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Record crowd turns out for 14th annual Gumbofest at Shell Factory

By Staff | Feb 2, 2016

People were having to park at the bowling alley, down the street, wherever there was parking as the 14th annual Gumbofest came to the Shell Factory on Sunday.

Suffice it to say, this one was the biggest to date, with as many as 7,000 people coming to enjoy the music, jambalaya and, of course, gumbo, on an overcast, but dry day.

By noon, there was nowhere else to park on the grounds. Shell Factory owner Pam Cronin was thrilled by the response after the wettest January ever.

“We had 400 people in the parking lot before 11 a.m. waiting for gumbo. It’s been an awesome day and it’s probably our best ever,” Cronin said. “It was so ugly this week, so I think part of it was cabin fever, and the publicity was great.”

There was other food as well, but the event was named after gumbo, and there was plenty to go around, with at least seven vendors offering the Cajun specialty.

Pam and Tom Cronin, as well as other volunteers, were canvassing the grounds, selling tickets to people to keep them from having to wait in line at the ticket booth.

On the stage, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers and the Porchdogs provided the music. The Porchdogs offered anyone in the crowd an opportunity to join them by playing the washboard, or as Mr. Crawfish did, play the squeeze box.

Barbara Albornoz played the washboard, which looked a little like a chest protector a catcher would wear. She kept a good beat as her friend’s 2-year-old son danced to the music.

“I was curious about it. They told me to get a couple quarters out and play,” Albornoz said. “I told them I didn’t know how to play and they said they didn’t either.”

Andy Burr, one of the Porchdogs, said he was happy to be back at Gumbofest after several years’ absence.

“This is great. The crowd is amazingly large and there are nice people out today,” Burr said. “I guess they got sick of us, but they called us back this year.”

More than 40 vendors were on hand, selling everything from food to insurance to tile roofing. That included Bob Lee, who owns Man Cave Mafia, which sells its merchandise at big events and farmers markets all over Southwest Florida.

“We’ve been vendors here for 12 years. The people are awesome. You couldn’t get better weather, or better people,” Lee said. “We get the word out. It’s a one-of-a-kind company.”

Rhonda Kaufman of Cape Coral was enjoying the event, with more people there than she expected.

“It’s very festive and a lot of fun,” Kaufman said as she tried the seafood gumbo. “I love it. I’m not an expert, but I like it. I may get some more later.”

Dede Rucker, of North Fort Myers, was there with her grandbaby. She said she loved the chicken gumbo from Capt n’ Fishbones as well as the event.

“They do this every year and its gets better and better. There are more people here, that’s for sure,” Rucker said. “The baby wants to dance.”