More than 20,000 revelers are expected to savor the Original Marathon Seafood Festival, a signature Middle Keys foodie fair set for Saturday and Sunday, March 14-15, at Marathon Community Park, mile marker 49 oceanside.
Seafood lovers are to line up for generous plates during the “fisherman to fork” feast as local chefs showcase their talents, preparing the foods according to Keys-based recipes. Attendees can enjoy indigenous offerings like mahi-mahi (dorado), Key West pink shrimp, spiny lobster, stone crab claws and crackers piled high with creamy smoked fish dip, a Florida Keys favorite.
In addition, conch can be sampled four ways: as ceviche, chowder, crammed into a fritter and fried to golden perfection or as a bun-hugging “konkwurst” sausage.
Decades of experience and help from scores of Keys fishing families committed to serving the community keep local fishermen and their wives involved each year, alongside dozens of volunteers.
In 2014, more than 12,400 pounds of fresh seafood were consumed during the weekend munch-a-thon, according to organizers. Local fisheries and markets catch, clean and cook the whopping seafood feast that also involves preparing bushels of oysters and bags of clams from the west coast of Florida.
Landlubbers can find burgers, hot dogs and sausages and all the trimmings like baked beans, coleslaw, hush puppies and French fries.
Festival-goers are advised to save room for the sweets booth spotlighting locally made Key lime pies, baked goods and cakes, cool smoothies and icy treats.
The springtime weekend celebrates the area’s commercial fishing heritage and serves as a substantial fundraiser for local scholarship programs. Nearly $80,000 has been awarded to Marathon High School students through the Marathon chapter of the Organized Fishermen of Florida, a statewide group that represents the interests and well-being of the commercial fishing industries.
Live music performances are slated all weekend from popular Keys entertainers. South Florida’s country music favorite Amber Leigh is scheduled to perform Sunday.
Other attractions at the family-friendly event include a Keys artists’ village and art show, prizes and a raffle giveaway including a fully stocked cooler of fresh Keys seafood awarded to a lucky attendee. Children's games and more than 200 booths are to dot the park with a variety of wares, nautical items, tropical apparel and accessories, plants, flowers, boats, water sports opportunities and information from Keys organizations.
Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 per adult. Children age 9 and under accompanied by a paying adult are admitted free.
Co-sponsored by the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce, the festival is a tastebud-tempting way to spend a weekend with the family in tow (be sure to bring a bib).
Event information: www.marathonseafoodfestival.com