Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Seafood, Pirates Sell Fernandina Beach: Popular Festival Draws Large Crowd

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Seafood, Pirates Sell Fernandina Beach: Popular Festival Draws Large Crowd

Article excerpt

Byline: Allison Schaefers, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Pint-sized pirates carrying plastic swords and shouting, "aye, aye matey, give me all your gold," walked the streets of Fernandina Beach on Saturday during the city's 39th annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival.

Jazz music played in the background as adults, children and critters danced in the streets and flitted in and out of the fine art and antique booths and shops that lined the city's historic district. And there was plenty of fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, Cajun-style hot shrimp, shrimp burgers, shrimp sandwiches, shrimp wraps and low country boil to go around.

Some said it was shrimply the best festival ever.

It was smooth sailing Saturday as the city hosted a portion of the expected 125,000 visitors, said festival Executive Director Sandy Price.

"It's been a great festival," Price said. "Judging by T-shirt sales and intersection counts, we've had quite a crowd."

That's good for Fernandina Beach and good for Florida's seafood industry, Price said. The festival spotlights both.

More than 300 artists showed their works, including Anni Moller, who has exhibited prints of Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island for the past 31 years. A former resident of Amelia Island, Moller began painting the city in 1978. Many of the prints had sold out by noon Saturday, she said.

"I love this area," Moller said. "It was the first city I painted. Now, I paint 21 different cities throughout Northeast Florida and Georgia."

But artwork isn't usually the first thing on visitors' minds. Crowds stood in line for half an hour or more to get a taste of fresh seafood brought in by the St. Johns River chapter of the Organized Fisherman of Florida. The group, which will use proceeds from the food sales to lobby for the commercial fishing industry, sold more than 300 dinners an hour Saturday.

"We expect to sell more than 4,000 dinners during the festival," said Teresa VanGoidtsnoven, a volunteer with the group. "This is our main money-maker."

VanGoidtsnoven said the secret to the OFF food tent's success was in the fresh seafood and the hand-breading. More than 50 volunteers man the food booth and make everything fresh to order, she said.

"It's worth the wait," said Betty McClure of Jacksonville. "It's real good seafood, and they give you the works."

Ten dollars bought an iced tea and a plate full of shrimp, fish, deviled crab, french fries and condiments.

"It's a great deal," said McClure's daughter, Donna. "That's why we walked all the way to the end of the festival to get this food."

Janie Thomas, OFF state president and a Nassau County resident, said that's good news.

"It's very important that the people purchase and enjoy domestic seafood," Thomas said.

Representatives of the state bureau of seafood and aquaculture marketing were in town to help Thomas with her mission. …

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