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Festival

Stone Crab Season – October 15 to May 15

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Florida stone crabs are known around the world for their delicious claw meat. But did you know that many of the stone crabs on menus around the country come from right here near the Villages of Citrus Hills? 

Whether you prefer them served cold with mustard sauce or warm with drawn butter, the experience of cracking and eating these crab claws is something you will never forget! 

About Stone Crabs

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One of the most interesting aspects of Florida stone crabs is that they are actually a renewable resource. When the crabs are caught in the traps of professional stone crabbers, the crabbers only take one claw from each crab and the crabs are then returned to the water.

As a defense mechanism, stone crabs are able to survive losing a claw and then regenerate that claw in about a year.  

The average stone crab has a lifespan of 8-9 years, and they are generally found in sandy ocean bottoms and seagrass beds along Citrus County’s coastline out to a depth of about 20 feet. Large stone crabs can weigh as much as one pound. They feed on oysters, snails, and various other small marine life. Female stone crabs can spawn as many as six times each year, producing up to one million fertilized eggs each time. In addition to humans, stone crabs can also find themselves being hunted by octopuses and grouper.  

Catching Stone Crabs

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The Florida stone crab harvesting season lasts seven months each year from October 15 through May 15. During this time, many amateur fishermen also hunt for stone crabs. 

Amateur crabbers are required to hold a salt water fishing license from the state of Florida, and they must adhere to certain regulations.

They are limited to a total of five traps, and they cannot catch more than one gallon of claws per day. The claws must all be a minimum of 2-3/4 inches.  

Eating Stone Crab

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While some find enjoyment in catching their own stone crab, many others prefer to let the professionals do the catching and simply focus on the eating. 

Probably the most popular place for stone crab near the Villages of Citrus Hills is Charlie’s Fish House & Seafood Market in Crystal River.  

The restaurant was originally started as an oyster bar by Charlie Kofmehl all the way back in 1960. The oyster bar was an immediate success, serving the best fresh fish and seafood in Citrus County. In the early seventies, Charlie turned the oyster bar over to his two sons, Jimmy and Phil.

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After years of continuing to grow the business, Jimmy and Phil decided to build a brand-new restaurant in 1990. The new waterfront restaurant had seating for 160 guests compared to seating for 30 in the old oyster bar. In honor of their father, Jimmy and Phil changed the name to Charlie’s Fish House.


Since then, the family business has continued to grow and guests can now find a third generation of Kofmehls working there.

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The restaurant menu at Charlie’s Fish House features a chilled stone crab appetizer with a mustard dipping sauce. There is also a 1-1/4 pound warm stone crab entree. In addition to stone crab, the menu features plenty of other local seafood favorites like oysters, grouper, shrimp, and scallops. If you prefer to cook your own seafood, Charlie’s Seafood Market sells fresh stone crab claws, as well as fresh caught grouper, mullet, red snapper, and even oysters. They can even ship stone crab to anyone you like across the country! 

Charlie’s also sponsors the Stone Crab Jam Music and Food Festival every fall in Crystal River. The festival is a fun-filled day of live music, exciting exhibits, and tons of stone crab.  

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11thAnnual “Stone Crab Jam” 

is Saturday, November 3rd, 12 Noon until 10 PM, 560 N. Citrus Avenue

Downtown Historic Crystal River, FL 34423 

 

Whether you are a seafood nut, or just looking for a fun experience to share with your family, catching or eating Florida stone crab is a fantastic option. When you live in the Villages of Citrus Hills, you can choose to catch your own, cook your own, or let a place like Charlie’s take care of everything for you!

Lakeridge Winery Summer Grape Stomp

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Located in Clermont, about an hour southeast of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Lakeridge Winery is the largest winery in the state of Florida. They are best known for offering some of the most outstanding premium wines made in Florida, but they also throw one wild party when it’s time to harvest their grapes each summer.

Now in its 24th year, the annual Summer Harvest Grape Stomp has evolved into a full-blown, weekend-long festival complete with grape stomping competitions, live entertainment, delicious food, and exciting tours and tastings.

This year, the event will be happening at the Lakeridge Winery on August 10, 11, and 12.

Grape Stomping History

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The practice of stomping on grapes to make wine dates all the way back to 200 B.C., but new technologies have made the method all but obsolete here in 2018. However, it’s still an extremely fun activity, which is why it’s so popular at many American wineries during the summer harvest season.

The Grape Stomp at Lakeridge Winery is one of the most famous wine festivals of the entire year here in Florida and jumping feet-first into a barrel of grapes can be a fantastically fun family activity for all ages.

Live Entertainment

While wine will definitely excite your senses of taste, smell, and sight, adding a little music will help to get one more sense involved. And aside from a 30-minute break in between bands, there will be live music performances for the entire duration of the Summer Grape Stomp.

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On Friday, August 10, the Nightly Groove Band will take the stage first and be followed by The Dave Capp Project. The Saturday schedule will feature Baby Blues & The No Attitude Band followed by the Ronnie Duncan Band, and then Sunday the Smoking' Torpedoes and Buddy Blues take the stage.

There will also be separate performances in the Wine & Cheese Bar on Saturday and Sunday featuring The Rusty & Laurie Wright Duo, Joe Hand, and Jeff Whitfield.

Don't Forget the Cheese

Speaking of the Wine & Cheese Bar, it will be open on Saturday and Sunday of the event serving up some delicious cheese tray options that will make a perfect accompaniment to whatever type of wine you might be enjoying.

The food court will also be open throughout the entire weekend that include American, Greek, Mexican, seafood, BBQ, and more. This is also the spot to enjoy a cold slushy or soft drink in between glasses of wine.

Fun & Games

Winery visits are typically considered an "adults only" type of activity, but the Summer Grape Stomp has plenty of fun activities for the younger grape stompers in your family as well. Just Fantastic will be on hand demonstrating some of their most popular inflatable games for the kids.

Of course, fun and games aren't just for the kids. The winery also plans to have cornhole games going throughout much of the weekend, so make sure your bean bag toss is in mid-summer form.

Tours & Tastings

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If you haven’t visited the Lakeridge Winery before, this event is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of their fascinating tours and tastings.

These tours run every 15-20 minutes during the festival, and they typically finish up in the tasting area, which includes anywhere from six to eight different stations positioned in the production facility.

Getting to Lakeridge Winery

You can get to Lakeridge Winery by heading out either FL-44 or FL-48 from Inverness, and it takes just about an hour to get there from the Villages of Citrus Hills. There are also four hotels nearby if you would like to make a weekend trip out of the festival.

With 80 acres of vineyards, 420,000 gallons of tank capacity, and over 20,000 bottles sitting in the "Sparkling Wine Cave," it is easy to see that Lakeridge Winery is one of the premier Florida destinations for wine lovers. If that includes you, or even if you just think the idea of stomping some grapes sounds fun, then this is an event that you won't want to miss.