History of the Shrimp Festival
The Annual National Shrimp Festival was started in 1971. The event began as a way to keep the tourist at the beach after Labor Day, which was traditionally the end to the season and their departure time.
Area businesses and local residents provided the money and the volunteers to produce an event which actually turned out to be not much more than a shrimp boil on the beach, which lasted all of about 5 hours. There were 6 booths leased by local restaurants, a sand castle contest and a turkey shoot at the local American Legion Post. The big attraction was an exhibit set up by the Marine Resources Division which consisted of Gulf Sea Life swimming in a large aquarium.
There was also the 1st Annual Seafood Cooking Contest which has evolved into “Best of the FEST” Seafood Contest for the food vendors.
The big publicity event was, one of the winning couples from “The Dating Game,” was celebrated as the “STARS” of the Festival. Their prize package was a weekend in Gulf Shores, which was pre-Fredrick and virtually an unknown and acknowledged as honored guests of the Tourists Association and Holiday Inn. The estimated crowd was 1500.
Celebrating its 46th year, the Annual National Shrimp Festival, which draws over 250,000 people, is one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s top rated events contributing over $46 million total economic impact. There are over 300 exhibitors offering everything from fine art, arts & crafts and a retail marketplace to the Children’s Activity Village, where kids can let all their creative talents loose. We also can’t forget shrimp cooked every way possible and 4 days of continuous music featuring major national recording acts as well as all the local favorites. Other activities include our sand sculpture contest, the 10k run/walk, Singing for Scholarships, and Youth for Art.
Admission to the festival is always free!