Shrimp Festival kicks off at Fernandina Beach

Singer Edwin McCain, Edgar Hanson from 'Deadliest Catch' to attend

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - This weekend marks the 51st annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in Fernandina Beach.

People may notice some changes, including a big name entertainer and the absence of a longtime vendor.

That longtime vendor decided not to come out because of an issue with where it would be set up and a concern about the shrimp not being local.

Organizers said they are still on track for a wonderful festival for the family, full of local shrimp vendors, and they are looking forward to the kickoff Friday night.

"We typically have about 120,000-plus people come down to see us here at the waterfront at Fernandina Beach, and we're excited about greeting everybody again," said Festival Chairman Mark Deaton.

Deaton said it's on track to be another great festival, despite concerns from one vendor who decided to leave the festival after decades.

The Shrimp Producers Association said it was moved to an unfavorable location and expressed concern that not all the shrimp at the festival was local.

"Why would you want to bring in something from overseas when we've got it all right here to produce and support the local economy?" said Michael Adams, of the association. "That's all we ask is that the people support the local economy and the local shrimpers."

But Deaton said there will be 20 booths serving wild caught shrimp and more.

"We'll have 10 or so huge shrimp boats here on our docks all weekend long," Deaton said. "We've got the support of most of the local shrimpers."

"We bring about $16 million into this community over three days," Deaton added. "How does that not support local business? How does being the biggest fundraiser for approximately 50 nonprofits in Nassau County not support local business?"

In addition to shrimp, Singer Edwin McCain is coming and Edgar Hanson from "Deadliest Catch" are coming in on Saturday.

Then there's the arts and craft show.

Rhonda Bristol, of the Island Art Association, said it's a chance to view the art and hear from the artists firsthand.

"We're going to have about 300 artists and artisans," Bristol said. "There will be something for everyone."

Kate Harris, of the Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it means a lot not just for Amelia Island, but for Nassau County.

"It's significant. All the hotels and motels are booked for this weekend, and the estimated economic impact of this weekend is around $10 million," Harris said.

Things kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fernandina Beach. There are all kinds of events this weekend, not just shrimp. Click here for a schedule of events for the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival.

Last year there was rain, but organizers said even if it rains again this year, the festival will go on.

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