FERNANDINA BEACH WEATHER

Changes planned for 50th anniversary Shrimp Festival

Submitted by

Susan Hardee Steger

Marsha Miller, Anne Hardee, unknown, Judy Alday, unknown, enjoy 1965 Shrimp Boat Races
Marsha Miller, Anne Hardee, unknown, Judy Alday, unknown, enjoy 1965 Shrimp Boat Races

Changes are coming to the 50th anniversary Shrimp Festival according to Sandy Price executive director of the annual Shrimp Festival held in Fernandina Beach.  According to Price, with a decrease in sponsorship revenue and an increase in expenses, the Shrimp Festival Committee has developed plans for additional revenue opportunities.

“After much discussion, the Shrimp Festival Committee voted to approve alcohol sales at this year’s event,” says Price.  She indicated that committee members were helped in their decision by witnessing events such as the Blues Festival and the Great Southern Tailgate Cookoff demonstrating alcohol sales did not interfere with the event’s success.

In 2010, the City of Fernandina Beach created an alcohol ordinance that allows alcohol to be served at special events as long as proper controls are in place. These controls include a police presence in areas designated  for sales and consumption.  No open containers of alcohol are allowed outside the area.

BeerA photo to the left provided by Price, outlines the festival alcohol sales location. “Those who wish to purchase alcohol within the designated area may do so, and those who wish to purchase non-alcoholic beverages within the designated area will have that option as well,” says Price.  Children are allowed within the area where alcohol will be served.

Edward M. Rodriguez, President and  CEO of Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce whose organization produces the annual “National Shrimp Festival” says, “Beer is a major part of our revenue . We have hundreds of volunteers in our festival who are part of the beer sales effort. They are all trained and controls are in place for carding, sales, cash handling, and everything else. I don’t see that it [beer sales]  brings any problems that we wouldn’t already have.”

Other upcoming changes are exploring possible plans to move food vendors from City parking lot B, north to parking lot A at the foot of Centre Street.  Plans also include moving the music venue from parking lot A south to Parking Lot B.

In response to the need to increase revenue for food vendors, and in response to feedback from festival goers for more seating and covered areas close to the vendors, plans are for long narrow tents along the board walk and adjacent areas west of the food and music venues.

Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley says, “We will keep close tabs on how this event [Shrimp Festival] in the downtown area handles the change.  I’m sure others will be watching as well. The introduction of alcohol to a large event does require additional staffing to insure basic compliance measures are met, so we will be meeting with the organizers to discuss logistics.”

Susan Woodford, Executive Director of the Nassau Alcohol Crime Drug Abatement Coalition (NACDAC) is disappointed in the Shrimp Festival Committee decision to sell alcohol and says, “The festival is a family event.  We continue to compromise our values for the dollars.” 

Don’t look for a limited presence of law enforcement at the Shrimp Festival.   According to Hurley, “The Fernandina Beach Police Department and our partners from the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, as well as Florida Highway Patrol and other area law enforcement agencies, will be on site at the event and will actively enforce state statutes and local ordinances. Although we know that this [Shrimp Festival] is a vastly different crowd dynamic and not as similarly focused as those [Blues Festival, and Great Southern Tailgate Cook Off] previous events, we are hopeful that common sense will prevail.”

The Fernandina Observer reached out to local business establishments for comments on alcohol sales change.  One owner who initially expressed concern about the impact on local business, is more optimistic that his business will not suffer.

Research Data Services, Inc. hired by  A.I, Tourism Development Council in 2011,  estimates an economic impact for the community at $8,566,900.  Estimated attendance during the three day event is 135,000.

Some 50 non-profits participate in the festival event mostly serving as food vendors. Total revenue generated for non-profits amounts to  $400,000.

This will be the 13th year Price has served in the unpaid position as executive director and filling this role requires year round preparation.

For more information on the 2013 Shrimp Festival, visit www.shrimpfestival.com

January 31, 2013 5:12 p.m.

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