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Chamber hosts United Nations-themed Tapa Hop

September 19, 2018
By JESSICA SALMOND ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It's time to hop aboard a trolley and carouse around Fort Myers Beach.

The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce will host the 16th Annual Tapa Hop, Thursday, Sept. 20.

Attendees get to ride along Estero Boulevard in themed trolleys while sampling seven beach restaurants' signature entrees in small plate samples, along with drinks.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door if capacity allows. The event is open to the paying public.

"It's a great way to meet new people and for the restaurants to showcase their food and what they offer," said Chamber President Jacki Liszak. "It will certainly help the servers this year."

It's more than just a trolley ride and food tour ? there are prizes to be won and bragging rights to be had.

The Tapa Hop event features a theme each year; and Chamber members go all-out. Each trolley team decorates their trolley, and many people put together costumes to go with the theme.

This year, the Chamber chose "United Nations."

"We've been doing movies and music, but we hadn't done anything cultural," Liszak said. "I think everyone is really embracing the theme."

Trolleys will be assigned a country to emulate: Mexico, Jamaica, the United States, Ireland and Germany.

"We heavily encourage costumes," Liszak said.

The costumes aren't a joke, either ? Tapa Hop attendees usually get really into the theme and representing it both in their trolley's decor and in their garb. Last year, the theme was music; Chamber ambassador Dan Allers dressed up as an astronaut to represent the iconic clip used on MTV. This year, he's on the Germany trolley ? and he's already planning.

"Watching the faces of people that have signed up, not knowing what to expect, to me is the best. There is never a shortage of laughter and fun," Allers said.

Megan Zelenak, Aller's fiance and fellow Chamber ambassador, said the two start brainstorming their costumes as soon as the theme is chosen. This year, the Tapa Hop date falls within the traditional Oktoberfest celebration in Germany.

"Who doesn't want to ride around on a trolley singing beer songs?" Zelenak said.

Zelenak appreciates that the event is held during "off season," giving locals the chance to patronize businesses and help the local economy.

Besides good food and good company, there is a poker run and raffles and prizes throughout the evening. Liszak said there are lots of good deals to be grabbed through the raffles, from two-night stays at island resorts to restaurant gift cards and more.

Water quality issues have hit Fort Myers Beach businesses and residents hard this summer; the Chamber has been collecting economic impact data for weeks. The Tapa Hop's occurrence in September, which is one of the slowest months of the year even without impaired water quality, will be good for the beach.

"Especially in light of everything going on, it's the chance to support our island businesses and have some fun at the same time, which we desperately need," Liszak said.

Check-in begins at 3 p.m. at South Beach Grille, 7205 Estero Blvd. This year's participating restaurants are Bayfront Bistro, Castaways Bar & Grill, Junkanoo on the Beach, Nauti Parrot Dock Bar, Pinchers, South Beach Grille and Sunset Beach Tropical Grill.

The Chamber has moved to a new location: 2450 Estero Blvd., within the Keller Williams Realty office. To get tickets in advance, call 454-7500 or email

"It's a great event to meet new people while supporting our local economy," Allers said. "Every year, I seem to make new friends."



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