Highlights of historic Fernandina, the beaches, and coastal nature at Florida-Georgia border.

Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, Fernandina

Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival Fernandina Beach

Amelia Island May 5-7, 2017

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 125,000 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.

Shrimp Boats Docked at Fernandina Harbor During Shrimp Festival
Shrimp Boats Docked at Fernandina Harbor During Shrimp Festival

Pirate Parade Thurs., May 4, 2017

The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival 2017 kicks off Thursday evening, May 4, 2017 at 6 pm with the Pirate Parade in downtown Fernandina’s historic district. Fernandina’s pirates aboard their ship sail along the parade route with intermittent firing of the cannon. This is a big parade that lasts 1.5 to 2 hours, with the pirate ship appearing at the end. 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). This year’s parade theme is “the ultimate shrimp experience.” Beaded pirate necklaces and candy are traditionally handed out to kids along the parade route. NEW IN 2017: Following the parade’s end will be a free “Sounds on Centre” street concert until 9:30 pm.

Shrimp Festival Hours

Friday 6 pm to 10 pm — Food vendors, Kids’ Zone, opening ceremony 6 pm. “Miss Shrimp Festival Pageant” 6:30 pm. Pirates invade Fernandina Harbor at 9 pm followed by FIREWORKS at 9:15 pm.

Saturday 9 am to 6 pm — around 350 art, crafts and antiques booths cover eight downtown blocks, plus food vendors and live musical entertainment at riverfront stage. The headline concert band is “The Greatest Hits on Earth — Live,” Rock & Pop Masters, performing on Saturday beginning at 4:30 pm. This year features former band members from Blue Oyster Cult, Santana and Kool and the Gang performing some of their top hits.

Sunday 10 am to 5 pm — Art, crafts and antiques booths, food vendors, live musical entertainment at riverfront. The headline band Sunday is a Fernandina favorite, the “Swingin’ Medallions” playing two sets, first at 2:30 pm, and again at 4 pm.

Art Show & Antiques

2017 Shrimp Festival T-Shirt Design, Fernandina Beach, Florida
2017 Shrimp Festival T-Shirt Design
Known as one of the top fine art shows in the southeast, art lovers come to browse the works. 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”

Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival Parade, Fernandina
Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival Parade

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, symbolic of community pride. 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. Most residents are connected in some way to at least one group or organization participating in the parade with a float (or you’re marching in it). People go downtown and line both Ash Street and Centre Street. Some bring beach chairs and arrive early to scope out a top spot.

How To Experience All?

Phase 1: 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 around 350 art, crafts, antiques booths, family time in KIDS ZONE, hear featured headline bands play at riverfront stage. Eat 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.

Further info, a more detailed Festival event schedule and map is available at the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival website.

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