Monday, May 10, 2010

Fernandina Beach Shrimp Festival...and More

Friday, April 30 - Wednesday, May 5, 2010
After eating way too much in Houston, we extended our gluttony for one more weekend at the 47th Annual Fernandina Beach Shrimp Festival. Remember that scene in "Forrest Gump"? "Fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, blackened shrimp, shrimp gumbo..." You get the idea. Food booths are joined by artist booths (pottery, jewelry, metal sculptures, paintings, etc.), as well as live music, parades, a boat decorating contest, and a blessing of the fleet. Throw in 100,000 visitors, and you have quite a party!

For us, one extra ingredient really made Shrimp Festival an event to remember: Indigo Alley. Indigo Alley is a wine bar that was recommended to us by a local woman when we first came back from the Bahamas. Not only do the owners, Mike & Sherry, take care to find wines, local microbrews, and import beers that you wouldn't normally see in a typical bar/restaurant; they also manage to find these gems and offer them at a reasonable price. Best of all, Mike & Sherry decided to forgo the insanity of 100,000 tourists crowding into their bar for the festival and instead closed their doors to all but a few locals and those of us fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. 200 "weekend passes" were sold a month ahead of the event, and ticket-holders could come in through the back gate to enjoy the oasis of the downstairs courtyard, the hidden roof-top garden, and the air-conditioned bar/lounge. What a treat! Various friends volunteered to man the BBQ and cook in the kitchen upstairs, and patrons enjoyed free food along with live jazz & blues throughout the weekend. There were gourmet cheeses and stuffed grape leaves on Friday; Saturday offered three separate meals: coffee and breakfast rolls in the morning, croissant sandwiches, grilled sausages, burgers, and pasta salads during the day, and shrimp gumbo and etouffee in the evening. Terry was still manning the BBQ on Sunday, when sausages and burgers were followed by grilled chicken and shrimp kabobs over dirty rice. We never bothered to eat at the festival food booths...who could beat the food at Indigo Alley? And the price for this royal treatment? $20 each. Not per day, but for the entire weekend. We would've happily paid that just to have a cool, quiet spot to hang out away from the crowd! Mike is pretty sure that everyone who bought a ticket came through at some point over the weekend, but we never saw more than 40 people in the place at any given time. It was a fantastic way to enjoy the festival, and we know that all of Mike & Sherry's patrons enjoyed the gesture!

Fernandina Beach finally returned to its normal, quiet self sometime Monday. We expected to spend a few days waiting for a weather window to jump offshore to Charleston to see friends John & Ginger. Imagine our surprise when we dinghied into the marina and saw Southern Heat on the face dock! "Ahoy, Southern's Pipe Muh Bligh!" Dave was half-asleep in the cockpit, and Camilla popped her head up from down below. They had crossed over from the Bahamas the previous week, and had stayed in the ICW from Canaveral to Fernandina. Like us, they were waiting for a weather window to go further north offshore. We were thrilled to see them, and enjoyed dinner together that evening. We arranged to meet for dinner again Tuesday, but a downpour kept us all on our boats. A last-minute weather window opened up on Wednesday morning, allowing Dave & Camilla to make the two-overnight trip to Southport. We're sorry we didn't get to spend another evening together before they left, but we'll stop off for a visit with them on our way to the Chesapeake. We always say one of the best things about this lifestyle is seeing old friends in new places!

Pictures to go with this Blog chapter:

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