The Carrabelle Riverfront Festival went off without a hitch on Saturday, great weather, well-run, full of parents strolling with the kids along Marine Street, aligned with food, face painting, Bible giveaways and other street fair vendors.
The small crowd that attended was typical, a steady meandering from morning until mid-afternoon until the visitors evaporated into the perfect spring air.
“It was good attendance, not great,” said organizer Steve Allen. “I can only do what I can do.”
The festival, with Tourist Development Council monies and a healthy assortment of vendors from around the region, has a lot to work with. The schedule opened Saturday morning with the Mystic Krewe of Salty Barkers Apalachicola's Mardi Gras Krewe, who sent all the registration fees and donations to the Franklin County Humane Society.
Judges at the pet show were looking for all kinds of talent and just plain cuteness but even they weren't quite prepared for their largest entrant. Fourteen dogs and, Sweetie, a 22-year old Shetland pony registered for the show.
Sweetie and her rider, Molly, wearing their tricorne hats and braids, won a blue ribbon for Best Pirate Crew. Emcee Jeff Ilardi had the honor of introducing each pet and judges, Paula Harmon and Ralph Schiefferle, had an easy time awarding each pet a blue ribbon for their own unique qualities.
Jo Ellen Pearman's lab, Ray, won the prize for Best Adoption Story, and Blue, a big gentle pit bull, won first place for Best Smile. Two adoptable dogs from the humane society were entered in the pet show and had a chance to show off. Trooper, a walker-beagle mix, and KeeKee, a small terrier-mix, both found new homes where their blue ribbons will be proudly displayed.
The morning’s activities quietly rolled into music at noon on the main stage, of Big Daddy and the Red Hot Java, a popular jazz outfit that would play that night for a ticket price at Rio Carrabelle.
Once again the highlight came with the annual Fishy Fashion Show, a mainstay of mirth and retention pond of silliness. The project’s scriptwriter (it’s a magnificent assortment of groan-producing puns and irreverent references), director, costume designer and emcee, Joan Matey, and her cast of characters put on one of their best comic years.
About halfway through, after characters such as The Sea Vamp (Lydia Countryman) had strutted in a beguiling outfit complete with a sexy sea green sheath, cut from a turtle excluder device, Matey dashed into the audience to greet Lawrence Whelk (a shell with the bandleader’s picture on it), and placed him (it) on a pedestal on stage alongside guitarist Susan David, who sang as bubbles swirled around her. David and Matey each wore skirts made from discarded beach umbrellas.
“The circle of fabric is usually still in good shape even though the umbrella mechanism in bent beyond repair,” Matey said.
As costume designer, Matey, with a little help from friends steadfast in their tomfoolery, makes all the outfits, the most elaborate example this year being the sea-blue stunner wore by Marine Antoinnette (Diane Jacobs).
The regal madam, with her court attire perruque wig made from local barrel sponges, sported a delicate corkscrew curl coiffure created from strands of whelk egg cases that she found on Dog Island where her ship Le Tigre wrecked in the East Pass. (This is the subject of a show at Chapman Auditorium slated for Memorial Day weekend. Stay tuned!)
Jacobs’ husband Tom played the Legionnaire de Mer, decked out in a commanding jacket sewn from a discarded, shredded sail -found under a dock. His fine acting performance was matched by that of Tim Smucker - as “the Good Fryer, Brother Barnacle” who paraded around presenting “his trusty fry pan that has multiple purposes, cooking, catching bait and collecting donations to support his vow of poverty.”
Hannah Westbrook, as the Cabana Gal, stepped in on a moment’s notice, adding a young smile to the ranks of Lesley Cox as the Estuary Fairy, Kathleen Oman as Clamity Jane, Linda Bove as The Crabbin' Belle, Steve Allen as the Beach Banditto and Rodney Reeves as Shoreline Sheriff, who aboard his trusty seahorse, successfully fended off Cebe Tate of Tate's Hell (Serge LaTour).
A new edition to the festival this year was a car show, overseen by the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce and the Forgotten Coast Cruisers car club. The show did well for its first year, about 40 cars, and was won by Erwin Gendrau, of Tallahassee, who brought down a 1930 sports coupe.
Other cited as among the best were Joe Pecjak, from Navarre (’35 Hudson), Mike and Lynn Helton, from Tallahassee (’65 Mustang), Millard Collins, from Crawfordville (’40 Ford coupe), Mike Marshall, from Carrabelle (’72 Chevy Nova), Jamie Casper from Monticello, (’67 Yenko Chevette), Randy and Deb Craft, from Sopchoppy (’65 Chevy C10 truck), Thomas Subbarao, from Eastpoint (’79 MGB Roadster), Craig Shearer, from Carrabelle (’56 hardtop), Roger and Pam Murphy, from Monticello (’73 Dodge Dart), and Broward Sapp, of Crawfordville (’69 Camaro SS).
Tallahassee’s David Rivers’ 1929 customized Hot Rod was judged Most Likely to Be Pulled Over, while Sponsors Choice went to Allan Whittaker, from Havana, (’87 Zephyr), Best Late Model to Stu Mauney, from Crawfordville (2006 Nissan 350Z), and Best Pain Job to Brad Will of Monticello (1937 Ford Coupe.)
The “Belle” of Carrabelle, the historic Moore House fully restored, drew visitors throughout the day, and was the site of a party thrown for the vendors. Allen said many of the vendors said the warm and friendly treatment stood in contrast to the welcome they get in several of the events they attend throughout the weekend.