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Economy, weather don’t hinder MangoMania

By Staff | Jul 12, 2009

If you love mangos, then Cape Coral was the place to be last weekend.
The delicious tropical fruit was at the heart of the 13th annual MangoMania festival, which celebrates all things Pine Island, and of course, all things mango.
Held at the German Ameri-can Social Club, MangoMania is the brainchild of the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, which uses the wildly popular event as a fund-raiser for the organization.
Chamber president Lisa Benton said attendance numbers looked positive Saturday afternoon, despite the economy and the threat of thunderstorms.
“There’s not quite as many people as last year but it has been steady,” she said. “And the weather has been great.”
Last year the festival raised roughly $30,000 for the chamber of commerce, according to Benton, which uses the funds to operate the welcome center year round.
Benton added that unlike other, more beach friendly locations throughout Lee county that attract tourists, Pine Island caters to the arts and outdoors lovers in us all.
“They don’t come for the beach because we don’t have one. We like to say our beach is an entire island, which is Cayo Costa,” Benton said. “But they do come for the arts, and the fishing, and someplace that’s laid back.”
Yet, with all the fishing and arts, the festival’s biggest star was the mango, which was available in many ways. Whether it was in a salsa, a chutney, a margarita, or in chunks at the tasting table, the mango took center stage.
Bill Stoekler from the Pine Island chamber was charged with helping out at the tasting table and tent.
He said that all mangos at the tent were grown on Pine Island, which were donated by growing operations both big and small. He added that 120 different kinds of mangos are grown on Pine Island.
“Primarily palm trees are grown on Pine Island, but we wouldn’t get people involved if we used the tree instead of the mango,” Stoekler said. “People want to eat at festival. Here people want to eat mangos.”
Vendors at the event were, for the most part, having a successful go at selling their wares.
St. James City-based Paradise Gardens, which sells preserves and jams, had no shortage of people at their booth.
“We anticipated a decrease is sales but it hasn’t happened,” said Jim Welch of Paradise Gardens. “We’re actually a bit up since last year.”
While the mango was the star of the annual festival, all tropical fruits grown locally were highlighted at the event.