The 15th annual Deering Seafood Festival returns, with thousands of people expected to soak up the sun and chow down on seafood at the historic estate along the waters of Palmetto Bay. Combining culinary tastings, activities, and live entertainment, the event will take place this Sunday, March 31, and is expected to draw more than 8,000 attendees.
Florida has no shortage of food festivals, but Deering has been named "Best Event of the Year” by the Greater Miami Festival and Events Association for the past two years. It is also the only one-day festival recognized among the top ten events for eight consecutive years by BizBash magazine.
This year's festivities will burst to life with entertainment from Virgin Islands stilt walkers and Bahamian Junkanoo musicians, along with Caribbean Crew and Mr. Nice Guy. Activities include a rock-climbing wall, Pelican Skipper pontoon boat rides to Chicken Key, and the Artists Lane, a mix of paintings, photography, crafts, and jewelry by local artisans. For children, there's a Deering Discovery Cove and the Li’l Shrimp Kids Zone, which provides play on inflatables, creative activities, and a kid-friendly menu.
Along Seafood Alley, tasting stations will be hosted by top local chefs, restaurants, and caterers, including Golden Rule Seafood, Antigua & Barbuda Association of South Florida, Popo’s Seafood, Rodbenders Raw Bar & Grill, Taco & Tattoos, and Wendy’s Chocolates.
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Foodies will also have access to six chef demos held by Angel Leon from Seaspice, Stanley Miller of Lightkeepers, Poseidon's Demetrios Pyliotis, Eating House's Giorgio Rapicavoli, Miguel Fajardo of Isabelle's Grill Room & Garden, and Utpal Dighe of Johnson & Wales University. Each demo seats 100 ticket holders, who will get to taste the special seafood offerings and take home each recipe.
According to Larissa Siegel Lara, executive director of the Deering Estate Foundation, the event is expected to raise more than $200,000 toward the operating costs of the property, a 20th-century historic site listed on the National Register of Historic Places and open to the public year-round. The 450-acre estate once belonged to Charles Deering, a Chicago industrialist, early preservationist, environmentalist, art collector, philanthropist, and the first chairman of the International Harvester Company.
"There's so much more about coming to this event than just a day of great fun and food," Lara says. "There's a great depth to what we are trying to protect. From a conservation point of view, Deering is a little microcosm of what Florida was in the 1920s, a cultural and ecological field station made of eight ecosystems, bird airways, more than eight endangered species. We want to perpetuate the experience for a future generation."
15th-Annual Deering Seafood Festival. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 31, at the Deering Estate, 16701 SW 72nd Ave., Palmetto Bay; 305-235-1668; deeringseafoodfestival.org. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $7 for children 4-14 via etix.com; admission is free for Deering Estate Foundation members.