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Taste of the Beach makes a splash

Fort Myers Beach festival at Salty Sam's Marina celebrates 25th anniversary with food, competition, song and dance

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | May 6, 2021
Drucilla Neeley of Fort Myers Beach and David Fitz of Fort Myers dance to the Collaboration Band's rendition of the Lionel Richie hit “All Night Long.” / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Robin Kennedy and Matt Kennedy served shaved ices at the Taste of the Beach festival.
Sunset Beach Tropical Grill server Amber Ninaquiste greets Jaqueline Espinal of Tampa.
Robin Bush, Kelly Smith and Sharron Harlan represented the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation at the Taste of the Beach festival Sunday on San Carlos Island. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Beverly Colan,Teri Graham and Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak enjoy the Taste of the Beach festival Sunday at Salty Sam's Marina on Main Street in Fort Myers Beach. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
The smoked wings from The Whale were a hit at the Taste of the Beach festival at Salty Sam's Marina. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak (center) gets a helping hand at the chamber booth from Sandy Foreman (left) and Lori Frank (right) at the Taste of the Beach festival.
Jill Overa passes through a gauntlet of water guns as she completes the server contest in a winning time. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Parrot Key Caribbean Grill servers Jill Lovera and Luke Bierce won the Taste of the Beach server team contest. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
The Parrot Key Caribbean Grill was well represented at the Taste of the Beach festival on their home turf of Salty Sam's Marina Sunday. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Vanessa Ortiz of Cape Coral serves cookie crumble to Ciara Wilson of Naples. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Kandice Salvador, general manager of Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille, The Whale and Dixie Fish Co., had all three Fort Myers Beach establishments represented at the Taste of the Beach festival, along with the assistance of catering manager Joe Sletten (left). / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Fort Myers Beach Art Association Publicity Director Pam Flaherty (center) with daughter Katharine (left) and son-in-law Ji Ung Yang
Parrot Key Caribbean Grill servers Jill Lovera and Luke Bierce recover after being splashed with water while winning the Taste of the Beach server contest. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
The Collaboration Band plays at the Taste of the Beach festival Sunday at Salty Sam's Marina. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Drucilla Neeley of Fort Myers Beach and David Fitz of Fort Myers dance to the Collaboration Band's rendition of the Lionel Richie hit “All Night Long.” / Photo by Nathan Mayberg

High season over? Pandemic? Those were no obstacles to a successful Taste of the Beach festival at Salty Sam’s Marina this past weekend.

More than 1,000 people attended the 25th annual event organized by the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce Sunday, chamber president Jacki Liszak said. The festival was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fittingly, the server contest was won by the team of Jill Lovera and Luke Bierce from the Parrot Key Caribbean Grill – the restaurant which is the flagship for Salty Sam’s Marina. They completed the fastest racing time while carrying a tray with water and getting sprayed with water guns and silly string.

Liszak said the attendance was “a little lighter than past years but we’re still coming out of covid and we moved it. I was thrilled.”

There were 15 restaurants and a number of vendors represented. The music was top-notch, from the Collaboration Band to the caribbean flavor of Sounds of Steel.

Among the treats offered were the smoked wings of The Whale, the Dixie Fish Co. shrimp burger and key lime pie, shrimp ceviche and carrot cake from Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, crab cake from the Parrot Key Caribbean Grill and shaved ice from the Robin Kennedy.

By the time the Collaboration Band hit the stage, the crowd was ready to dance, hitting the pavement of the Salty Sam’s Marina parking lot to familiar hits from the 1970’s and 1980’s from The Doobie Brothers to Lionel Richie.

The sounds of Lionel Richie’s hit “All Night Long” were so moving that Drucilla Neeley of Fort Myers Beach and David Fitz of Fort Myers danced liked they had been together a lifetime. Turns out, said Neeley, they just met at Taste of the Beach.