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Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival opens with fireworks

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The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival returns to historic Fernandina Beach Friday through Sunday.

Come for the arts, the crafts, the food, the antiques, the Kids Fun Zone, the Pirates, the official T-shirt and souvenirs, the free concerts, the shrimp boats, the demonstrations, or just come to people watch, the Shrimp Festival offers something for everyone!

The activities kick-off with a Pirate Parade Thursday, but the festival officially opens Friday with the Historical Fernandina Business Association’s Annual Sidewalk Sale. Friday evening, the expanded Kids Fun Zone, located at Central Park on Atlantic Avenue, is celebrating Local’s Appreciation Night. Purchase a Ride-All-Night wrist band for $20 and rides are included from 6 to 10 p.m. 

The festival official opens with a ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday on the Riverfront Stage, with the distribution of scholarships to the winners and runners-up of the Miss Shrimp Festival Pageant,

Sponsor booths, a marine exhibit, tour a real shrimp boat, and feast on delicious fare from a variety of food booths, all operated by Nassau County’s non-profit organizations, located on the waterfront all evening. At 7:15 the Pirate Parade Awards will be given and then Chicago Blues Night comes to Amelia Island! Presented by the Amelia Island Blues Society, Mud Morganfield (the son of Muddy Waters) will take the stage at 7:30. At 9, there is the exciting Invasion of the Pirates as they come booming up the river and take over the stage, followed by a brilliant presentation of fireworks at 9:15. Stick around; after the fireworks the Blues Man of the South, Gitlo Lee, will take the stage until the festivals activities end at 10 p.m.

Saturday brings the opening of nearly 400 arts, crafts, antique and food booths throughout the downtown area from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Kids Fun Zone will be open all day with shows by Rick Hubbard, and JuggleSTUFF, with the addition of the Mason’s Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Pirate in Training Contest (ages 5 and under) and the Little Pirate Contest (ages 6 and up) at 10 a.m. At 11, the dancers from the Bean School of Dance will delight audiences, and at 3:30 the Fernandina Pirates Club will help the youngsters, “Learn to be a Pirate."

On the Riverfront Stage, the Fernandina Beach High School Jazz Ensemble performs at 10 a.m. and you’ll be dancing in the streets to the band DRB at 11. At 12:30, bring your beards to the 49th Annual Topsy Smith Memorial Beard Contest, and at 1 p.m. those gnarly Pirates will invade once more. You are encouraged to put on your best pirate attire and enter the G-rated, Best Adult Pirate Contest at 1:30, and then enjoy the combined sounds of the guitar and the didgeridoo, by Dominic Gaudious at 4 p.m. The contest registration booth, located at the Riverfront Stage, will open one hour prior to contests held in the riverfront area.

The Gin Blossoms take the Riverfront Stage for a free concert at 4:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. They'll play their Top 40 Hits like “Hey Jealous," “Follow You Down' “Til I Hear it From You." “Found Out About You" and “Allison Road." Festivities end at 6 p.m.

Sunday's another full day with the all of the exhibitors and vendors open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Kids Fun Zone will be open all day with more performances of the Kazoobie Show and JuggleSTUFF. Pak’s Karate Academy will offer a demonstration at 11 a.m. and kids  can “Learn to be a Pirate” at noon, or again at 3:30 p.m.

The Riverfront Stage will offer a Sunday morning celebration at 11 a.m., and at 1:30 all eyes turn to the river for the Blessing of the Fleet, Laying of the Wreath, and the Best Decorated Shrimp Boat parade and contest. The Party Band of the South, the Swingin’ Medallions will take the stage at 2:30, with a Cold Stone Creamery Ice Cream Eating Contest (think shrimp ice cream), and Shrimp Boat Awards at 3:30. The Swingin’ Medallions will take the stage for another set at 4, and play until the festival ends at 5 p.m.

The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is easy to find, just come to Amelia Island in Northeast Florida and follow the signs to Park and Ride, where you can find easy, stress-free parking for only $10 per carload, and then catch a free, air-conditioned shuttle to and from the Shrimp Festival.

For more information, visit ShrimpFestival.com.