They couldn’t have asked for better weather, and a motlier crew of swashbucklers and wearers of marine detritus to bring it alive.
The 23rd annual Carrabelle Riverfront Festival last weekend was about the smoothest in memory, with both sides of Marine Street lined with vendors of everything from fresh-baked goods to hand-crafted primitive knives, a kids area to teach the art and fun of being a “Pirate of the Carrabellian,” and strolling bands of “flash mob” actor-buccaneers to bring out the excitement of living street theatre.
Steve Allen, one of the chief organizers of the festival, which this year was under the auspices of Carrabelle Cares, was cheerful as he worked to oversee an energetic group of volunteers who helped make the event another relaxing success for visitors.
Once again, highlighting the festival, free to all from Friday evening through late Saturday afternoon, was the festival’s Fishy Fashion Show at the Carrabelle Wharf pavilion, featuring the newest in coastal couture made from discarded trash and other detritus that besmirches the shoreline of the Carrabelle River.
Show originator Joan Matey again provided a scintillating narration of not only the intricate fashion designs, made from everything from old nets to seashells, but also the many rules of how to treat nature’s beauty without marring it with trash. Her fellow show producer, Jan Neshat of Crawfordville, served as the last of the dozen models, appearing as Petula R. Pompano while piano accompanist Jack Zurawka played “Somewhere, Beyond the Sea.”
The show opened with Eleanor Lee as Calamity Jane, followed by Tom Jacobs as Maritime Marshal. Representatives from city government were abundant in their vivid outfits, beginning with Miranda Litton as the Sea Vamp, followed by Renee Brannan as Cabana Gal. City Administrator Courtney Millender, and her daughter, Regan, teamed up as Flowers of the Sea, followed by City Clerk Keisha Messer, and daughter Kaylie, as the Estuary Fairies.
Diane Jacobs was menacing as the Red Tide She-Devil, while Jim Smith was looking kindly and down and out as Friar Fish. Lou Christie was the Beach Bandito, while Heidi Zurawka was the Duchess of Dog Island. Jim Smucker looked feisty and destitute as the Harbor Hobo.
Music abounded at the festival, beginning Friday night prime time with “Southern Satisfaction,” a Tallahassee based five-member band.
On Saturday, the bluegrass band Tinhorn, featuring Dave Leporati on mandolin, Dennis Dunn on guitar, Erica Shepard on bass and Deb Berlinger on drums, brought the stage alive. Following the fashion show, and the Procession of the Species that preceded it, the wharf stage featured three “Nashville Writers in the Round,” brought to town by Carrabelle resident Karen Brooks. Woody Mullis, Steve Williams and Mike Geiger showed the songwriting talents that have enabled them to write for some of Nashville’s greatest country stars.
Frank Lindamood’s banjo playing and work on steel guitar helped set the mood at the pavilion on Carr’s Hill in the middle of the festival promenade, which also showcased the city’s museum, wooden boatbuilding and early history.
The national historic landmark “Governor’s Stone,” a 65 foot two masts schooner built in 1877, returned to the Carrabelle River for the festival, with an energetic Jeff Ilardi strolling the poop deck as the resplendent Pirate King. His wife Caroline Ilardi helped oversee the children’s pirate play area, where kids could do everything from mock sword fighting to face painting.