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Issue 630

03/07/2013 at 3:31pm

Shrimp Fest ParadeShrimp Fever Strikes Beach

The 55th Fort Myers Beach Lions Club Shrimp Festival takes over the beach this weekend as thousands are expected to line the parade route and enjoy the Festival activities at Lynn Hall Park on Saturday and Sunday.

The Shrimp Festival Parade marches down Estero Boulevard on Saturday, March 9th at 10am. This year’s Honorary Parade Marshal is long-time Lion Pete McCagg. This Island tradition brings colorful floats, decorated cars, fire trucks and marching groups together for a 1.2 mile stroll down Estero Boulevard. The parade begins at School St. and ends at Matanzas Bridge near Lynn Hall Park where all the Shrimp Festival fun continues. There will be candy and beads and fun to spare for both participants and spectators along the route. For the best parade viewing, look for spots in the middle of the parade route. And watch for flying beads and candy.

Parade participants should plan to be on the island by 8am, well before the Matanzas Bridge closes at 9am for the parade. The bridge will be closed from 9am-noon.

The 21st Annual Shrimp Festival Food, Fun & Crafts Expo will be in Lynn Hall Park all day March 9th & 10th with more than a 100 great vendors offering food, crafts and unique items. You can also find collectable 2013 Shrimp Festival t-shirts at the Expo all weekend or until they run out of shirts.

Be at the Beach Pavilion in Lynn Hall Park at 1pm on Saturday, March 9th for the Crowning of the 55th Shrimp Festival Queen. 2012 Queen Jamie Costa will be on hand to crown the 2013 Queen as scholarships and trophies are awarded in the Pageant competition. Be sure to watch for the Shrimp Princesses in the parade on Saturday morning.

The Lion's World Famous Shrimp Dinners, featuring shrimp from our local boats will be offered at Lynn Hall Park on Saturday, March 9 from 10am-5pm and Sunday March 10 from 10am until they run out, and they always run out. Be sure to get your share of the over 1,000 pounds of local Gulf Pink shrimp that will be served!

While Islanders and visitors enjoy the pageantry and fun of the annual Shrimp Festival, they know that the Lions use 100% of the profits from the event to support charitable causes. Last year the Festival raised more than $45,000 all donated to support local and vision organizations including Beach School, local vision care cases, Guide Dogs for the hearing and sight impaired, Lee County CERT, Scholarships, Large Print and Audio Books for the Beach Library, sight-impaired campers, WGCU radio reading service, Lions Foundation for the Blind, Immokalee Child Care Center, Cypress Lake High School and Conklin Center for the Blind. A complete list of recipients can be found at fmblions.com.

Come out and enjoy all the fun at the Shrimp Festival this weekend!

Shrimp Industry

Back in the early 50’s Islanders held an annual celebration known as Beach Day that included a Queen pageant and a Blessing of the Fleet. Then fifty-five years ago, the Lions Club organized the first Shrimp Festival to celebrate the growing shrimp industry on the island.

Prior to the accidental discovery of Gulf shrimp due to a broken winch on a fishing boat one fateful night in the Dry Tortugas in the 1950’s, Florida shrimping was done in the Atlantic. That all changed once Gulf Pink shrimp were discovered and Fort Myers Beach became a shrimping powerhouse on the west coast of Florida. The fleet on San Carlos Island offloads more Florida Pink shrimp than anywhere else in Florida. Known as a sweet tasting shrimp, seafood lovers appreciate the delicate taste of Gulf Pinks.

During the golden age of pink Gulf Shrimp, packinghouses sprang up on both islands and shrimpers developed a multi-million dollar industry around the tasty crustacean.

While the industry has been damaged by cheap shrimp imports and high fuel prices, it remains a key industry in Fort Myers Beach. If you’d like to know more about that industry, the Ostego Bay Marine Science Center offers a weekly tour of the working waterfront each Wednesday at 9am. Call 239-765-8101 for more information.

Islanders and visitors can support local shrimpers by buying fresh local seafood form local boats, available at Trico Shrimp and Beach Seafood on San Carlos Island.

When dining out, help support the local shrimping industry by asking for local shrimp, known as "Gulf Pinks.”

Friends don’t let friends eat imported shrimp. Support your local shrimper.

Missy Layfield