|I always tell everyone that our small town parade on Thursday, which launches the Shrimp Festival, always has everyone in town either in the parade or watching it. It is fun to see just how creative our citizenry is in creating new and interesting ways to honor the highly acclaimed shrimp.|
|The New Comer's Club (from which no one has left its ranks no matter how long they live here) was in full shrimpdom dress with their orange outfits and cute little shrimp eyes. The also cute little doggie nearby was enjoying the parade as much as any of the people.|
|The parade's end is always signaled by the arrival of the Pirates Club and the shout of "Fire in the Hole" closely followed by an ear-shattering cannon shot. It is a friendly sort of small town parade with those marching in the parade often breaking ranks to hug a friend or neighbor.|
|Friday night is the setting up of the artists' canopies and tents with the food booths open to entertain and lure us all to the Marina area. The night will also include girls competing in Scholarship Pageant, pirates invading from a shrimp boat instead of a pirate ship, and fireworks. The food is front and center with my choices going to the ones with the longest lines and the wild caught shrimp. But "FRIED" is the code word for what kind of food. I included some of the menus from some of the booths with the middle one from Fernandina Beach High School Band's astronomical list of the most variety of fried foods from fried shrimp and pickles, to fried Oreos and Twinkies.|
|The tables are set over a garbage can so that you just toss the shrimp tails and crawfish parts down the hole in the center of the table. Very practical, if not totally haute cuisine eating.|
|I felt like a privileged character with an invitation to pass through the crowd and dock security by friends who had a beautiful sailboat docked at the marina. The reflections from the lights of the shore gave a hint to the fireworks we were to witness.|
|The fireworks also were much nicer looking back over the water at them.|
|The city did a great job with the fireworks this year.|
|After reading Mary Alice Monroe's book, Last Light over Carolina, which was all about the shrimping industry, I mveke up my mind to go to a part of the Shrimp Festival which I had not seen before and that is the Blessing of the Fleet. The boats line up hoping that the priests blessing will ensure a good season. Of course the boats are decked out in their finest and has lots of their friends and family onboard.|
|Island Girl is the boat which often appears in my photos of sunsets at the Marina. Today as it paraded around the marina with the rest to show off and be judged as to best decorated boat, it looked very different from the times I have climbed onboard to buy shrimp.|
|One by one they paraded by giving a glimpse as to what comprised the Shrimp Festival's origins. It began as a Shrimp Boat race. The food booths grew out of a need to entertain those waiting for the boats to run the course which went out into the ocean and back.|
Not all of the boats were huge and some were quite small but all wanted to be part of this important event. This one was the most heavily decorated for its size.
Next morning would be the start of Turtle Season, so get ready to go through the long season with me, as we anticipate another exciting season. My Park Ranger Marie emailed me this morning, "WooHoo we have turtles", meaning we do have a nest in the park already, as well as about 5 others on the other parts of the island. The friendly competition is in full swing with Len who patrols to the park boundary told me he was going to move the park boundary stakes back next time we have one close to the line. And so it goes; we are all caught up in the excitement of Sea Turtle Season.
A sad note about our long lasting Green Sea Turtle nest left over from last year. Marie and I quietly met one morning this week to finally excavate it. We had thought it was a very shallow nest because when we dug into it in November and found the eggs were very close to the top. In reality it was not a shallow nest but a nest which had so many eggs in it that it filled the bottom of the chamber almost all the way to the top. It had the most eggs in it than I had ever dug up before, 159. The eggs on top had shriveled, dried up and hardened those inside dying early on with the cold and exposure from being so near the top. However, those in the bottom, we found possibly had wintered over and as the weather warmed had managed to partially hatch by breaking through the shell and even getting their heads out but died before they could get any further. The top ones had clogged the nest too completely to allow air or a way out.
With all the loose ends tied up from last year, we are only looking forward to a great Sea Turtle season in 2011.