Wednesday, September 04, 2013

What to bring to Shrimp Fest 2013 in Gulf Shores

Before Gulf Shores was the award-winning beach resort destination that it is now, there was a time that visitors only traveled here in the summer. Once Labor Day came and went most businesses, in fact almost all businesses on the island, closed for the winter. A group of locals got together over 40 years ago and decided to have a big after-season party and the Shrimp Festival, now known as the National Shrimp Festival, was born. Locals invited family and friends to join them at the October party and before long more festivities were added and over time summer guests found a reason to return to party in the fall. I guess the rest is history as they say and now this four-day festival is one of the top rated events in the Southeast.

This year’s National Shrimp Festival will be held October 10-13 at the public beach in Gulf Shores in front of The Hangout. Our free night special (promo code 13SF) is a great way to save some cash to spend at the festival.

What should you bring to the National Shrimp Fest? I suggest you bring:

Shuttle fare
Plan to “Park-N-Ride” the shuttle for $2 each way, since fest parking is virtually non-existent. Click here for shuttle locations and schedule.

Your appetite
This event, now in its 42nd year, did not get the name National Shrimp Festival sponsored by Zatarain’s for
no reason. Rows of food booths pay tribute to this crustacean with a variety of shrimp and other seafood dishes along with some favorite festival foods. After all who can resist a funnel cake? Just don’t toss any leftovers to the seagulls or you will not be popular with neighboring festival goers. If it sounds like I speak

from experience, unfortunately I do.

You can even pop into The Hangout for a meal and some shade in the middle of the day if you wish. Or grab your shrimp po-boy, some curly fries and a cold drink and take a seat on the benches along the boardwalk with a front-row view of the gulf waves and sandy shore.   

The kids
The Children’s Art Village is always popular with the little ones for hands-on art projects and entertainment geared to their age.

Your wallet

Admission to the festival, even the musical entertainment, is FREE. I do, however, recommend that you bring funds for purchasing unique treasures from some of the most talented artists and craftsmen in the region.

Over 130 arts and crafts vendors from around the country bring their hand-crafted goods to show and sell. With business names like “Rock Candles Rock”, “Bodacious Beads” and “Soapy Delight”, who can resist the urge to buy?

An additional 60 artists bring their works of art to the beach in the juried fine art section. Be sure to check out the photography, jewelry, pottery, oils, pastels, watercolors and wood carving before these artists close down at sunset.

The Retail Marketplace features vendors such as Diamond Jewelers, Purdy Girl Boutique, Viper Sauce and Uncle Jesse’s Hushpuppy Maker, along with another 50 other “stores” on the street.

A sand shovel and props
Saturday (Oct. 12) the popular, family-friendly Sand Sculpture Contest begins at 11 a.m. and you will want to either watch on get in on the action. So grab the bucket furnished for this event and get digging. Then you can post your creation for all your Facebook friends to see and be jealous that they didn’t get to go too.

Running shoes
The 10K Run begins at 8 a.m. and the 5K Run starts at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday (Oct 12) at the Orange Beach Sportsplex located 4385 William Silvers Parkway in Orange Beach. Here are the details so you can register in advance.

Your outdoor sportsman
A brand new “Outdoor World” section of the fest will feature boating, hunting, and outdoor recreation vendors, which will be of particular interest to everyone who enjoys these activities.

Sunscreen, a hat and a jacket
Sunscreen and a hat are standard gear since the Shrimp Fest venue is along the beachfront. The suggestion of a lightweight jacket is for the possibility of cooler evenings when the sun goes down and the party continues. Most years the festival weather is warm, in the mid to high 80’s, but on occasion it can be cold in the middle of October, so definitely consult the Weather Channel when you are packing for your trip.

A folding chair
Review the entertainment schedule to choose either the East or West music stage and drop off your folding chair when you first arrive. Once you’ve walked throughout the festival grounds you can return to your ready-made seat in front of the stage. Of course with just a little effort you can move to the other stage for more music.

Each year Thursday is known as “local’s day”, partly because we love the local bands that play such as Lisa Christian, Elaine Petty, Willie Sugarcapps and the Tip Tops and partly because it is less crowded so it’s a great day to visit.

A brand new entertainment feature happens on Saturday (Oct. 12) from 10 a.m. to noon when emerging local youth talent will be showcased in the Shrimp Fest Idol Contest.

I hope you’ll find these suggestions from a long-time festival attendee helpful. If you have not yet reserved your condo or beach house for Shrimp Fest weekend, I encourage you to make your plans now and get your free night.

See you at the beach.

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