More than 100,000 visitors come to Amelia Island during Shrimp Festival weekend, the barrier island’s biggest tourism event of the year (always held the first weekend in May). The huge festival is famous for its excellent arts, crafts, and antiques show (over 300 booths) as well as live bands playing on the riverfront, Friday night fireworks, pirate invasions on the waterfront, food concessions serving up shrimp cooked various ways, a Kid’s Fun Zone, and the local favorite — the wonderful Shrimp Festival Parade (this year Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 6 pm). Shrimp Festival admission is free, including the waterfront music concerts. (See more below about paid parking lots.)
Fernandina Beach is the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry in the United States. The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival was first held in 1963 to celebrate the traditional blessing of the shrimp fleet. (See below Shrimp Festival interactive photo gallery, click on the scenes from last year’s festival in downtown Fernandina.)
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ISLE OF 8 FLAGS SHRIMP FESTIVAL
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 kicks off the annual event (always held the Thursday evening at 6 pm preceding the first weekend of May), with parade route along Ash Street and Centre Street in the downtown Fernandina historic district. It is the biggest parade of the year on Amelia Island and well worth watching, fun for all ages. This parade is not to be missed if you’re in town, thousands head to the downtown historic district to watch (so get there early for a good spot, even bring a beach chair to sit and relax). More than a thousand march in parade, ride on floats, some handing out candy and beaded pirate necklaces to the kids lining the street. The Fernandina Pirate’s Club float — a pirate ship firing its loud cannon — traditionally brings up the rear of the parade (which usually lasts about an hour and a half).
The festival is a really big deal here (even the Nassau County School District is closed on Friday, May 4th this year in celebration of the Shrimp Festival). Many local folks volunteer and operate the festival food concession booths, fundraising for various local organizations.
The “Downtown Merchants Sidewalk Sale” is an annual tradition on Shrimp Festival Friday from 10 am to 6 pm. Friday evening during the festival weekend, the riverfront food vendors and Kids’ Fun Zone open at 6 pm, followed by the opening ceremony of the Shrimp Festival at 6:30 pm and the Miss Shrimp Festival Scholarship Pageant at 7 pm. The grand finale of the festival’s opening night is the “Pirate Invasion” by ship on the Amelia River at 9:30 pm, followed by a wonderful fireworks display at 9:45 pm over the waterfront. (The food courts are open Friday evening, along with the KIDS FUN ZONE until around 10:30 pm.) The arts and crafts booths are open Saturday and Sunday only. Festival hours on Saturday are 9 am to 6 pm and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. See additional scenes of the festival on Amelia Island Living’s FACEBOOK page photo album, plus more than 50 photo albums featuring beautiful Amelia Island beaches, nature, and top events.
Folks are attracted to Fernandina’s Shrimp Festival 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 and other festival favorites. 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. Plus, there’s the free live music concerts at the riverfront stage.
FEATURED LIVE MUSIC CONCERTS AT RIVERFRONT STAGE DURING 2012 SHRIMP FESTIVAL
The featured Shrimp Festival band in 2012 is “FireFall” who produced some top hit songs during the late 1970s including “Just Remember I Love You,” and “You Are The Woman.” FireFall is scheduled to perform on the riverfront stage in Fernandina on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm (see Firefall video below). The “party band of the south,” the “Swingin Medallions,” have become an annual tradition ( a local favorite), performing on the riverfront stage on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 pm.
Need a memory jog? Listen to FireFall Youtube video below.
Fernandina Shrimp Festival Parking Lots
PARK AND WALK TO THE FESTIVAL $10.00 per car (oversize vehicles extra). These parking lots are open Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday.
Buccaneer Field (Proceeds benefit Amelia Island Youth Soccer and Pop Warner Football.)
Beech Street and 11th Street.
Park and Ride (shuttle) $10 per vehicle.
FRIDAY — 6:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Fernandina Beach High School at 435 Citrona Drive (this lot is the ONLY Friday night park and shuttle location). A designated handicapped park and ride location).
SATURDAY PARKING — 9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (AND SUNDAY — 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.)
Fernandina Beach High School at 435 Citrona Drive. (Proceeds benefit FBHS Football Team). Designated Handicapped Park and Ride location.
Southside Elementary School at 1112 Jasmine Street.
Peck Center at Gum and 10th Street. (Proceeds benefit Elm Street Little League.)
Also see the official Shrimp Festival website for detailed schedule of events, vendors and more information.