Festival has grown, but keeps tradition

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By The Staff

The taste of seafood, the sound of music and the sight of a large crowd puts the quiet fishing village of Cedar Key in a Hollywood spotlight every year. This past weekend, the 38th Annual Cedar Key Seafood Festival provided entertainment for thousands from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, according to Judy Johnson, the office manager at the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce. The Cedar Key Lions Club has organized the event every year since it began in 1969, according to Judy Duvall, the immediate, past president of the club.

"When the festival first started, City Park was just a flat, sandy spot that people came to eat seafood at," Duvall said. "The festival began because people wanted to promote local seafood, and it wasn't until the ?'80s when the craft booths were added along the streets near City Park."

Since then, the festival has grown into the largest event for Cedar Key, according to Michael Day, the current president of the Lions Club.

The Cedar Key Lioness Club organized the Arts and Crafts Fair, which outlined Second Street with 200 white tents, according to Linda Bennett, a jewelry vendor. The tents separated individual vendors selling pictures, wooden carvings, jewelry, quilts and airplanes made from soda cans. Vendors had to pay a small fee to the Lioness Club to rent a tent and sell their items, Bennett said. Food vendors sold clams, oysters, shrimp, smoked mullet, burgers, funnel cakes, shrimp fried rice, sweet tea and baked goods in the newly renovated City Park, according to Day.

"Seafood is the life of half the people who live in Cedar Key, and the other half work in the tourism industry. That is how the economy is split," Johnson said. "The festival is all about tourism and seafood, so it really helps our economy."

According to Duvall, local shops and restaurants donated gifts and gift certificates as prizes for participants who wore the best costumes to represent their Cedar Key heritage.

"The Cedar Key Aquaculture Association dressed up as native Indians and circled around a pile of clam shells on their float while playing a pipe," Duvall said. "The Salamon couple from the Piney Point Fish Camp drove a golf cart with natural palms and wore hula skirts."

The Seafood Festival is the largest fundraiser for non-profit organizations around Cedar Key, Day said. The Lions Club sold corn on the cob for $1 to help individuals with vision and hearing impairments.

"This year, the festival was marketed much better than in years before. I noticed that there were much more people," Day said. ?We sold 900 corns on the cob and several drinks on Saturday."

In addition, the club sponsored the parade and the musical entertainment, Day said.

The festival also offered a fundraising opportunity for students at Cedar Key School, said Anne Marie Smith, a parent supervisor. The fifth grade patrols from the school sold $1 water bottles to raise money for a trip to Washington D.C. next June.

The musical performances in City Park included Country Road and the Used Blues Band, according to Day. The individual singers that performed were Ivan Chubb, Emmett Carlisle and Anna White, who also helped organize the music event.

"This is the social event of the year," Day said. "Everyone in Cedar Key comes out, and visitors can see that we are a friendly community that really pulls together."