Saturday, April 9, 2011

Third annual Octifest to be held on Causeway Island

If you are lucky enough to be on Sanibel Island April 26th, Don't miss this event!

"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."

These words come from noted Sengalese environmentalist Baba Dioum, and form the foundation of the Sanibel Sea School, whose mission is to promote marine conservation through experiential learning, research and communication with local youth and adults.

But while children make up the majority of the Sanibel Sea School’s ever-increasing list of graduates, the organization needs support from adults in the community to continue transforming the lives of – and instilling a love and respect for the ocean in – residents of Southwest Florida and beyond.

In order to raise some much needed funds for this “seagrassroots” organization, the Sanibel Sea School will host their third annual Octifest fundraiser on Saturday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. And this year’s event will be unlike any event the islands have ever seen.

“This year’s Octifest will be a sunset celebration and we hope it’s absolutely magnificent,” said Dina Craig of the Sanibel Sea School. “We had to talk to quite a few public officials, but our permit was approved and this will be the first event of this kind that’s been allowed to be held on the causeway.”

“What’s great about hosting this event on the causeway is that we’ll be in a tent on the sand and we’ll be able to open the flaps to the ocean,” said Sanibel Sea School co-founder Evelyn Neill. “During the event, we’ll show a short film and slide show, illustrating some of the things our students do every day at the Sea School. And, of course, we’ll have music and dancing, we’ll be educating people about the Sanibel Sea School, and we’ll have a bunch of great items for our live and silent auctions.”

And according to Neill, just like the venue, this year’s auction items will be quite exceptional and really showcase all that Sanibel and Captiva have to offer.

“We have a lot of really authentic items in our live auction this year – things that you can only find here in Southwest Florida,” she said. “One of my favorite items is a fishing trip with island native Ralph Woodring, after which you get to cook up your catch at Sweet Melissa’s. Ralph is the quintessential islander and Melissa Talmadge has this delicious, fine dining restaurant. It’s such a lovely juxtaposition.”

Other items that are sure to bring bidders running are tickets to a New York Yankees game and “Doc Bruce and Doc Ford,” where Sea School co-founder Dr. Bruce Neill will accompany one lucky winner on a boat trip to Doc Ford’s on Fort Myers Beach to have lunch with celebrated author Randy Wayne White.

Thanks to Bailey’s General Store, 75 Octifest attendants will be able to purchase a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers for their date. But in one of those boxes of chocolate is an even bigger surprise – a real diamond, courtesy of Lily & Co., an event sponsor who is also donating a beautiful pendant necklace to the auction.

Though there are only 75 boxes of chocolates available, all Octifest attendants will be treated to the ecologically-inspired cuisine of Chef Jordan Webster, whose culinary technique reflects the philosophy of the Sanibel Sea School, which strives to act as a responsible steward of the environment and community, both in what they teach and how they operate the business – that includes beach parties!

“Jordan will be catering the event this year, and what he does with food is so wonderful. It’s a huge effort to find sustainable, local produce and fish, but that’s what he does,” Neill said. “It’s really exciting because it takes a lot of sourcing to find interesting and sustainable products and it’s very hard to do. Many big cities have already found a market for sustainable food, but it hasn’t quite caught on in Southwest Florida – which is why we’re so thrilled to have Jordan cooking for us. His mission is very much in line with ours at the Sanibel Sea School.”

Tickets for Octifest 2011 are $150. Call Dina Craig at the Sanibel Sea School, 472-8585, to reserve your tickets now.

The third annual Octifest will take place on Causeway Island at 6:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by Lily & Co., the Sanibel-Captiva Community Bank and Giggles. JANE BRICKLEY

For more information about the Sanibel Sea School, go to

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