Planning for the Taste of Pine Island is under way with local restaurants signing up to participate in the two-day affair.
This year's event will be held Saturday, Jan. 26, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 27.
Waterfront Restaurant owner JD Hollway has participated in the Taste of Pine Island since its inception.
"It brings the community together and lets everyone taste everyone's food," he said of why he participates every year. "It is a very island festival where everyone comes together. There is a lot of camaraderie between the restaurants."
Although Hollway is not sure what exactly he will be preparing for the festival, he knows it will be something with seafood.
Olde Fish House Marina operating manager Lisa Dence said this will be the second year the restaurant has participated in Taste of Pine Island.
"I thought it was a great event last year," she said. "We had a lot of traffic coming through our booth."
Dence said they also had a lot of people stop at the seafood market and restaurant on their way off the island.
"It was very good promotion for our business," she said. "I hope more island restaurants participate."
This year, Dence said, they will serve smoked mullet, homemade smoked mullet dip, crab cakes and grouper fingers.
Jamie Barnhill of Barnhill's Seafood Spot, said this is the first year they will be participating in the event. She said they wanted to get involved because it seems like a great community event for Pine Island.
Although the menu has not been officially set, Barnhill said she is sure they will serve fried stone crab fingers, shrimp, conch fritters and key lime pie.
"We are looking forward to getting one-on-one feedback from the community," she said.
Barnhill said the Taste of Pine Island will give the community a good opportunity to taste the fresh local seafood if they have not had the chance to stop by the restaurant.
Red's Seafood House & Tavern will also participate in the Taste of Pine Island for the first time this year.
"We are very excited to be supporting the Kiwanis Club's annual fund-raiser," Red's manager Craig Lewis said. "Taste is not only a fun community event, but the monies raised do so much good for our local youth."
Red's will be serving its fried shrimp in at least four different flavors, fish and chips, barbeque ribs, key lime pie and cheese cake.
The event will also include the chowder cook-off on Jan. 26 and the chili cook-off on Jan. 27.
The first place winner of the chowder cook-off will receive $500, second place will receive $75 and third place will receive $50. In the chili cook-off contest, the first place winner will receive $200, second place $75 and third place $50.
To enter the contest each restaurant must provide the Kiwanis with 10 gallons of each. The Kiwanis will serve the chowder and chili.
Hollway said he is entering the chowder and chili cook-off this year, which he has done in years past.
Dence said they will also enter the chowder contest.
"Our sales were very good on the chowder last year," she said.
Barnhill will also enter the chowder cook-off.
"We are very proud of our seafood chowder," she said.
Taste of Pine Island chairman Pat Burman encourages restaurant owners that have not filled out an application to give her a call. She said she will drop off an application at the restaurant, so owners/managers can showcase their best dish during the event.
"We still have a few openings for the restaurants on Pine Island/Matlacha," Burman said. "I invite all restaurants on Pine Island and Matlacha to come out and showcase the best of what Pine Island has to offer."
She said the event is the largest two-day event held on Pine Island.
Another crowd pleasure for the Taste of Pine Island is the fish drop.
Fish Drop tickets are currently on sale. The grand prize increased from $1,000 to $2,000 this year. There are 3,000 tickets available at $5 a piece or five for $20 at Capital Bank, Stonegate Bank, Century 21 and the Attic.
Kiwanis President Tonya Player said anyone who wants to sell fish drop tickets at their business are encouraged to call her at the library at 239-533-4365.
Kiwanis member Phillip Nelson will have a Fish Drop Christmas Kick Off sale at the Dollar General Dec. 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to provide individuals with the opportunity to purchase stocking stuffers before the holiday.
The Kiwanis Club of Greater Pine Island sponsors the Taste of Pine Island. The proceeds from the event go directly to the Pine Island Kiwanis Scholarship Program.