Fernandina’s Popular Shrimp Festival — May 5-7, 2023
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival has something fun for everyone. Always held the first weekend in May each year, the dates in 2023 are Friday, May 5th through Sunday, May 7th (with Shrimp Fest Parade on Thursday evening, May 4, 2023). This year’s parade theme is “Shrimp Gone Wild.” After the parade ends, Sounds On Centre is presenting a free Thursday evening concert downtown featuring “Scallywags.“
A general crowd-pleaser, the FIREWORKS display happens opening night of the Festival on Friday at Fernandina’s downtown riverfront at 9:15 p.m. Others attend the Shrimp Festival for the entertainment, particularly the bands. FREE CONCERTS are performed on the riverfront stage. Families with younger children enjoy the KIDS FUN ZONE. A main feature of Shrimp Festival is the huge FINE ARTS SHOW. And not to be forgotten is the FESTIVAL FOOD booths, many featuring shrimp prepared various way plus loads of other festival favorites.
Fernandina’s Shrimp Festival Weekend Hours:
FRIDAY Hours: 6 PM – 10PM (Waterfront food booths open early at 3 p.m. Kids Fun Zone opens 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) FIREWORKS display Friday, 9:15 p.m.
SATURDAY Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM (Waterfront food booths open until 7 p.m.) Kids Fun Zone till 8 p.m.
SUNDAY Hours: 10 AM – 5PM
Fernandina’s Biggest Annual Parade
Fernandina’s festival experience wouldn’t be complete without its big SHRIMP FEST PARADE. Each year, the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival kicks off with the fun and quirky Shrimp Festival Parade on Thursday evening. This year the parade date is May 4, 2023 and traditionally starts at 6 p.m. (held rain or shine). Attracting thousands who line the parade route, it features pirates in their ship and typically 100+ entrants including marching bands, floats, dancers, gymnasts and lots more. For some, the parade itself is the favorite activity of this annual Festival.
During the Festival, shrimp boats are docked at the city of Fernandina Harbor Marina downtown along the riverfront. One of the traditions of the Festival is the “Best Decorated Shrimp Boat” contest.
Originally Held To Celebrate Blessing of Shrimp Fleet
Fernandina is known as “birthplace of the modern shrimping industry in America.” The Festival began back in 1964 to celebrate the blessing of the shrimp fleet and featured shrimp boat races (formally called the “Shrimp Boat Festival”). Take a look below at old photos courtesy of the “Florida Memory” archives, dated 1971. (On left Fernandina shrimp boat race, on right blessing of shrimp boat Golden Isle.)
Kids Fun Zone
Last year in 2022, the Kids Fun Zone moved back to the location behind Fernandina’s library (for a few years it had been relocated to Central Park). The Kids Fun Zone features rides, games, rock wall climbing, face painting, and live entertainment.
Fine Arts & Crafts Show
A main feature of the Shrimp Festival is the huge juried art show administered by the Amelia Island Art Association. Fernandina’s downtown historic district is lined with hundreds of booths for art lovers to browse.
Vintage & Antiques, Collectibles Show
Besides the fine arts and crafts booths, the vintage/antiques vendors offer additional booths to browse. Combined with the fine arts show, the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival offers an opportunity to shop for unique art, items for your home, your wardrobe, or special gifts.
Food Booths At Shrimp Festival
Also for purchase, of course, is shrimp prepared various ways including popular fried shrimp, shrimp boils and shrimp pie. The food booths are non-profits including area schools, churches and organizations such as the Amelia Island Museum of History (the museum sells their shrimp gumbo). Other festival favorites such as funnel cakes and fresh squeezed lemonade are also popular with attendees. The annual Shrimp Festival is an important fundraising event for local area non-profits.
Free Concerts, Riverfront Stage
For those who are fans of “The Voice” television show, a finalist from the 2021 season, Paris Winningham, will perform on Fernandina’s riverfront stage Friday evening, May 5th at 7:30 p.m. (Watch Winningham’s performance of “Love Train” below with his coach, Blake Shelton on “The Voice”).
The Saturday, May 6, 2023 early evening time slot at 5 p.m. will feature a Southern rock band on Fernandina’s riverfront stage — “The Curt Towne Band” out of Jacksonville. According to the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival’s entertainment schedule, this band has opened in past for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, The Outlaws, Molley Hatchet, .38 Special and others.
Swingin’ Medallions — Annual Performers
A local favorite and repeat performers at the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is the “Party Band of the South,” the Swingin’ Medallions. They traditionally play Sunday afternoon and close out the Festival. This year on May 7, 2023 the Swingin’ Medallions are scheduled to perform two sets, the first at 2 p.m. and second at 3:45 pm. on Sunday.
Shrimp Festival — Where To Park?
The Festival’s “PARK & RIDE” lot with shuttle service is located at Fernandina Beach High School (435 Citrona Avenue, $10 parking fee, a donation to the school). Then take the free shuttle service to the festival area downtown. Closer to the Shrimp Festival area downtown are a few “PARK & WALK” lots ($20 parking fee): Located at Buccaneer Field (S. 11th St. and Beech St.), and across the street from Central Park on Atlantic Ave., and further downtown at riverfront, the city’s lots C & D (south of Atlantic Seafood). Parking can be a challenge during the Shrimp Festival. Many folks search for a free parking spot along downtown side streets on the outskirts of Festival area.
See also recently published article, “Highlights of the 2023 Shrimp Festival in Fernandina, Home of the Pirates.”
For further details and updates about the 2023 Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, follow their Facebook page. Also see the official Shrimp Festival website and browse the 2023 Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival schedule of all activities and performances at the Kids Fun Zone and riverfront stage during the 3-day festival.