Fernandina Beach is celebrating half a century of the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival May 3-5, 2013 on Amelia Island in northeast Florida. It’s “The Year of the Golden Shrimp” as 2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of Amelia Island’s biggest tourism event that attracts well over 100,000 visitors to this northeast Florida barrier island during the weekend each year. (See HIGHLIGHTS of this year’s festival below.)
One thing to note this year is the change in schedule of the Shrimp Festival Parade. Usually held Thursday evening leading up to the Festival weekend, this year it’s been moved to take place the week before on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 11 am. The parade route remains the same along Ash Street and historic Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach. Also new in 2013 is a special event, the “Shrimp Boat Sunset Concert” Thursday evening, May 2, 2013 beginning at 6 pm at the riverfront stage downtown. Featuring two bands (Parker Urban Band, then Swamp Cabbage at 7:45 pm), the sunset concert is sponsored by the Dog Star Tavern.
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. Besides the regular events that are traditionally held, a special exhibit to commemorate Fernandina’s Shrimp Festival history is opening at the Amelia Island Museum of History on April 5, 2013, “Shrimp Fest: 50 Years and Counting,” and will be open for visitors to browse into June 2013.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ISLE OF 8 FLAGS SHRIMP FESTIVAL
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 at the riverfront at 9:30 pm, followed by a wonderful fireworks display at 9:45 pm. (The food courts are open Friday evening, along with the KIDS FUN ZONE until around 10:30 pm.)
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. The local Island Art Association handles the fine arts and crafts, and screens potential participants. Realize this is a great art festival featuring over 300 juried artists and craftsmen. According to the 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.” (Also visit the Amelia Island Art Association’s web site at www.islandart.org.)
Others come for the food – naturally shrimp cooked a variety of ways and other festival favorites. The Kid’s Fun Zone is also 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. This year’s headliner band is Pablo Cruise, playing Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm on the river, concert is free.
How do seasoned Shrimp Fest celebrants approach this fun, festive weekend on Amelia Island?
There are three phases of visiting the Shrimp Festival each year to experience everything. Phase one — the Shrimp Festival Parade on Thursday evening at 6 pm; Phase two — the Friday night fireworks; Phase three — the weekend festivities (browsing the wonderful art booths, the Kid’s Fun Zone, enjoying the live entertainment at the riverfront stage, and getting a bite to eat).
SHRIMP FESTIVAL PARKING
Out-of-towners can follow the posted signs, as you come onto the island, and be directed to shrimp festival parking lots (some offer a shuttle bus to the downtown festival area.)