Shrimp festival vendor bolts over changes

Shrimp Producers Association upset by move, sale of non-local shrimp

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Changes are underway for the 51st annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in Fernandina Beach.

The festival, set for May 2-4, brings in more than 120,000 people and $17 million to Nassau County. But this year the festival will be different.

A month before the event, one vendor, the Shrimp Producers Association, said it's pulling out after a tift with festival organizers over the location of where it is allowed to set up. Michael Adams, a member of the association, said it also has to do with a disagreement over whether some of the shrimp at the festival is local.

"It's kind of like a slap to the face when they put you from the front row to the back row," Adams said.

Festival organizers say the top vendors get the best spots. The Shrimp Producers is usually one of the top sellers, but last year it wasn't.

"It's not a move off the waterfront. We also have booths up and down Centre Street," Shrimp Festival chairman Mark Deaton said. "We're just moving them to the other side of this main food area. It's not a huge move."

Adams said he's also not happy that non-local shrimp will be sold.

"We don't like the idea of raised shrimp, imported shrimp," he said.

"We'll have a variety of shrimp," Deaton said. "We encourage our vendors to use 'wild caught' local shrimp when possible -- and an emphasis on wild caught opposed to farm raised."

Deaton said vendors have to display where the shrimp is coming from.

Adams said the Shrimp Producers Association has been a part of the festival since it began.

"I hope the shrimp festival is a success, but we can't support some of the community activities if they're not going to support our organization," Adams said.

"We regret it, but they are one of over 40 vendors," Deaton said. "All of our food vendors are nonprofit organizations in Nassau County."

Deaton said if the Shrimp Producers Association wants to be a part of the organization again, it may be a possibility. But right now it has other vendors who want to be a part of it.

Adams said the association hopes to be a part of the shrimp festival in Mayport the second weekend in May.