GULF SHORES, Ala. — Summer may have just arrived, but plans are in full-swing in preparation for the 42nd Annual National Shrimp Festival™ presented by Zatarain’s. The Festival, dubbed “Alabama’s Original Beach Party” will take place …
Produced by the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce, the Festival is regularly named one of the Southeast’s most popular festivals. It’s no wonder, with fresh Alabama Wild Caught Shrimp, more than 80 hours of musical entertainment, a dedicated Children’s Activity Village and almost 200 fine art and arts and crafts vendors all nestled along the sugar white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.
What began as a way to honor the local seafood industry while boosting tourism in the fall season 42 years ago has emerged as one of the largest economic engines along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, generating millions of dollars in revenue for vendors, condo owners, cities and local businesses.
This year the Festival will play host to four full days of musical entertainment on the Organized Seafood Association stage and Wind Creek Casino stage, featuring a lineup of national, regional and local acts. There will be musical acts to please all palates, including blues, Motown, Southern rock, jazz, zydeco and country. The music begins at 10 a.m. each day and runs through 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Food is another highlight of the Festival. Almost 50 local and regional vendors will line the boardwalk at the public beach with mouth watering delights.
“We have everybody’s favorite - Rockin’ Rogers Cajun Pistols - back this year along with vendors selling shrimp prepared almost any way you can think of,” Shrimp Festival Chairman Matt Mogan said. “We’ll also have other food, from corn dogs to ice cream to Nanny’s Lemonade.”
An attraction that has been expanded at the Festival this year will be free shrimp.
“We’ve teamed up several of our sponsors – Zatarain’s, the Organized Seafood Association of Alabama, the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission and Wind Creek Casino,” Festival Sponsorship Coordinator Don McPherson said. “They’ll have a larger tent this year in a new location near the boardwalk on the west side of the Festival where they’ll prepare about 200 pounds of shrimp per day for people to try at different tasting times. We’ll also have some of the area’s best chefs preparing some of their award-winning recipes for people to sample.”
Schedules for the tastings will be posted outside the tent.
A couple of new activities this year include Outdoor World and Shrimp Festival Idol. Outdoor World will feature fishing, boating, hunting and other outdoor vendors and activities.
Shrimp Festival Idol will be an “American Idol” type competition where high school singers from seven local schools will compete in elimination rounds to find out who is will become Shrimp Festival Idol. Scholarships will be awarded to the top three contestants.
Families can enter the annual sand sculpture contest on Saturday, Oct. 12. Kids can take part in a myriad of activities in the newly relocated Children’s Activity Village, including face-painting, karaoke and much more.
“We’ve moved the Children’s Activity Village from the extreme west end of the Festival into the heart of the Festival,” Mogan said. “We feel confident this move will make it easier on parents by placing the children in closer proximity to them.”
Runners and walkers can enter the 10K and 5K races to help work off some of the great food at the Festival and the weather is still warm enough for swimmers to take to the blue-green waters of the Gulf and sunbathers to work on their tans.
Art lovers will have almost 200 booths of fine art and art-and-craft vendors from which to choose. Car lovers will have a chance to preview many of the new 2014 Chevrolet models that will be on display, including Silverado trucks and the award-winning Volt.
The Festival is produced by the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce, presented by Zatarain's and sponsored in part by Chevrolet, the Organized Seafood Association of Alabama, Wind Creek Casino, Coca-Cola, Royal Prestige Cookware, YP, Baldwin EMC, Nanny's Lemonade, the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission and Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Tourism.
For more information on the Festival go to www.myshrimpfest.com or click here.
“It’s going to be a blast for the whole family,” Mogan said.