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Amelia SanJon Gallery
Amelia Island Artists Workshop
Sandra Baker-Hinton
218A Ash Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-491-8040,  904-557-1195 cell
Amelia Island Artists Workshop (for workshop schedules)

Finally we see blue skies and sunshine for the town's biggest event for the year, especially nice since it was the Golden Anniversary of the Festival.  I heard lots of first hand stories from old timers to the island about its beginnings.  What began as a small town Shrimpboat race evolved into the huge event it is today which can draw as many as 100,000 visitors to the island.  I am drawn to the waterfront where the crowds are not so large and to the food booths.  I understand it is almost time for the annual blessing of the fleet.  The boats normally parade around the harbor decked out in their finest to receive that blessing.

As you can see the wind was also in attendance.  I found out that I was early as I asked people on board the boats about the time.  I was told that in the early days one set of bleachers was set up for the people to use while waiting on the shrimpboats to return to the finish line.  The bleacher would have fit into the front room of my gallery.

I decide to take advantage of the sunshine and check out the dock area with my extra gift of time and just see what is going on in a much less crowded environment.  The influence of the strong Eastwardly wind is evidenced in the flags on these two boats.  I was also told that in the early days almost anyone was welcome to board the shrimpboats and join in the race.  Finally they began to realize how much expense the gas was for the race and, possibly, there was a faint recollection of some sort of mishap with the boats that also caused them to decide the races might be a liability, thus the age of litagation was born in Fernandina Beach.

Continually gathering information for my next project a commission painting, I climb on board to tour The Georgia Bulldog.  I find the ropes to be very interesting as I walk on board and also on the dock as they are always coiled in this way to prevent entangling, even when it is not such a great length of rope as this one.  I store this image in my head for later use.

The Georgia Bulldog is a marine study vehicle and is also for rent if you would like to take it out and see what it is like on board an actual working shrimpboat.  A different feeling standing underneath these great nets.  The festival was begun with one objective and evolved into another as the tradition for the festival grew to be a celebration of the shrimp with food booths then art was added.

The wheelhouse of the boat with the traditional "steering" wheel of course.  A lot of new technology is used these days in steering and setting the course.

It was interesting to chat with those on board and ask about Squall the Sea Turtle, which I follow weekly on her life's journey as a handicapped individual, since she had received a flipperectomy by a cruising shark one day, and was rescued by this very boat.  She was kept onboard overnight while they rode out a "squall" so strong the turtle had to be strapped down to keep her from being tossed about on the deck.  Once her wounds healed she was released wearing a tracking device which has remained intact as she eventually made her journey all the way around the southern tip of Florida, across the Gulf of Mexico to spend the winter offshore on the Florida/Alabama state line.  Yes, that does mean she adapted quite well adjusting to life as an amputee.

The Priest gives his blessing for the boats,

although many opted to stay moored to the dock rather than try to head out into a potentially hazardous environment with the very strong winds blowing against their broadside.  The weather kept piling up its toil on the festivities even though the sun was shining brightly.

The marina was filled to capacity with boats but the parade only had some of the smaller boats participating.

This very patriotic boat was not to be denied its expression of appreciation for the country and the veterans as patriotic music blared from its loudspeakers.

The population count had certainly exploded as everyone who felt denied their taste of Shrimp and the annual festivities crowded to the waterfront food booths and to visit the artists booths up and down the Centre Street and adjacent side streets of Fernandina Beach.  All former disputes about parade day changes and T-Shirts had vanished to a whimper as all turned out to revel in the sunshine after days of rainy weather.

Tradition is strong in a small town and the Swinging Medallions are always the headliner band of the day.  I don't know if the festival will outlive them, or if they, like the festival will keep recreating themselves to carry on the tradition.

I headed back to the gallery to spend the rest of the day.  I deal with art all day every day and I did not wish to fight the crowds to see more art.  A street muscian set up next to our gallery because he was not allowed in the festival area until it was over.  I don't know if the dog was celebrating the sunshine or telling everyone to donate money to his master because he is blind.

The weather of previous days had loaded the beach with stuff, some good stuff, some interesting stuff, some bad stuff, but lots of it.  Sad to say all these Whelk Egg casings were probably still viable but impossible for me to collect them all and put them back in the water.  The poor Whelk takes about 8 hours to lay one of these long strings which are attached to the sea floor.  I don't know how well they do once dislodged but these were not going to survive on the beach for very long.

The beach was almost crunchy with shells which had been deposited onshore.

On the river the beach the debris was much nastier with undesirable stuff mixed in with the wrack.  Cans, plastic bottles, and every imaginable kind of debris which you might find dumped overboard from fishing boats and other sources was there.  Thankfully a few days later a beach cleanup was scheduled and by the next week this group of volunteers had cleaned up the mess.

Time spent at the waterfront collecting photographs for a new commission painting.  Goal is to do a colorful painting of Pelicans.  The drawing I have decided upon is put on the proper sized paper.  Parts of the drawing, especially the birds and posts is covered with a masking agent kind of like rubber cement.

As in past paintings, this allows me to freely paint the background with wet watery washes and keep the masked areas clean.  The technique I am using consists of painting with liquid acrylics an area, then letting it partially dry, then taking a water spray bottle and washing it off.  It gives a certain effect that I had used in the more abstract sea turtle painting I recently sold.

The end result is an almost fabric like look to parts of the painting.  The decking in particular worked using this technique.  More to come as work progresses over the week ahead.

My ride for the year is this older Polaris ATV.  Last year I took it several times but I would always get stranded for one reason or another, usually weak battery problems.  But this year it has a new battery and seems to be working fine far so good.

Jellies littered the beach looking very much like jewels in a necklace.

On the beach lovers were making out as I rounded the point near the jetty.  He seems to be thoroughly enjoying the moment but the lady seems to be deciding on the colors to paint her bedroom walls.

Exploring with my eyes my beach world checking for changes in the time since I last visited it.  This place always leaves me expecting to see some wild animal like a Bobcat to peer out of the darkness within it.

This truck announces the event of the day.  An unannounced Sea Turtle release is about to happen.  Those of us who knew before hand tried to spread the word to all we knew.

And the stars of the day are unloaded from their plastic transport tubs.

All three of the releasees are in this photo.

The walk down the sand carpet allowing for the adoring public to get good photos of the trio.

Into the water they all go at once.  Not the usual procedure, but then Dr. Norton was not with the group.  When he is there they are released one at a time.

Into the relatively calm water made it much easier to release them.

Back on the beach the following Monday it was more Horseshoe Crabs to rescue.  Some were able to dig themselves out...

...but some were not so lucky and had to be extracted by hand and set on their way.  If they act like they can find their way I let them do the walking themselves.  If they can't seem to get the right direction then I take them myself.  Time is always an issue except on Monday when I don't usually have to pace myself to get to the gallery on time to open.  

Sometimes a big ship will pass by and head off to other countries usually Bermuda.  It is interesting to sit in our small island world and wonder about other exotic places these ships visit and about the people who quietly enter and exit our port without touching our lives.

Overhead this day a flock of what seems to be Ibis.  The dark color made me think it might be something else but a close up of the photo looked like Ibis bills which look like Gonzo on Sesame Street.

More Jellies, Cannonball is the species, wash onto shore.  Although the Sea Turtles eat them in the water, on shore not much eats them, not even gulls which usually eat most anything.

Word is that baby Osprey heads have been spotted meaning we now have chicks.  The buckets of rain and wind of Shrimp Festival weekend did not seem to cause a problem.  I would hate for our favorite pair of parents to loose their chicks again this year.  We are off to a slow start with the turtles and the Plovers also seem slow.  It is all weather related with one of our coolest Springs on record the water and beach temperatures have slowed nesting.  It will warm up soon though and water will soon be more pleasing to the turtles as we all anxiously await their return.

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