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Inaugural Shark Fest to invade Fort Myers Beach

By Staff | May 19, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

The Bay Walk Group at Times Square in Fort Myers Beach is hosting the first annual Shark Fest – a combination boat show, street fair and shark contest centered around their businesses during the weekend of June 6-7.

During the weekend, Old San Carlos Boulevard will be closed from 3rd Street to the waterfront to make room for new and used boats that will be on display during the fest; more than 70 vendors of nautical, educational and shark merchandise; live bands; and a bounce house for the kids.

The Bay Walk Group – including Snug Harbor Waterside Restaurant; The Matanzas Inn and Waterfront Resturant; The Smokin Oyster Brewery; The Yucatan Beach Bar & Grill; The Ship Wreck Motel and Treasures; and Surf Pie – is expecting a fun-filled weekend.

“All of Baywalk will at their best for this event,” said Snug Harbor owner Mickey Ferry. “People can come down, there’s no admission fee and they can walk around and see what Bay Walk has to offer. A big part of it is that over 15,000 square feet of my parking lot will be dedicated to a boat show and there will be over 70 vendors on the street which we permitted to have closed. That’s why Shark Fest 2009 has morphed into more than just a fishing tournament.”

Headlining the event is the third annual “Are You Man Enough Shark Challenge,” a fishing event where teams of anglers from around the country compete to grab the prize for the biggest catch.

Teams will start at 8 p.m. Saturday (after the captain’s meeting) and fish overnight under the full moon for eight hours.

“We are not only following the federal and state rules, but we have our own set of rules and it’s very monitored,” said Ferry. “I feel good about the fact that’s it’s all carefully guided through the process.”

Event promoter Jack Donlon said a 50-foot crane will be weighing the shark while a 12-foot Shark-Tron digital screen will be flashing the catch and release photos underneath the gazebo near Snug Harbor. Cash prizes will be awarded to the first three finishers.

This year, shark will be tagged and put in the Shark Locker – a specially designed fully iced floating locked box – and will not be seen until the actual weighing at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“This year, to build the suspense, we’re going to have the shark put in a locker and put on ice,” said Donlon. “At 1 p.m., we’ll open the box and weigh the sharks and do it on center stage at Shark Fest.”

Accoring to the promoter, the weighed sharks will be donated to the Fort Myers Chapter of the Salvation Army Homeless Center after being professionally filleted, packaged and delivered. He issued a eco-statement regarding laws on harvesting shark.

“In the past two years, we have had 300-plus anglers go out, and we’ve only actually allowed seven shark to be brought back to the dock,” said Donlon. “We have a very restrictive set of rules that stop people from bringing them back randomly. We rely on conservation and preservation of the shark.”

Entry forms can be obtained by visiting any of the host locations or online at www.areyoumanenoughsharkchallenge.com. Radio personalities from 770 ESPN Sports talk radio, K-Rock and 99X will be broadcasting live on both days and will help with the presentation of the awards.

“On Saturday, around noon, we going to have a free kid’s clinic,” said Donlon. “It’s actually a little show for the kids by the ‘Shark Brothers’ – local guys who did a biography on the character that Jaws was based on. They actually hold the record for largest shark ever caught and will have some memorabilia from the show.”

“Directly after that, there will be a kid’s derby where we’re going to let the kids fish off the (dock) at the end of the street,” he added. “We’ll give out a whole bunch of trophies and hopefully everybody’s a winner.”

There also will be a Captain Jack Sparrow look-alike – local impersonator Jack Morgan – from the Disney movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” roaming around the BayWalk area, according to Donlon.

“It is a family event,” said Donlon. “The wiggle hook though the whole thing is that the ‘Are You Man Enough Shark Challenge,’ being in its third year, has transformed to being a family-fun event and tongue-in-cheek with plenty of women and lots of kids. It’s lots of fun for everyone.”

Ferry is excited to utilize the under-used fountain area by his restaurant.

“BayWalk is looking forward to hosting more events to get the community going,” said Ferry. “Every time we bring people over that bridge to the beach, it’s a good thing.”