Amelia Island April 29-May 1, 2016
Fernandina’s Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is the most popular event of the year, always held the first weekend in May. There’s a festive atmosphere as reliable as the tides during this huge event that attracts over 100,000 people to this northeast Florida barrier island at the Georgia border.
A longtime tradition for more than half a century, Fernandina Beach is the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry in America. First held in 1963 (originally called the “Shrimp Boat” Festival), it began with shrimp boat races and a blessing of the shrimp fleet.
Pirate Parade April 28th
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival 2016 kicks off Thursday evening, April 28th at 6 pm with the Pirate Parade in downtown Fernandina’s historic district. The traditional parade route heads west from 8th Street along Ash Street toward riverfront, then turns and heads east along historic Centre Street (back to Central Park). Fernandina Pirates aboard their ship sail along the parade route with intermittent firing of the cannon. Beaded pirate necklaces and candy are traditionally handed out to kids along the parade route. This is a big parade that lasts about an hour and a half, with the pirate ship at the end.
2016 Shrimp Festival Hours & Headline Bands:
Friday 6 pm to 10 pm — Food vendors open. It’s “Chicago Blues Night” with live musical entertainment at riverfront stage starting 7:30 pm. Friday only is “Locals Appreciation Night” at KIDS ZONE located at Central Park, $20 wrist band to ride all night. Pirates invade the Fernandina Harbor at 9 pm followed by grand finale FIREWORKS at 9:15 pm.
Saturday 9 am to 6 pm — Nearly 400 art, crafts and antiques booths covering eight downtown blocks, food vendors, live musical entertainment at riverfront stage. Featured headline band, the Gin Blossoms, performing at 4:30 pm.
Sunday 10 am to 5 pm — Art, crafts and antiques booths, food vendors, live musical entertainment at riverfront. Headline band, The Swingin’ Medallions, taking the stage at 2:30 pm with a second set at 4 pm.
Art Show & Antiques
Known as one of the top fine art shows in the southeast, art lovers come to browse the works. Realize this is a great art festival featuring close to 400 juried artists. According to the Amelia Island Art Association, the Shrimp Festival’s fully juried arts and crafts exhibit “has been consistently recognized as one of the best art events in North America by Sunshine Artist Magazine.” You’ll find water color and oil paintings, photography, custom jewelry, pottery, wood, glass and copper sculptures, handcrafted vases and lots more. For those attending mainly for the art show (who will only visit Fernandina for one day), first thing Sunday morning is usually the least crowded time for browsing the fine arts booths.
Lots of Shrimp
The food vendor booths offer a wide selection including fried seafood plates, low country boil, shrimp gumbo, shrimp pie, grilled shrimp, Cajun shrimp, garlic shrimp, popcorn shrimp, shrimp salad, shrimp twisters, boiled shrimp, and shrimp quesadillas. Plus Italian sausage and lots of fair-type food, including sugar-powdered funnel cakes, and more. Remember you’re eating for a good cause, since all food booths are run by a local, Nassau County, Florida non-profit. This is the biggest fundraising event of the year for many local organizations.
More About “Parade of Pride”
For many locals, the Shrimp Festival parade is one of the must-do events anticipated each year in Fernandina. At no other time is the warmth of this town on better display, than during the Shrimp Festival parade. It’s a local ritual and real glimpse of small-town Americana. Symbolic of community pride, most residents are connected in some way to at least one group or organization participating in the parade with a float or marching. Most watching the procession pass by know someone in this parade, whether it be kids, grandchildren, friends or co-workers. People go downtown and line both Ash Street and Centre Street. Some bring beach chairs and arrive early to scope out a top spot along the parade route. Seniors, the middle-aged, young adults, teenagers and tots – five generations of Nassau County citizens — gravitate to the heart of Fernandina, the downtown historic district, for this very special parade, sure to bring smiles.
How To Experience All?
Phase 1 — Attend Thursday’s Shrimp Festival Parade. Clap, smile, cheer!
Phase 2 — Listen to music Friday night, eat shrimp, “Locals” Night at KIDS ZONE, watch pirate invasion, see fireworks display.
Phase 3— WEEKEND: Browse hundreds of wonderful art booths, family time in Central Park’s KIDS ZONE, hear featured headline bands play at the riverfront stage. And eat some more shrimp!
Shrimp Festival Parking, Fees
Out-of-towners can follow the posted signs, when arriving on Amelia Island, to be directed to the main festival parking lots ($10 parking then ride shuttle bus to the downtown festival area.) There’s NO ADMISSION FEE to enter and roam the Shrimp Festival, including free concerts at the riverfront stage. There are fees for rides and activities in KIDS ZONE. All Festival food, of course, has to be purchased.