of native Florida Key hammock, walk the trails, see native tropical plants and trees, spend some quiet time on the Gulf shore, visit the Wild Bird Center, and learn about our local ecosystems. It’s family-friendly, educational, and you can find out all about it at their booth!

The Pigeon Key Foundation is dedicated to preserving local Keys history as well as providing educational experiences found nowhere else. If you’ve not been out to Pigeon Key, stop by their booth and find out just why you should visit that tiny little island on the Old Seven Mile Bridge.

Combine these and other worthy nonprofits along with another 150-plus vendors, and you can’t help but be amazed at everything they have to offer. Add in the great live music and the phenomenal seafood, and you’ll understand why people plan their trips to the Keys all year around the Seafood Festival.

Many other communities now have seafood festivals, but Marathon was the first. Forty-four years ago, our local commercial fishermen decided to get together and throw a party to celebrate the end of a successful season, and the Original Marathon Seafood Festival was born.

Through the combined efforts of the Organized Fishermen of Florida (Marathon Chapter) and the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce, the festival has grown to become one of the largest events in the Florida Keys (only Fantasy Fest is larger). That fishermen’s party has really come of age, and you certainly don’t want to miss it!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t invite you to my musical performance on Festival Sunday with the talented Adrienne Z. She is an amazing singer/songwriter, and I love singing harmony with her. We’ll feature each other’s original songs as well as some songs you’ll know and love, and we’ll crank it up Sunday at 11 a.m. There’s a whole lot of great music both days of the Festival, so stop by and enjoy some of the best music you’ll hear all year.

The Original Marathon Seafood Festival is open this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. See you there!

John Bartus plays Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Fridays at the Lighthouse Grill, Saturdays at the Key Colony Inn, this Sunday at the Marathon Seafood Festival and Monday at the Sunset Grille. www.facebook.com/john.bartus

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