World-class art meets world-class fishing at invitational festival

■ STAFF REPORT

The 2017 Boca Grande Tarpon Festival is almost here, and excitement is brewing as the island prepares for this annual event.

This Tarpon Festival will be held on Friday and Saturday, May 26 – 27 in beautiful downtown Boca Grande.

The Memorial weekend event centers around the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, held on Thursday and Friday, May 25 and 26, and the Boca Grande Invitational Art Festival, which will be held on Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The action starts on Thursday with the 35th annual World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament attracting anglers from all over the world, who will travel to Southwest Florida to compete for thousands of dollars and the chance to catch the giant Silver King, the greatest prize in the game fishing community!

This island tradition combines sport fishing with education and conservation of a very important Florida fishery. Safe boating, responsible angling and sportsmanship are promoted in the tournament to ensure not only a successful event but also the protection and proper stewardship of the natural area resources.

World-class art is a major component of tarpon week in Boca Grande. The annual Boca Grande Invitational Art Festival was the brainchild of local artist Carroll Swayze, who chairs the event every year. Artists from all over the country vie for a spot in this small, quality art festival at which more than 50 professional painters, sculptors and craftsmen display their work.

“I spend all year looking for new and amazing artists to bring to the island for the show”, said Swayze. “I have invited a collection of what I would call world-class marine, nature and wildlife artists whose artwork is a good fit for the community and the tournament. I look for high quality and variety, so that the show is not only beautiful but has something for everyone, not just the anglers. Original art is very important to me, and I am proud to put together an exhibit that rivals any art festival in the country.

“This year is especially exciting for me, because not only do I have two professional charter captains in the show, but the art festival has become a family affair. Captain Dustin Cole from Cortez will be exhibiting his large marine sculptures of tarpon, redfish and sailfish. My eldest son, Captain Shannon Hoeckel, a native saltwaterman and a member of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association, is not only leading a team of anglers in the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament but is also showing his incredible photography at the 2017 show. Being a professional fishing guide for over 15 years has given him a glimpse into the marine world that most of us never get a chance to see, and I’m thrilled that he has decided to share his vision with us through his photographs.”

The list of artists is impressive. Fifty of the nation’s top award- winning wildlife artists will be featured in this world-class art event, and every medium will be represented. The festival is a premier art-collecting opportunity for local homeowners and visitors as well as being a great way to spend a day relaxing and enjoying art and fishing in a casual island setting.

The Tarpon Festival will feature, along with the Art Festival, live music during the day and into the evening. Local food booths will be providing delicious food, and a beer and wine cafe will be set up near the stage for thirsty festival goers.

The awards ceremony for the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament will be on Friday evening at 7 p.m., and then the street party begins with The Boca Band on the stage.

The Art Festival continues on Saturday morning from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

For more information about the Boca Grande Invitational Art Festival call Carroll Swayze at (941) 266-6434.