Fort Myers Beach, Florida is holding its 54th annual Shrimp Festival. It is held “on the weekend nearest the full moon after the Edison Festival (held in Fort Myers).” That may sound odd, but it is because the shrimping fleet comes into port around the time of the full moon. The shrimp catch is poor during the full moon and the tide is higher so returning heavily laden shrimp boats have easier access to the port.
Like many small town festivals, it starts with a 5K run, followed by a parade. Of course, there is a festival queen crowning. And then parade spectators can attend a craft show next to the beach with more than 100 vendors. There are many seafood vendors, but the most famous are the Fort Myers Beach Lions who have been boiling fresh peel and eat shrimp for sale since 1959.
A local Episcopal Bishop boards a boat that circles the docks and mooring areas in order to bless the fleet – the results of a children’s “Blessing of the Fleet” coloring contest were prominently displayed on the exterior walls of a local market.
Most of my pictures are parade preparations, not the actual parade because I was driving a Red Cross van pulling a float. But like many small town parades we have stumbled into around the country, it has an immediacy big parades lack. Sure, some of the floats (ours?) are less than professional, but the streets are narrow and there are no barriers, so the spectators become part of the parade coming out to say hello or to get candy or beads thrown from the floats.
Spectators leave lawn chairs on the street before the parade – no one fears they will be stolen. There are three generation families. There are aging hippies with a beer in their hands. There are young bare-chested studs showing off their tattoos and young ladies in bikinis. It’s a beach. No one is rowdy; everyone is there to have fun.