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Weather doesn’t damper attendance at Gumbofest

January 31, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

On Sunday morning, when the gloomy skies set in over the Shell Factory, it appeared the 13th annual Gumbofest could be a wet one.

Owner Pam Cronin said she set her Cajun magic to work and did a sun dance to keep the storms away.

It turned out to be the voodoo they do well. Even though there were showers here and there, the downpours pretty much stayed away, resulting in the biggest Gumbofest to date.

Article Photos

The seafood gumbo served by Capt’n Fishbones at the 13th annual Gumbofest at the Shell Factory on Sunday.


Gates opened at 11 a.m. and by 11:30 the middle parking lot was jam packed and lines for Gumbo stretched halfway across the lot. Even the parking lot where the bowling alley used to be couldn't hold all the cars.

"It's probably one of the largest early crowds we've ever had and it's hung in there. It should be our biggest ever," Cronin said. "The rain gods told us we were going to have to cancel the event, so we did a sun dance first thing this morning and it seems to have worked."

Capt'n Fishbones prepared two versions of gumbo, shrimp and chicken and sausage, and several other eateries which set up shop did the same thing, including the Lobster Lady, which had a long line for its shrimp macaroni & cheese before it sold out.

Meanwhile, Jambaliars, a fictitious Cajun eatery manned by the county's most charitable donors that works to raise money for the Nature Park Foundation, was making jambalaya and serving voodoo punch and jello shots.

"It takes a lot to keep them up. They have a lot of exotic animals many people don't know are there. It's a way to bring awareness to it and fund it. It costs a lot of money to keep it up," said Jacque Weir, a Jambaliars volunteer and Nature Park supporter.

Every year brings great entertainment, and once again the Porch Dogs provided great zydeco music for the packed house, resulting in one of the biggest audiences they play for all year. That's a far cry from the event's beginning in 2006.

"We started with a sound system on a small stage and it grew into this," said Greg Taillon of the Porchdogs. "It was mostly a few hundred retirees checking it out. Now there's a couple thousand."

The Calendar Girls performed in between the musical acts, performing to benefit the Southeastern Guide Dogs School for Paws for Patriots, their charity of choice.

"We're hotter than the gumbo," said Katherine Shortridge.

Chubby Carrier headlined, having done the same years ago when the show was in its infancy.

"I'm back now. You never, ever forget where you come from and this is where I was in 2000 and now I'm back," Carrier said. "I love the gumbo here at the Shell Factory."

That was the star of the show, and no matter who served it, it usually got high marks.

"I loved the seafood gumbo and the seafood mac & cheese. I was told it was to die for and that was correct," said Doug Dailey as he manned the tent for the North Fort Myers Civic Association. "Every year this event keeps getting better."

Bradley Dusick, of Cape Coral, was a Gumbofest first-timer and thought the shrimp gumbo was out of this world.

"It's got a great mixture of green onion and maybe some tomatoes and is mixed in with crawfish. It's phenomenal," Dusick said. "It has a little heat, but it's pretty mild and I can handle it."

Tim Eckert, of Cape Coral, has been to this event numerous times, and went to the Lobster Lady for his shrimp and sausage gumbo.

"It had just enough heat. Looking at all the people, it's quite an event. The rain may have held some people back, but it looks like the biggest I've been to," Eckert said. "Also, good green fried tomatoes."



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