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Gumbofest offer dish aplenty; attracts record crowd

By Staff | Jan 27, 2015

Certainly there was no way the 13th annual Gumbofest would run out of gumbo again.

With seven different vendors selling the Cajun favorite, there was plenty for everyone, even if there were long lines.

The great news is they didn’t (though they came close). Even better, thanks to the spectacular weather, a record number of people came to eat, drink, listen to music and enjoy the attractions at the Shell Factory.

This resulted in oodles of money being raised for the Shell Factory’s Nature Park Foundation, which pays for buses for field trips for Lee County school children to the Nature Park, as well as its upkeep.

Tom Cronin, Shell Factory owner, said the event was going way ahead of last year and hoping to raise at least $10,000 for the foundation, though some said those estimates were very conservative.

“We’re well stocked with food now. Last year they overwhelmed us, but this year we’re all right. We have a lot more vendors selling food,” Cronin said. “We had 4,000 come last year and this year we expected 5,000.”

This year, the Shell Factory and Cap’n Fishbone’s came up with three different gumbos; chicken andouille, seafood, and an all-new gator andouille, which hopefully kept them going until close.

“I’m a southern girl and I wanted something different this year, so I ran with the gator. The crew has done such a great job,” said Cindy Tart, chef for this year’s event. “Business is off the wall. We hope to sell out around 5:30 or 6 p.m.”

Britt Monroe, of North Fort Myers, sampled gumbo from the Lobster Lady and the gator gumbo and gave it her seal of approval, though her children found the gumbo too spicy and went to the caramel apples and kettle corn to cleanse the palate.

“I liked them both. I especially liked the gator gumbo because it was a little milder,” Monroe said. “Now, I’m going to have a gummy bear caramel apple because I love them.”

If gumbo wasn’t your thing, they also had jambalaya, fish tacos, lobster rolls and other more traditional fare.

Among the more untraditional came from the Jamba-liars tent, where Tom Cronin’s daughter, Martine, and her friends were selling Spam sliders and drawing a long line of followers.

John Finstrom said the tent is called Jamba-liars because it’s not an actual restaurant and the servers lie about having a restaurant.

“We expect to sell 5,000 of these, and it all goes to the foundation. We hope to raise around $4,000,” Finstrom said, adding he expected the entire event to raise up to $50,000.”

“They’re great. I haven’t had Spam in years. We have a lot of great volunteers who help us every year. They’re out friends and we appreciate them,” Martine said.

Once again, Sam Galloway Ford was the main sponsor of the event, and they brought along some new cars for people to gaze at and even buy.

“It’s a great event with great food. A lot of people turn out and it’s great for the community,” said Jeff Rexford, who does internet sales for Sam Galloway. “We sold a few cars here last year and with the weather, it’s going to be the best Gumbofest yet.”

The event featured two great bands, Shake, Rattle & Soul and the Wes Page Band, a Dock Dog qualifying event and free admission for children for the Nature Park with a paid adult admission.

But the star of the show was the gumbo, and everyone had rave reviews from everyone who sold the Creole concoction and other items as well.

“I’m going to take some gumbo home with me. The flavor and everything was terrific,” said just-retired Marion Wagner. “I may have the jambalaya, but I’m short one ticket.”

Just then, several people offered her a ticket so she could try the jambalaya, which changed Wagner’s mind about what she would take home.