It’s time once again for the annual celebration of fish, crustaceans, and bivalves: The 34th Annual ORIGINAL Marathon Seafood Festival! WOO HOO!!!

ORIGINAL was highlighted so that there would be no misunderstanding of how this festival came to be, and so that the recent upstart “seafood festivals” won’t be confused with the biggest and the best (imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery). You see, Marathon fishermen got the idea to have this festival way back in the 1970s, and as the USA celebrated its Bicentennial, our local fishermen celebrated the fruits of their labor with lobster, stone crab, fish, music, and a lot of fun.

Since then, things have certainly changed. Fishermen are now more of an endangered species than their catch, venues for the festival have changed as Marathon changed with the times, and that little local Original Seafood Festival has become the second largest event held in the Keys, second only to Fantasy Fest.

That bears repeating: the only event in the Keys larger than our Original Marathon Seafood Festival is Fantasy Fest. The main reason for that is the group of volunteers who come out to organize and work the festival, year after year. Tommy Coppedge and Bennett Orr from the Organized Fishermen of Florida have been a part the festival from day one. They remember things that some people would rather forget (did anyone say mud wrestling?). And they, along with our local fishermen, have put their blood, sweat, and tears into making this event possible at all, much less the success it has become.

The OFF partners with the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce every year to stage the festival. It’s a great example of how much good can come from getting a diverse group of people together to work on the common goal of making each year’s festival better than the last. As with any group or organization, certain people can be counted on year after year to do what they do to make this festival the greatest. People like Randy Mearns, Buddy Mellette, Tommy & Bennett, Glenn Faast, Leah and Arlette from the Chamber staff, Mike Puto, Barb Hewlett, Stacie Kidwell, Trish Baker, Paul Lebo, and more all start the process of organizing this festival many months in advance. Please accept my humble apologies for unintentionally leaving out some names, and my continued awe and amazement at how this festival comes together every year because of its organizers and volunteers.

Our festival sponsors provide essential contributions of funds and services without which the festival wouldn’t happen. These are our local businesses that always find ways to give back to our community, and the festival is usually just one of the great local causes they support. They make it possible for us to stage the festival, spread the word, and defray costs of putting the festival on. Far too numerous to mention here, check out the 2010 Seafood Festival Poster for a rundown of the businesses that support this community event. For those who don’t know, proceeds from the Seafood Festival go to scholarships and other worthwhile local non-profits.

As you’re reading this, there are myriad volunteers working right now at the Community Park on Marathon’s Seafood Festival (if you’re reading this after March 15, 2010, this sentence may not be true – but, hey, it’s a newspaper). A great time is waiting to be had.

So go and have one! Enjoy a fresh lobster, stone crab claw, or fish caught right here in our local waters by our local fishermen. Have a beer (or soda or water). Enjoy the great lineup of live music. Check out our field of over 200 vendors. Let the kids go wild on the climbing wall or the bounce house. And celebrate our seafood, our fishermen, our community at the 34th Annual ORIGINAL Marathon Seafood Festival, happening right now at a Marathon Community Park near you (at Mile Marker 49).


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