56th Annual Shrimp Festival Weekend
The Fort Myers Beach Lions Shrimp Festival takes over the Beach this weekend, March 8-9 and the Beach Lions have been working hard to make this year's 56th Annual Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival the best one yet!Here’s what’s on tap…
The Shrimp Festival Parade will be Saturday, March 8th beginning at 10am. This is the largest Island parade of the year! Prizes are awarded in a number of categories! The route is about 1.25 miles in length, beginning at School Street and ending at the Matanzas Bridge near Lynn Hall Memorial Park where all the Shrimp Festival fun will be located.
Note that the Matanzas Bridge will be closed from 9am – 12noon, so plan to arrive on the island early!
Photos and a short biography of each Princess can be found in this edition of the Sand Paper. Watch for the Princesses in the Saturday morning parade before the pageant in Lynn Hall Park at 1pm. Scholarships and trophies will be awarded during the Pageant at the beach pavilion. The 2013 Shrimp Festival Queen Christina Glase will crown the 2014 Queen after everyone meets all nine 2014 princesses.
The 22nd Annual Shrimp Festival Food, Fun & Crafts EXPO will be held from 10am-5pm on Saturday, March 8 & Sunday, March 9 at Lynn Hall Park. More than 100 great vendors!
Many Islanders and visitors add to their Shrimp Festival gear collection each year. Festival gear is available on the Shrimp Festival Grounds on March 8 & 9. Stop by and pick up your tees, tanks, polos and hats for a special souvenir!
The Expo is where you’ll find the tastiest part of Shrimp Festival – the Lions shrimp boil! Lions toil and boil for two days from 10am-6pm to bring the best Gulf shrimp to the savvy folks in the "Shrimp Line.” Get there early for your half pound of shrimp, slaw and secret shrimp sauce. This is a great opportunity to enjoy some really fresh Gulf pink shrimp caught by our very own shrimp fleet. The Lions have about a ton of shrimp ready for the Festival. And yes, they do sell out, so get there early!
The Shrimp Festival is the Lions major fundraiser for the year, raising tens of thousands of dollars to support charities. Each year for 55 years, the Lions have used 100% of the proceeds of the Shrimp Festival to support FMB Lions Charities. Last year the Festival raised more than $45,000 – all donated to support charities like Beach Lions We Serve Scholarships, Campership Fund for sight-impaired campers Guide Dogs for the hearing and sight impaired, Beach School, Lee County CERT, Large Print and Audio Books for the Beach Library, local vision care cases, WGCU radio reading service, Immokalee Child Care Center, Cypress Lake High School, Lions Club International Foundation, Lions Foundation for the Blind and Conklin Center for the Blind.
The very first Shrimp Festival was held in 1959. Before that "Beach Day” was held on the Sunday after the Edison Festival of Light parade in mid-February. St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church sponsored the Blessing of the Shrimp fleet and sold Shrimp rolls in the county park on the beach, while the Beach Improvement Association held a Beauty Contest in the park.
The early Shrimp Festivals aimed to build on Beach Day and have a real beach celebration. The Festival was originally scheduled to coincide with the full moon as shrimping is poor during full moons while the port is deeper to accommodate the boatloads of local pink shrimp the boats brought home.
That first year, the Lions Club sponsored a parade from the Beach School to the park, the same route it takes today. They also sold BBQ chicken dinners until one year a member of the Lions suggested that since it was the Shrimp Festival, they should cook shrimp instead of chicken.
"We cut lots of buttonwood logs on Friday, dug a pit and started the fire about 5 in the morning Saturday to boil the shrimp,” says long time Islander and Lion Pete McCagg. "This was the primary fundraiser, though we also held a raffle.”
A Gopher Turtle Derby was held during the Festival from 1962-1970 to raise money. The Lions paid the Seminole Indians 25 cents each for 50 gopher tortoises. The Lions resold them to island businesses and individuals for $5. The Tortoise’s shells were decorated with watercolors and then put in an inner circle and the first to reach an outer circle won. When the Festival was over, the tortoises were released back into the wild.
While the Lions Club tried to turn the Festival over to the Chamber of Commerce one year in the early 1970’s, they resumed responsibility the following year. The Fort Myers Beach Lions have sponsored the Shrimp Festival ever since and take great pride knowing that Islanders love the Festival as part of their local heritage and visitors often plan their vacations around the Festival.
The Fort Myers Beach Lions Club is a fun-loving, hard-working local civic service organization absolutely dedicated to the Fort Myers Beach community and local, state, national and international vision related Lions Club charities. Their efforts on behalf of local residents with vision problems are legendary. They welcome those who belong to Lions clubs elsewhere and those who may never have attended a Lions meeting. FMB Lions are encouraged to participate in club activities as their other commitments allow, so don’t let a busy schedule deter you. The Beach Lions meet on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at 7pm at St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 5601 Williams Drive. Anyone interested in learning more about this great organization or joining them for a no-obligation meeting visit and a great dinner, should call Jerry at 239-765-4289 or email INFO@FMBLIONS.COM.
For more information about the Shrimp Festival see fortmyersbeachshrimpfestival.com.
-Information provided by the
Fort Myers Beach Lions Club.