It's been 58 years running for a celebration to honor the million-dollar shrimp industry on Fort Myers Beach.
Estero Island residents and visitors will get their yearly treat this weekend when the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club puts on its 55th annual Shrimp Festival.
The Beach Lions, who are celebrating their 60th anniversary as a nonprofit organization this year, have sponsored the annual event that features Gulf pinks, a parade and a ritualistic crowning of a shrimp queen as well as craft and food vendors lining the interior of Lynn Hall Park.
Beach Day was celebrated before shrimp festival made its mark.
It's one big party that began as Beach Day and transformed into what was known as "Island Shrimp Festival." The event was billed "A Carnival Atmosphere Beneath a Southern Sun," according to a Feb. 26, 1959 ad in the Beach Bulletin -the island newspaper of record at the time. Miss Jeannie Spencer was crowned the first Shrimp Festival Queen.
"The Shrimp Festival is phenomenal," said Beach Lions Club President Sheila Kelley. "It's such a big event in a small community, so it's so much fun. The parade will be just as big as ever, and the girls are very excited. Our t-shirts go on sale first thing Saturday."
This year, the Beach Lions are again utilizing all profits from the weekend festivities for a huge list of local needs in the community. Check out that list at www.fmblions.com.
"We look forward to a very profitable fundraiser because the community gets so involved and the attendance is just fantastic," said Lion Sheila. "Most of the proceeds go to help the blind and vision impaired by assisting in surgeries to those that can't afford it or purchasing glasses for those that can't afford it. We also help the hearing impaired and are dedicated to helping those with diabetes. "
The festival kicked off last weekend with the Queen Sunset Social at the Gulfshore Grill when eight princesses became acquainted with themselves, their sponsors and the public by participating in the first of two judged events to determine who shall become the 55th festival shrimp queen.
"They were judged on their poise, etiquette, social skills and the ability to network themselves," said Lion Shelley.
With the initial nervousness behind them, the princesses will now be escorted in convertibles during the Shrimp Festival Parade, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and rolls from Beach Elementary School to the Lynn Hall Park festival ground.
While watching the parade march down Estero Boulevard, watch out for beads and candy being thrown from the many vehicles and floats that will be lined up during the hour-long event.
The parade procession will stop at the Shrimp Festival Food Fun & Crafts Expo where more than 100 vendors will offer their food and crafts from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The vendors will also be at that location during the same time frame Sunday.
After the parade, the princess will have a couple of hours to relax and spruce up for the 55th Shrimp Festival Queen Contest at 1 p.m. Come see who will earn scholarships and trophies for Queen, First Runner-up, Miss Congeniality and Miss Photogenic at the beach pavilion at Lynn Hall Park. Jamie Costa, the 2012 Shrimp Queen, will crown her successor at ceremony's end.
Don't forget to support the local shrimp industry by purchasing and dining on Gulf Pinks all weekend long! At the festival grounds, the Beach Lions will be cooking their "World Famous Lions Shrimp Dinners" and selling official festival t-shirts, tank tops, caps and more.
Chamber 5K Shrimp Run cancelled
A mainstay for 27 consecutive years during Shrimp Festival Saturday has been cancelled.
The annual Chamber 5-kilometer Shrimp Run will not take place on the Beach during the festivities. The Fort Myers Track Club has apparently pulled out of the annual race due to a conflict with the Susan G. Komen Southwest Florida Race for the Cure held on the same day in Estero.
Bridge to close March 9
ATTENTION: The Matanzas Pass Bridge will be closed from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, March 9. This action is necessary due to the FMB Chamber of Commerce 5-kilometer race and the ensuing parade. Those drivers coming from the south end will be re-routed south at the mid-island yellow light near FMB Fire Station #31.