■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
The Gasparilla Island Kids Classic Tarpon Tournament that will be held on Saturday, June 1 this year is filling up fast, and Camp Margaritaville is in the final stages of planning.
The tournament weekend begins on Friday, May 31, when everyone is invited to come to the Boca Grande Community Center and attend a tarpon symposium including the history of tarpon fishing in Boca Grande. Dr. Aaron Adams of Mote Marine will also be presnting information on the science of tarpon. That takes place at 6 p.m.
At 7 p.m. an event kickoff reception with entertainment will take place at the Boca Grande Community Center. Everyone is invited, and the Boca Grande Historical Society will be open at that time (located on the same grounds as the Community Center).
Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served at the reception, hosted by The Lighthouse Grill and Stump Pass Marina.
This year, a new amenity will be added that will make things a lot easier for many: a park-and-ride option.
On the day of the tournament, you can call Christine at (941) 979-7872. She will pick you up from your car anywhere in the downtown area and take you to where you need to go.
The service will be available on the day of the tournament from 2 to 9 p.m., so make sure you keep that number handy.
Camp Margaritaville will open from noon to 3 p.m. that day, and it is open to all kids and parents who want to enjoy some complimentary food and drinks, games, exhibits, a family interactive art show and more. Kids, you do not have to be fishing in the tournament to enjoy Camp Margaritaville, which will be held on the grounds of the Boca Grande Community Center.
Boat check-in begins at 3:30 p.m. Kids, parents and observers should find out beforehand during tournament registration (noon to 2 p.m. at the Community Center pavilion) where they will meet their boats.
Boats will congregate in the Pass in front of the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse at around 4:30 p.m., and spectators are encouraged to come down on the beach and listen to a conservation presentation from Dr. Aaron Adams of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, the blessing of the event, the presentation of the colors honoring active troops and veterans (led by the Lemon Bay High School ROTC) and the singing of the national anthem.
At 4:40 p.m. a flyover by the Charlotte County Warbirds is scheduled as well.
Tournament fishing begins at 5 p.m. and will conclude at 8 p.m. Awards will be presented at the Boca Grande Community Center at 8:30 p.m., and food and drink will be available for those who participated in the tournament.
Most local captains are already booked, and the four-person teams are currently filled. If you can find a captain, can sponsor a boat (a $1,000 charitable donation is the entry fee) and have four anglers ages 15 or under, there’s still time to get in. Call Melina at 964-0907.
This year’s tournament will take the tournament donation total to more than $250,000 since it began nine years ago.