Blueway or Bust: Premier paddling festival set for Oct. 23-Nov. 1 in Lee County, Florida
Lee County, FL, October, 2009 – The fourth annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival is set to showcase kayaking and eco-events along Southwest Florida’s waterways Oct. 23 through Nov. 1.
The 10-day festival offers an array of speakers and instruction, cultural and eco festivals, races and fishing events, paddlers’ get-togethers and green activities. Events are at public parks and archeological sites as well as resorts and campgrounds along the Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail, a 190-mile marked-and-meandering saltwater trail that spans the Lee County coast from Bonita Springs to Pine Island and inland to Alva.
Meet the man who circumnavigated Florida’s coast, kayaking from Alabama to Georgia along the Sunshine State, including segments of the Great Calusa Blueway. Join friends from out of town and stay in hotels that offer special packages to travelers with paddlecraft, including ready-at-sunrise box lunches and access to ice machines and hoses.
The festival is part of Islands Fall Fest. Take a staycation and book yourself into a campground right along the trail at a site that includes a guided tour with the Florida Paddling Trail Association to historic Mound Key, an island once inhabited by the Calusa king. Attend the Calusa Costume Ball dressed as a conquistador or sea wench, and then hear ghost stories on a moonlight hike. Local kayakers and canoeists can join in a half dozen evening hospitality events at which prizes will be raffled.
Festival attendees also can get competitive. Two canoe/kayak races and a catch-and-release fishing tournament are planned; some have cash prizes. There’s even a competitive geocaching event on the Caloosahatchee. Visitors can give back to the community by joining in a countywide waterway marine debris cleanup called Monofilament Madness. Make a $10 donation to the trail and get a Blueway VIP Wristband to enjoy extra value at more than 80 Southwest Florida attractions, restaurants, galleries, shops and marine/outfitter locations.
The festival features daily activities, with emphasis on the Oct. 23-25 and Oct. 29-Nov. 1 weekends. Many activities are free. Call the festival hotline at (239) 823-6335 or see the schedule online at www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com. For Islands Fall Fest, go to www.fortmyers-sanibel.com.
Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival: Oct. 23-Nov. 1, 2009, along the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. (239) 823-6335, www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com. Dates, times, phone numbers, costs, etc. are posted; Web site is routinely updated.
Breakout box by date
Events abound for the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival. Check it out at www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com. Among the weekend highlights:
Oct. 23: 5 – 7 p.m. Blueway Beach Bash at Bay Oaks Recreation Center, Fort Myers Beach. 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Bonita Springs Fish Fry at Riverside Park. (239) 823-6335, www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com
Oct. 24: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Blueway Fest main event with speakers and kayak demos, Mound House, Fort Myers Beach. 5 p.m. Paddlers Reception, Pink Shell Resort, Fort Myers Beach. 9 a.m. Imperial River Race, Riverfront Park, Bonita. (239) 823-6335, www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com
Oct. 25: Safe light to noon Monofilament Madness Cleanup, Lee County waterways. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tarpon Point Geo-Paddle, Cape Coral’s Tarpon Point Marina. 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. Paddlers Pig Roast Picnic, San Carlos RV Resort, Fort Myers Beach. (239) 823-6335, www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com
Oct. 29: 6:30 p.m. Paddlers Reception, Hilton Garden Inn, south Fort Myers. (239) 823-6335, www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com
Oct. 30: 9 a.m. Upriver Speakers Series, Upriver RV Resort and Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve, North Fort Myers. 7:30-11 p.m. Calusa Costume Ball, Tarpon Lodge, Pine Island. (239) 823-6335, www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com
Oct. 31: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Blueway Fest main event at Randell. Safe light to 3 p.m. Catch-and-release kayak fishing tournament, Lee County waterways and Randell Research Center. 5 p.m. Paddlers Reception, Sun & The Moon Inn, Matlacha. (239) 823-6335, www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com
Nov. 1: 9 a.m. Paddle of the Pass canoe/kayak regatta, Matlacha Park. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Bluegrass for the Blueway and Taste of Matlacha, Matlacha Park. (239) 823-6335, www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com
ALTERNATE: Breakout box by event topic
Check out some of the offerings at the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, Oct. 23-Nov. 1 along Lee County’s waterfront communities. Details are at www.CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com.
Monofilament Madness: Rid the blueway of nasty discarded fishing line and join in Keep Lee County Beautiful’s annual waterway cleanup. Return to one of three sites to tally your trash and enjoy a free lunch. (Oct. 25)
Geocaching: Use a GPS for a modern-day treasure hunt at a Cape Coral-based waterfront event. The Resort at Marina Village/Tarpon Point is waiting for you. (Oct. 25)
Yak it up with fish: The annual catch-and-release fishing tournament kicks off Halloween weekend with a Prawn Broker captain’s meeting in Fort Myers and a tournament digital weigh-in at Randell Research Center, Pineland. Hey anglers, did we mention Tarpon Lodge is across the street? (Oct. 30- 31)
Roll up your sleeves and race: Competitive events on the Imperial River kick off the festival with the annual Paddle of the Pass in Matlacha wrapping it up. (Oct. 24 and Nov. 1)
Explore cultural sites: Pick a Saturday and learn about the seafaring people for whom the blueway is named. Mound House on Fort Myers Beach and Randell Research Center at Pineland celebrate the Calusas and will be hubs for the festival’s two weekends with speakers, food, activities and eco-fun. (Oct. 24 and Oct. 31)
Nighttime fun: There’s practically something for every sunset you’re here. Join in a Gulf-front complimentary happy hour with Canoe & Kayak magazine and Sea Kayaker magazine at Pink Shell Resort on Fort Myers Beach, (Oct. 24). Dress up as a pirate, sea wench or native for the Calusa Costume Ball at Tarpon Lodge, Pine Island, (Oct. 30). Enjoy Southern hospitality while raising funds to help a river at a Bonita Springs fish fry, (Oct. 23). Did someone say Blueway Beach Bash? (Oct. 23).
Club happenings: Bring a boat or just yourself for the picnic and pig roast for kayaking clubs and enthusiasts from around the Southeast, (Oct. 25). Hear from the first circumnavigator of Florida – in a kayak, that is, (Oct. 24). Meet the man who mapped the trail, (Oct. 25). Come for bluegrass and raffles, socializing and sunset paddling at San Carlos RV Park & Island Resort, (Oct. 25).
Paddlers’ packages and lodging: Certified green hotels are onboard. Packages abound with extras like drinks-for-two included, access to freshwater hoses, a guided tour of a historic site, a laminated nautical chart as a welcome gift and more. Tell a friend to come from out of town, or treat yourself. The blueway fest is part of Islands Fall Fest. Check it out at www.fortmyers-sanibel.com