If you enjoy the flavor of fresh shrimp, the sounds of live music and the thrill of a good time, you’ll love the 12th Annual Little River ShrimpFest. Scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 8 and 9, on the Little River waterfront, this unique festival combines one of the small fishing village's chief exports (shrimp) and one of its favorite pastimes (a festival).
Held along the historic town's Mineola Avenue on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway, about 25 miles north of Bay View on the Boardwalk, the Little River ShrimpFest has the perfect atmosphere for a two-day shindig that pays tribute to the tasty crustaceans that are caught and unloaded on local docks, especially during the peak harvest time in the fall. Fishing boats and seafood restaurants line the Intracoastal Waterway, and the festival sees the surrounding downtown district transformed into a two-day block party filled with lots of food and beverage booths, live music and dancing, more than 150 arts and crafts vendors, and, of course, the guests of honor — shrimp, and lots of them.
The culinary portion of the program reads like the scene from Forrest Gump where his buddy Bubba sounds off a laundry list of shrimp dishes — “fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, shrimp cocktail …” — you name it. Guests can sample lots of shrimp and other tasty options from both the land and the sea, including fresh fish, crab legs and oysters for seafood lovers, and burgers, barbecue and turkey legs for those who prefer “land food.”
An expected crowd of more than 20,000 patrons is expected to attend and take part in all the festivities, which include lots of live music on the main stage. Unlike past years, when jazz was the featured theme music, the Little River ShrimpFest now features a wide variety of genres, including beach music, pop, rock, country, funk and more. This year's lineup features Randy McQuay, The Empire Strikes Brass Band, Dino's School of Rock, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Cha's, PaperWork, Brian Ernst, and The Bibis Ellison Band. Patrons have plenty of room to dance in the streets, especially the popular Carolina Shag that got its start on area beaches and in area bars.
The Little River ShrimpFest is also one of the most popular stops on the fall arts and crafts festival circuit. Featuring more than 150 booths displaying the works of artists and craftsmen, the vendor area draws large crowds to shop for unique items made by hand. Shoppers can even talk to the artists and craftsmen and ask questions about their works, such as paintings, folk art, jewelry, glasswork, wood carvings and a whole lot more. Hosted by the Little River Chamber of Commerce, ShrimpFest also offers local businesses and civic groups a chance to raise funds through sales of T-shirts and other uniquely local items.
The Little River ShrimpFest also offers lots of fun for the little ones. The popular Kids Zone offers pony rides, a petting zoo, inflatable play equipment, face-painting stations, game booths, a rock-climbing wall and other rides that can be shared by kids and adults who are still kids at heart. Roving entertainers like stilt-walkers and jugglers also offer entertainment for grown-ups and children, who can also find more kid-friendly food options like hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, ice cream and popcorn shrimp. The restaurants and shops along the waterfront are also open for business and serve both food and fun.
The Little River ShrimpFest runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free for ages 12 and under and $5 for ages 13 and over. For more information, visit www.littlerivershrimpfest.org.