By CHUCK BALLARO
With every passing year, Gumbo Fest keeps getting bigger and better, and this one is projected to be the best one yet.
The Shell Factory & Nature Park will host its 17th annual Gumbo Fest this Sunday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The event will feature zydeco music and some of the best gumbos, from not only the host, but also from other vendors throughout the area.
Sponsored by Sam Galloway Ford, Gumbo Fest offers free admission, a variety of festival food, a $5,000 reverse raffle and live entertainment, once again by Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Swamp Band, as well as the Porch Dogs, which has also been an annual attraction.
Last year, despite the threat of rain, the event drew approximately 6,000 people. Pam Cronin, Shell Factory owner, said she expects similar attendance and will do whatever she can to make the event go off smoothly.
“It seems like every year we have that threat of rain, so we do the sun dance and it goes away,” Cronin said. “For 16 years we’ve been blessed with fabulous weather.”
The main attraction is that rich soup built around a base of a dark, rich roux, supplemented by celery, onion, peppers, spices and either meat or seafood.
Capt. Fishbones traditionally serves up two kinds of gumbo, and at least seven vendors (and possibly more) are expected to serve up gumbo in a variety of ways, as well as jambalaya, jello shots and fest standard hamburgers and hot dogs.
The Lobster Lady, Caballeros, Taste of the South and Jungle George are also expected to have gumbo available.
Also, the Jambaliars and the Girly Girls will provide the jello shots and organize the raffles.
Proceeds will benefit The Nature Park & Environmental Education Foundation, which funds the transportation for its field trip program with Lee County Schools and allows classes to visit the Nature Park and participate in environmental learning experiences.
Last year’s Gumbo Fest raised about $25,000.
This year’s reverse raffle is expected to raise $5,000 alone for the foundation, with tickets at $100 each for 100 tickets. Tickets include two adult admissions to the sponsor tent, where guests will enjoy food and beverages including water, soda, tea, coffee, beer, wine and spirits.
There also will be free admission for kids to the nature park with a paid adult or senior admission and a fun park package discounts in the store and more.
A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Nature Park & Environmental Education Foundation provides a permanent home, meals, and care for all animals.
With something to do for everyone, The Shell Factory & Nature Park’s other attractions will also be open including the Nature Park, Close Encounters, bumper boats, video arcade, mini golf and zip line.
The Shell Factory and Nature Park is at 2787 N Tamiami Trail, North Fort Myers.
To purchase raffle tickets, contact Sandy at 995-2141 extension 110 or online at www.shellfactory.com.