Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival

Fernandina’s Popular Shrimp Festival — May 3-5, 2024

The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival has something fun for everyone. Always held the first weekend in May, this Victorian-era seaport is celebrating its 59th Festival. The dates in 2024 are Friday, May 3rd through Sunday, May 5th, with the Shrimp Fest Parade on Thursday evening, May 2, 2024. This year’s parade theme in 2024 is “Peace, Love and Shrimping (a salute to shrimping in the 60s).”

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 (and was formally called the “Shrimp Boat Festival”).

Shrimp Festival Highlights

A general crowd-pleaser, the FIREWORKS display happens opening night of the Shrimp Festival on Friday May 3, 2024 at Fernandina’s downtown riverfront, scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Others attend the Shrimp Festival for the entertainment, particularly the bands. Various FREE CONCERTS are performed on the riverfront stage. A long-time favorite band, an annual tradition playing at Shrimp Fest, is the Sunday performance by “the party band of the South,” The Swingin’ Medallions (happening this year on May 5, 2024 at 2:30 p.m.). Entry is free admission to the Shrimp Festival area all days to walk around, browse vendor booths, and watch stage entertainment.

Families with younger children enjoy the KIDS FUN ZONE (ticket purchases for rides/concessions required). A main feature of Shrimp Festival is the huge FINE ARTS SHOW, with a wide array of unique artwork for sale. Not to be forgotten are the FESTIVAL FOOD booths (purchase required), many featuring shrimp prepared various way plus other festival favorites.

Fernandina’s Shrimp Festival Weekend Hours:

FRIDAY, May 3, 2024 — Hours:  5:30 PM – 10 PM (Waterfront food booths open early at 3 p.m. Kids Fun Zone opens 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) Opening ceremony at 5:30, “Pirate Invasion” at 9:15 p.m. Wrapping up the evening, FIREWORKS display at 9:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, May 4, 2024 — Hours: 9 AM – 7 PM (Waterfront food booths open until 8 p.m.) Kids Fun Zone 9 a.m. till 8 p.m. “Pirate Invasion” at noon.

SUNDAY, May 5, 2024 — Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM (Riverfront stage concert by The Swingin’ Medallions at 2:30 PM)

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 2, 2024 and traditionally starts at 6 p.m. (and is held rain or shine). Attracting thousands who line the parade route, it features the Fernandina Pirates Club in their ship, intermittently firing the cannon. This parade typically has 100 or so entrants including marching bands, themed floats, dancers, gymnasts and many local businesses and organizations participate. 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.

Shrimp boats Fernandina Beach Marina duing festival, Captain Jack and Miss Carolyn Louise. Photo by
Shrimp boats at Fernandina’s city marina during a past festival. (File photo)
Originally Held To Celebrate Blessing of Shrimp Fleet

As noted above, the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival has a long history in Fernandina. The Festival began back in 1964 to celebrate the blessing of the shrimp fleet. 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.)

An annual tradition, the “Miss Shrimp Festival Scholarship Pageant” is open to high school level juniors and seniors who live in Nassau County. The pageant contestants will be on the riverfront stage Friday evening, May 3, 2024 at 6:30 pm (winner receives $1,000 scholarship). There are also several contests during the Festival (ice cream eating, best dressed pirate and a beard contest).

Kids Fun Zone

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.

Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, Fernandina Beach. Photo by
Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival (file photo,
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.

Shrimp Festival Food Booths at Fernandina riverfront, Non-Profits
Shrimp Festival Food Booths At Riverfront (File photo)
Free Concerts, Entertainment On Riverfront Stage

Throughout the weekend festival, various entertainment is scheduled, including bands performing free concerts at Fernandina’s riverfront stage. View the 2024 Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival’s full 3-day entertainment schedule.

Shrimp Festival — Where To Park?

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. 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. (The shuttle hours are Friday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. 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).

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For further details and updates, also visit the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival website and follow their Facebook page.