The Gulf Shores Shrimp Festival
The National Shrimp Festival is held each year at Gulf Shore's main public beach where Gulf Shores Parkway (Highway 59) intersects with Highway 182. The festival begins on the Thursday before the second full weekend in October.
Many people refer to it as the Gulf Shores Shrimp Festival, and even more know it as just "the Shrimp Festival."
The weather can be an issue at any given time on the Alabama Gulf Coast, but early fall is probably the best time to visit the beaches. October, especially at night, is normally very comfortable. Fall is the slowest season for tourism at the beaches, so the Shrimp Festival is a nice boost for local businesses and many of them have grown to depend on it to get them to Snowbird season.
2012 will mark the 41st year for the the Gulf Shores Shrimp Festival. The celebration draws about 300,000 people, making it one of the largest outdoor festivals in the United States. The 200 artists who exhibit their work are carefully selected by the National Shrimp Festival Committee. The quality of arts and crafts at the event is probably unsurpassed anywhere in the country.
It's better to come to the festival hungry because there is plenty of food. You will find just about any seafood that you're in the mood for. Gator on a stick is there for those who want to say they've tasted alligator. I imagine there's still a lot of people in the world who have never had crawfish. The festival is the place to mark those two things off their list of "things to eat before I die."
The shrimp item that has garnered the most positive feedback in recent years is the Cajun pistol, made with shrimp, crawfish, crabs and cheese and served on a bread roll.
Those who leave the Gulf Shores Shrimp Festival with a bag are most likely to have an official National Shrimp Festival T-shirt or poster, or both, in it. A competition is held each year for the poster design. Winning the contest is a big honor for the artist and no doubt a nice addition to his resume. Posters from past events are usually treasured mementos, and many are framed and placed in homes and businesses all over the Gulf coast.
Most of the national acts are well past their touring prime, but they can generally still perform as well as they did in their glory years. At one Shrimp Festival we saw Leon Russell perform a great show. Leon Russell is a legendary performer who at one time could headline Madison Square Garden. Yet, here he is the same performer, the same talent, at the Gulf Shores Shrimp Festival, and we're less than 10 feet from the stage.
Some Gulf Shores Shrimp Festival goers look forward to participating in the sandcastle contest. There are divisions for both adults and children, and it's easy to tell that most who enter have been practicing every time they get near a beach. Some amazing art can be crafted from sand. That's not all of the kid stuff though; there's an entire section set aside for kids to have fun.
Admission is free to the National Shrimp Festival.
It can be very crowded near the festival grounds. Bus shuttles run up and down the beach highway, and last year there was a shuttle stop at Wal-Mart.
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