March 16, 2020 UPDATE — This previous article about the Shrimp Festival has been revised to reflect latest news about the event’s cancellation.
Coronavirus Concerns Cancels Shrimp Festival
The 57th Annual Shrimp Festival that had been scheduled for May 1-3, 2020 has been canceled.
This “heavy-hearted decision,” was made by the executive board of the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. In an announcement made March 16, 2020, the organization stated cancellation of the Festival is due to the “unexpected circumstances of people and events affected by the recent outbreak of the coronavirus…”
** Previous article about event — prior to the cancellation — is below **
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is Amelia Island’s biggest event weekend of the year. This Festival attracts more visitors to this northeast Florida barrier island than any other time. Over 100,000 come to this outdoor Festival held in Fernandina’s downtown historic district.
Shrimp Festival is a tradition enjoyed by generations. There’s a festive atmosphere as reliable as the tides during this weekend. People just love the annual Shrimp Festival Parade, a big community event that gets things going each year.
Parade Thurs., April 30, 2020 — (CANCELED)
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival kicks off with the Pirate Parade, held on the Thursday evening leading up to May’s first weekend. The parade starts at 6 pm in downtown Fernandina’s historic district (route is Ash St., then Centre).
Headlining 2020 Shrimp Festival (CANCELED)
4:30 PM – SAT. MAY 2, 2020 – “The Greatest Hits on Earth – Live!” presents ROCK & POP MASTERS
John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band. This performance will be their third in Fernandina Beach during the past 15 years at the Shrimp Festival (pictured above when they were here in 2010). The band’s music was featured on soundtrack of “Eddie & The Cruisers” movie (1983) and sequel, Eddie & The Cruisers II – Eddie Lives! (1989). Songs include * On The Dark Side* Tender Years * Tough All Over *C.I.T.Y.* The band’s wonderful saxophone player, Michael “Tunes” Antunes, appeared in both movies. “Eddie & The Cruisers” made Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “25 Greatest Movie Bands” (fictional bands).
Peter Beckett will also perform during Rock & Pop Masters. The lead singer of Player (formerly of the Little River Band), songs include * Baby Come Back * This Time I’m In It For Love *
Peter Rivera, lead singer/drummer of Rare Earth, will also perform during Rock & Pop Masters. Songs include * I Just Want To Celebrate * Get Ready * I’m Losing You * Hey Big Brother *
2:00 PM – SUNDAY, MAY 3, 2020
The Swingin’ Medallions will perform at the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival’s riverfront stage. A favorite of locals, this “Party Band of the South,” has become an annual tradition.
Shrimp Festival Hours
- Friday — 6 pm to 10 pm — (Riverfront food booths open at 4 pm. KIDS FUN ZONE at 5 pm). Festival’s opening ceremony is 6 pm. “Miss Shrimp Festival Pageant” at 6:30 pm. Pirates invade Fernandina Harbor at 9 pm, followed by FIREWORKS at 9:15 pm. Live musical entertainment on riverfront stage.
- Saturday — 9 am to 6 pm — Around 400 art, crafts and antiques booths cover eight downtown blocks, plus food vendors and live musical entertainment at riverfront stage. (Riverfront food booths open until 7 PM. KIDS FUN ZONE UNTIL 10 PM)
- Sunday — 10 am to 5 pm — Art, crafts and antiques booths, food vendors, live musical entertainment at riverfront.
There’s no admission fee to enter and roam the Shrimp Festival grounds and to enjoy the free concerts at the riverfront stage. There are fees for rides and activities in KIDS FUN ZONE.
Parade Highlight, The Pirates
Fernandina’s pirates sail along the parade route aboard their ship with intermittent firing of the cannon. This is a big parade that lasts 1.5 to 2 hours, with the pirate ship appearing at end.
The traditional parade route heads west along Ash Street (from 8th Street) toward riverfront, then turns and heads east along historic Centre Street (back to Central Park). Beaded pirate necklaces and candy are traditionally handed out to kids along the parade route. The last few years, after the parade ends, a free “Sounds on Centre” street concert is held. So hang around to enjoy the music and dancing in the street.
Huge Art Show
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.” For those attending mainly for the art show, typically first thing Sunday morning is the least crowded time to browse the fine arts booths.
Celebrating Shrimping History
Shrimp Boat Festival
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), the inaugural event began with shrimp boat races and a blessing of the shrimp fleet.
Watch wonderful video below, a tribute to local Fernandina Beach shrimping history. The documentary-style production from the Amelia Island CVB features aerial views, interesting interviews, plus an historic overview (including vintage images and old film footage). Well worth watching, learn why “wild-caught” is superior-tasting shrimp.
Eat for a good cause! All food booths are run by a local, Nassau County, Florida non-profit. This is a fundraising event for many local organizations. The festival’s food booths offer a wide selection including fried seafood plates, low country boil, shrimp gumbo, shrimp pie, grilled shrimp, Cajun shrimp, popcorn shrimp, and shrimp salad. Look for signs at food booths to learn whether “wild-caught” shrimp is being served (or ask).
Fernandina Harbor Marina Reopened
This May will be the first time in four years that the Fernandina Harbor Marina will be full of boats during the Shrimp Festival. Hurricane Matthew had damaged the marina and closed it down in October 2016. The south basin of the marina reopened in January (see related article, “Welcome Back to Fernandina Harbor”).
Niña & Pinta Tours
Those who approach the downtown marina during Fernandina’s Shrimp Festival are sure to notice two tall ships at the harbor. The Columbus Foundations’ 15th century sailing ships, Niña & Pinta replicas (see related article), will be docked downtown. Deck tours will be offered (paid admission tickets required), from April 24 – May 3, 2020. These ships previously visited Fernandina six years ago (photo 2014).
Festival Parking & Shuttle
Out-of-towners can follow the posted signs, when arriving on Amelia Island, to be directed to the main festival parking lots. A park-and-ride shuttle lot is located at the Fernandina Beach High School (located at 435 Citrona Avenue). Parking fee of $10 (fundraising for the school). Then hop aboard a free shuttle bus from the high school to the downtown festival area.
There are also a few “park and walk” lots ($15 parking fee). These lots are located closer to the Festival area. Park & walk from Central Park (South 11th & Beech Street Ball Fields and South 11th & Atlantic Ave.), city lots C & D at the riverfront, and city lot N at North 2nd Street & Broome.
For further details and full Festival entertainment schedule, visit the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival website.