AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (April 8, 2011) — There’s something special about seeing a shrimp boat at sunset, making its way back home to Fernandina Beach. They’re often seen passing by the western riverbank of Fort Clinch State Park, near the river campgrounds and from the nearby northend boat ramp, as they head toward the docks near the Fernandina harbor.
Local shrimpers, the boats and their catch, add a unique flavor to Amelia island living, well beyond the culinary treat of the fresh, local shrimp itself.
Those who venture to the beach at night will often see twinkling dots of light on the horizon, the shrimp boats off Amelia Island’s Atlantic coastline. At other times, shrimp boats are docked near the Fernandina Harbor, providing a postcard-perfect silhouette at sunset (photo here taken April 3, 2011 in Fernandina Beach.)
Since 1964, the shrimping industry has been celebrated in Fernandina Beach, known as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry. The biggest tourist event held on Amelia Island, the ”Isle of 8 Flags Shrimp Festival” also features a highly acclaimed, fully juried fine arts and crafts show, one of the largest in the southeast.
Come celebrate America’s favorite seafood and the shrimpers in Fernandina Beach, Florida during the 48th Annual Isle of 8 Flags Shrimp Festival. An historic trade in this Victorian-era seaport deserving of our attention, the shrimpers will get the applause and well wishes of a small-town community and its guests, who’ll be there in support, smiling along the Shrimp Festival parade route on Thursday, April 28, 2011. The theme of the 2011 Shrimp Festival parade is “Shrimping on Island Time,” A Celebration of Island Living, and starts at 6 pm on Centre Street.
MORE ABOUT THE 2011”ISLE OF 8 FLAGS SHRIMP FESTIVAL” IN FERNANDINA BEACH, FLORIDA
A “Miss Shrimp Festival” is crowned each year and the contestants ride in a boat along the parade route, waving to the crowds. The Shrimp Festival Parade, kicking off the annual event, is Thursday, April 28 at 6 pm, along Ash Street and Centre Street in the downtown Fernandina historic district. (Deadlines for participating parade floats is April 15, 2011.)
Friday evening April 29, 2011, the riverfront food vendors and Kids’ Fun Zone open at 6 pm, followed by the opening ceremony of the 2011 Shrimp Festival at 6:30 pm and the Miss Shrimp Festival 2011 Scholarship Pageant at 7 pm. The grand finale of the festival’s opening night is the Pirate Invasion by ship at the riverfront at 9:30 pm, followed by a wonderful fireworks display at 9:45 pm. (The food courts will be open Friday evening from until 10:30 pm, along with the KIDS FUN ZONE.)
Amelia Island’s Shrimp Festival is attended by more than 100,000 people over the weekend. Folks are attracted for various reasons. Known as one of the top fine art shows in the southeast, artists and art lovers come to browse the works. Others come for the food – naturally shrimp cooked a variety of ways. Additional festival favorites are the free live music concerts at the riverfront stage.
This year there’ll be “voodoo in the vibes,” at the riverside with a featured concert by classic southern rock band, the “Atlanta Rhythm Section,” known for their mega hits “So Into You,” “Imaginary Lover, and “Spooky.” Don’t miss their live performance Saturday, April 30, 2011 on the riverfront stage at 4:30 pm. Plus, the “Party Band of the South,” the “Swingin Medallions” are back again, a local favorite, performing Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm. (Watch a Shrimp Festival video with highlights from a previous event.) There’s also the Kid’s Fun Zone, a magnet for families, along with the festival ambiance of roaming pirates and other child-oriented activities. Another tradition is the Shrimp Run (this year Saturday, April 30, 2011), a 5K run and 1.5 mile walk (8 am), 1 mile Katie Caples Memorial Run (8:45 am) and half mile Popcorn Shrimp Run (9 am). The Shrimp Run starts at Main Beach Park in Fernandina, and is sponsored by the YMCA, see the registration form here.
SHRIMP FESTIVAL FOOD VENDORS, VOLUNTEER FORCE RAISING FUNDS FOR NON-PROFITS
Realize that all food booths at the Fernandina Shrimp Festival are local, non-profit organizations, manned by volunteers, raising funds for their schools, fishing associations, clubs, churches, and other causes. For example, Fernandina Beach High School cheerleaders traditionally serve their great, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and the Fernandina High School band has their booth serving fried shrimp, funnel cakes, hot dogs, fries and more. Thanks to all for patronizing these non-profit concessions at the Shrimp Festival.Add to Amelia Island’s beautiful beaches and quaint historic district in Fernandina the bonus of shrimp boats right in our back yard.
America’s favorite seafood in local area waters and on dining tables in a day or less sometimes. Right now, wild-caught brown shrimp are in season. Come fall into wintertime, white shrimp is the predominant catch of the region’s shrimpers. Let’s put another check mark in the “good life” column, here in Fernandina Beach.
Like the shrimpers, for many local small businesses, their livelihood is the water, either directly or they feed from it. In this island economy, it’s the water and the beaches that support many people here. From the charter fishermen and boat cruise operators, the oceanfront resorts and hotels, to the beach bars, tour operators, and Fernandina’s historic district shops and restaurants, anchored by the Fernandina Harbor Marina. Water is a necessity of life, and even more so, on an island.
However, at times, water is a foe. For the shrimpers, commercial fishing is an occupation considered one of the most dangerous in the world. However, in more recent times, America’s shrimpers face another threat. Seafood farms raising shrimp along with massive Asian imports. Unfortunately, America’s “wild-caught” shrimping fleet is waning. These days the shrimp boats are far fewer in numbers. The heyday of the Fernandina shrimping industry began over a hundred years ago, thriving from around 1900 through the 1940s.
While America’s voracious appetite for shrimp cannot be fulfilled by wild-caught shrimpers alone (since demand for shrimp outpaces the natural supply), it’s a shame that Asian imports and aquaculture farms have undercut market prices to the point where shrimpers are being put out of business. If the traditional, wild-caught shrimping industry was an animal, it would likely be on the endangered species list.
Discerning chefs source wild-caught shrimp for their fine dining restaurants. So ask for it when dining out here (and elsewhere around the nation). Enjoy American wild-caught shrimp when you can. And there’s no place better than the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry in America, Fernandina Beach, to eat some shrimp and enjoy the seaside ambiance of this laid-back, small-town island setting.
INTERESTED IN AN EDUCATIONAL SHRIMPING EXPERIENCE? NEW THIS YEAR ON AMELIA ISLAND, SHRIMP DEMONSTRATION TOUR
If you want to learn more about shrimping, a brand new tour in Fernandina Beach has been introduced in 2011. This educational Discovery Tour is offered by Amelia River Cruises. The Shrimp Demonstration Tours will actually pull a net and dump the contents to show cruise passengers fresh caught shrimp and other marine critters that live in local waters. Sounds like a great learning experience for kids and adults, alike. (Find out more about Amelia River Cruises, watch a cruise video, and learn lots more about Amelia Island’s waterways.) Also see the official Isle of 8 Flags Shrimp Festival website.
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