Ft. Myers Beach 57th Annual Shrimp Festival went off without a hitch. This is one of Ft. Myers Beach largest annual events. The first Shrimp Festival was held in 1959. Years before that it was labeled “Beach Day.” The Lions Club has been sponsoring and cooking the “Pink Gold” for many decades. A lot of charities benefit from this event. Hats off to the Lions Club!
The spirited festivities includes a Shrimp Festival parade. The event is purely local participation with homemade floats being pulled by mostly personal vehicles.
The island’s residents, snowbirds and visitors alike sat along Estero Boulevard waiting for the parade to proceed down the two lane street. The children are so excited to see the clowns that walk along the route handing out candy and Mardi Gras styled beads. There is something about being on an island with swaying palm trees surrounded by turquoise waters. It seems to give everyone a hospitable attitude.
Ten o’clock arrives and things are starting to roll. The queen and her court lead the parade off by waving from the back-end of some very nice looking corvettes. The rows of horseless carriages showcase this year’s Queen and her court, which is always a crowd favorite. The young ladies are sponsor by various businesses on the island.
The Shrimp Boil’s bright yellow boat and the annual visit from the Cincinnati Firemen’s dancing brigade who were showing off their abilities brought an applause from the awaiting crowd. There are plenty of participants who provide entertainment throughout the whole parade.
It might not seem like it, but there is a lot of thought that goes into making these makeshift and self designed creative works of art that glide gently down the parade route. But no matter what the float’s theme portrays or what it looks like, its all for fun and brings lots of smiles to the onlookers.
The chain of celebrating participants includes vintage cars, drill teams, clowns and other parade favorites. curbside spectators cheer and clap for all the passing performers during the sunny mid morning hours.
The parade was the beginning to a fantastic day. The weather was hovering around the mid 80’s and the always present island breeze shuffled quietly around the crowds with a heavy hint of simmering cuisines.
Ft. Myers Beach and its own Time Square played host to the Shrimp Festival’s open air Bazaar. Just a short walk from Estero Boulevard is where the parade ended and the gathering started. It didn’t take long for the square to absorb the mass of people wanting to continue the Shrimp Festival’s ongoing activities.
There were aisles of vendors displaying their goods under a sea of white tents. This is also where the “Pink Gold” begins to flow. The portable kitchen is located in the last row and possesses the best scent found anywhere. There were large pots filled with boiling shrimp waiting to be eaten. It is very hard to describe how tasty one of the most delicious bounties pulled from Florida’s own Gulf waters. It was well worth the wait.
After enjoying some great food and visiting with some of the vendor’s mobile workshops, we headed to one of our favorite backbay watering holes. On the way there we happened to run into Princess Leah. She is part of the Shrimp Festival’s Royalty. She was gracious enough to give us a personal photo op! What a beautiful young women inside and out.
We made it to Nervous Nellies and proceeded upstairs and out onto Ugly’s Waterside Bar deck. It looks out over Matanzas Pass and offers fabulous views of the back bay and passing vessels. We relaxed for awhile and ordered a couple of our favorite beverages. We started a friendly conversation with the neighboring table. They were curious about the island and its festive celebrations.
If you are ever in the Ft. Myers Beach area in March, plan on attending the Annual Shrimp Festival. It offers plenty of fun for the whole family. I would like to give a big shout out to the local Lions Club who help make this event possible.