■ STAFF REPORT
Tarpon season is here, the great fish are biting, and excitement is building in Boca Grande Pass for the 36th annual World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, a long-standing island tradition.
Preparations have begun for the 2018 Tarpon Festival, which is held each year in beautiful downtown Boca Grande to celebrate the return of the fish to Boca Grande Pass and the beginning of tarpon season.
This year’s festival will take place on Friday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturday, May 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The island is preparing for the biggest street party of the year.
The annual Tarpon Festival is the island’s one and only street festival of the year and is one of the highlights of the 36th annual World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament. It culminates in a world-class art show, The Boca Grande Invitational Art Festival.
Carroll Swayze and Wesley Locke, director of the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce, work very hard together to produce this event each year.
The art festival is the brainchild of well-known local artist Carroll Swayze, and features the handmade fine art and crafts of 60 marine, nature and wildlife artists from across the country. Swayze travels far and wide to find just the right artists to exhibit each year, looking for high-quality original art with variety and themes that fit the pulse of the festival. The show is not only beautiful, it has something to offer everyone who comes.
“World-class art is a big part of tarpon week,” Swayze said. “We are in our seventh year of the show, and each year the crowd comes expecting to see amazing, unusual artwork … and I work hard to make that happen. I have a great group of fine artists and craftsmen this year, as well as many new fantastic artists. Every medium will be represented, from painting to sculpture to jewelry, all with a tropical island feel.
“One of my personal favorites is a very well-known photographer named Allan Teger, whose work in bodyscapes is beyond amazing. I have three new sculptors who are going to knock everyone’s socks off, and my marine painters – Steve Whitlock, Kelly Reark and Tom Krause – are bringing some of the best work I’ve ever seen anywhere.
“I am very proud of this show, and I know that the artwork rivals any art festival in the country.”
The Tarpon Festival is free and open to the public. There will be live music during the day and into the evening, local food booths providing delicious food and a beer-and-wine café set up near the stage for thirsty festival-goers.
The street party begins on Friday at noon with live music on the 3rd Street stage all day, followed by local favorite The Boca Bande from 6 to 10 p.m. The awards ceremony for the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament will be held on Friday evening, May 18, around 9 p.m., and the street party continues afterward with the Boca Bande on the stage.
The art festival and street party continue on Saturday, May 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with live music all day.
Everyone is welcome to join us in enjoying these days of art, fishing and fun in a beautiful setting.
For more information about the Boca Grande Invitational Art Festival, call Carroll Swayze at (941) 266-6434. For more information about the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, please visit the website at worldsrichesttarpon.com or contact Wesley Locke at the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce at 964-0568.