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Nothing shrimpy about it

Enormous energy, fancy floats among highlights of festival

March 14, 2016
By John Morton ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Having just recently moved from Minneapolis to Fort Myers Beach, Johnny Klein had heard plenty about Shrimp Festival.

But when he came out at 7 a.m. Saturday for a morning stretch, he didn't expect what he saw.

"There were already chairs lining the street," he said. "I mean, what time did the parade start? At 10 a.m., right?

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Tracey Gore, a longtime volunteer who organizes the princesses for the annual Shrimp Festival, was named honorary grand marshal for Saturday's parade.

"People here are sure into it."

That's right, and as usual this year's 58th installment of the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club Shrimp Festival delivered the goods, as thousands of sun-splashed onlookers cheered the elaborate parade floats and feasted upon the pink gold.

Jessie Wells was also watching his first parade, wrapping up a two-week visit from the Chicago area.

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"It was really good - not every parade can say that," he said. "What I also liked is the fact it was the first time I've seen traffic move since I've been here."

For 44-year-old Tracey Gore, a longtime parade volunteer with an emphasis on recruiting and organizing the princess contestants, a seat as the grand marshal offered a new perspective for a native of the area who can't recall ever missing a parade.

"Things were so happy and cheerful," said Gore, who has been balancing her run for Town Council with festival demands. "With all the negative stuff that's happened lately - the brown water, the construction, the stress of the election - it was good to have something that everyone loves. It was perfect timing."

And traveling down Estero Boulevard in a Corvette, surrounded by the floats, was a treat.

"It was neat to be able to see all the faces in the crowd - I saw people from high school," she said. "And the floats were amazing this year. Especially the amount of detail."

Regarding her princesses, Gore was proud to see Madison Tezak crowned as this year's festival queen. She represented Semmer Electric, which is Gore's parents' business.

Garnering the first-ever People's Choice Award was Logan Phillips, representing Holiday Water Sports, who received the most votes from an online voting procedure. Those who submitted votes paid $3 to do so, with the proceeds going toward the Lions Club's charities.

As for the vendors' expo, Lynn Hall Memorial Park was full to capacity with more than 100 tents. The Lions hoped to reach a goal this year of $50,000 raised, but as of Monday the results were not yet determined.

Then there was the construction-riddled Boulevard, which Lee County promised would be safe and clutter-free for the parade. All went well, with no incidents taking place, Town Manager Don Stilwell reported Monday. And most of the people on the floats cooperated by not throwing beads this year there was concern they'd clog the construction holes that have been dug.

Gore laughs at the fact that the whistles she tossed to the crowd didn't lead to ground pollution, but rather noise pollution.

"I thought the kids would like them, but when I walked past the Mermaid (Lounge) afterward all I could hear were my whistles," she said. "The adults liked them the most."

The party's intensity is now something Klein understands.

"I'll tell you, this is one tight community," he said. "The energy is just awesome. It's like I just attended a pre-St. Patrick's Day party - and how scary is that?"



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