Here’s what you need to know about MangoMania, including what kind of mangoes will be sold, which bands are performing and how you can stay cool.

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The annual MangoMania always includes a pie-eating contest. (Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today)

Jennifer Jennings knows this, too. That’s why she and other organizers of this weekend’s Cape Coral mango festival are doing everything they can to keep people cool.

No, they can’t control the blazing July sun. But they can do this: They can make it snow — at least in one tent on the German American Social Club grounds.

“It’s the new highlight,” says Jennings, executive director of the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a 20 by 40 tent, and there’s going to be snow blowing inside. It’s to help keep people cool.”

More than 50 varieties of mango are grown on Pine Island, and many of them can be found at MangoMania. (Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today)

The new Christmas in July Snow Tent comes courtesy of Pine Island’s Got Ice, the same company that provides the ice keeping MangoMania’s drinks cold.

The snow tent will have ice all around to keep things cool, free snow cones for the kids and an ice-chipping machine that periodically puts “snow” on the ground.

Another way to stay cool at the annual festival: Several cooling tents, misters spread throughout the festival grounds and the return of last year’s air-conditioned portable toilets — another highlight, believe it or not.

People were raving about the toilets last year, Jennings says and laughs. “They were like, ‘This is great!’ Anything to keep yourself nice and cool.”

The Hot Flashz Dancers performed at the 2018 MangoMania. (Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today)

Of course, the MangoMania Tropical Fruit Fair isn’t really about the snow or even the bathrooms. It’s about the mangoes — the sweet, juicy fruit that grows in about 50 varieties on nearby Pine Island.

Florida's mango season takes place May through October, with summer being peak time. That’s why MangoMania has to happen in the scorching July heat.

Here’s everything else you need to know about the popular outdoor event, including what kind of mangoes will be sold, which bands are performing and how to get tickets for the popular Mango Drop.

MangoMania happens Saturday and Sunday, July 13-14, at the German-American Social Club. That’s located at 2101 Pine Island Road, just east of Matlacha and west of Cape Coral's Chiquita Boulevard.

Pine Island is flourishing with palm, tropical plant and fruit nurseries, (Photo: Anne Reed/The News-Press)

Advance tickets are sold online and at the offices of the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, 3640 Pine Island Road, Matlacha.

You can taste more than 20 kinds of the luscious fruit this weekend — everything from Kents to Hadens to Bailey’s Marvels (a variety that originated on Pine Island).

That includes mangoes that are in the height of season on the island — mostly Thai varieties such as Nam Doc Mai — and also off-season, non-Thai mangoes such as Kents, Keitts and Hadens.

Most of those off-season mangoes were frozen so there’d be plenty for MangoMania’s tasting tent. They all come straight from Pine Island.

The Hot Flashz Dancers performed at the 2018 MangoMania. (Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today)

There’s the tasting tent — always one of the busiest places at MangoMania. But you can also buy the mangoes whole or enjoy them in smoothies, chutney, ice cream, tea and other forms.

“We’ll have mango breads. We’ll have mango jams,” Jennings says. “We’ll have all kinds of things mango.”

And don’t worry if you’re not into mangoes (although, really, why would you go to MangoMania if you don’t like mangoes?). There are plenty of other kinds of food available, too.

There's more than just food and drinks for sale. More than 100 vendors will offer everything from jewelry to mango trees that you can take home and plant in your yard.

Bokeelia resident DJ Ruscik is the 2019 Mango Queen for MangoMania (Photo: Special to The News-Press)

Every year, festival organizers choose someone from Pine Island to preside over the event and help promote MangoMania all year long at various events and meetings.

This year, it’s DJ Ruscik: A Bokeelia resident and former president (aka “madam”) of civic group the Matlacha Hookers.

Ruscik, 61, has been coming to the fest for years. In fact, she and her fellow Hookers pour beverages there every year and do whatever else needs to be done. “Hookers are always a part of it,” she says, “and we’ve always helped.”

She was crowned Mango Queen two months ago and has been making the rounds since then, spreading the word about mangoes and MangoMania to local leaders and others.

“I was very tickled, delighted,” she says about being named Mango Queen. “It’s a huge event, and we have more than 10,000 visitors, so it’s quite an honor.”

For MangoMania, Ruscik will be walking around the festival grounds and meeting her loyal subjects while carrying a scepter and wearing a tiara.

This year’s all-local musical acts include funk party rockers Strange Arrangement, rock/country cover band Hester Prynn, and country rock singer-songwriter ThunderBear — who performs this weekend under his real name, Jason Bonham, along with jazz musician Mickey Basil.

The fest has an activities area full of family games and mango-themed activities: Mango cornhole, mango juggling, mango pie-eating contests, a hat-decorating contest, a hat parade, a Mr. Mango Head contest (where you decorate mangoes like a Mr. Potato Head), the “World’s Largest Mango” contest, and mango limbo (where you hold mangoes in both hands while trying to go under the limbo pole).

Then there’s the Mango Drop put on by Pine Island Kiwanis. 1,500 mangoes are numbered, put in a box and lifted on a crane high above a big target on the ground.

Someone releases the latch on the bottom of the box, and the mangoes plummet. The mango that lands closest to the bull's-eye wins its ticket holder the big prize: $1,000.

Mango Drop takes place at 4:15 p.m. Sunday. Only 1,500 tickets are sold — one for each mango, Jennings says.

Tickets are $5 each or five for $20. They’re sold at the Chamber, Century 21 in St. James City and — during the festival — at the Kiwanis booth near the festival’s main entrance.

You can find smoothies, bread and all kinds of mango things to eat and drink at MangoMania. (Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today)

The idea for MangoMania came from former Chamber president Jerry Myers, who was desperate to raise money to pay the bills. There was only $37 in the Chamber's checking account — not even enough to cover the electric bill.

Myers proposed the idea at a board meeting. "I have a field full of Pine Island mangoes that are falling from the trees and rotting," he said, according to the event's official history. "I think we should come up with an event to sell these mangoes."

The fest didn’t start at the German American Social Club, though. It began in 1996 at Bokeelia's Our Lady of The Miraculous Medal Church before moving to an empty field on Stringfellow Road and then the KOA Kampground in St. James City.

But the festival outgrew the KOA after three years and moved just off Pine Island to the German American Social Club in unincorporated Lee County.

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That move wasn't without controversy: For the first time, MangoMania wasn't actually happening on Pine Island. But organizers said that was the closest suitable venue. Nothing on the island else could handle the traffic and parking from the fest's thousands of attendees.

Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter), @crunnells1 (Instagram)

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