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The famous Shrimp Festival returns for its 61st year

By Staff | Mar 6, 2019

Parades, princesses, and shrimp galore.

This weekend, the Lion’s Club will host the 61st Annual Fort Myers Beach Lions Club Shrimp Festival, and the beach will be bustling with celebration.

Every year the club sponsors the three-day event to raise money for local student scholarships, the Florida Lions Eye Bank, and Southeast Guide Dogs, among many of the organization’s other charities.

“Last year I think we raised $65,000, and all the money goes back to the community or to Lion’s entities to help with our different causes,” said Lion Fran Peters.

The popular parade will dominate the island on Saturday morning, shutting down the Matanzas Pass Bridge from 9 a.m. until noon.

“The parade starts at the beach school and will head down towards Lynn Hall Park, and we’ll have 75 plus entrants in the parade. The Clydesdales are going to be here this year, and we have a band from FGCU,” said Peters.

“With the bridge closing, we tell people they need to get to the island before 8 to get a seat for the parade and to watch everything.”

Preceding the parade is the Shrimp Run 5K at 9 a.m., presented by the Cypress Lake High School Athletic Booster Club, which will take runners and walkers from Doc Ford’s, over the Matanzas Pass Bridge, and back again.

The cavalcade of decorated cars will end at Lynn Hall Park, where an expo will be set up with more than 50 booths selling food, arts, and crafts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all weekend.

“They clear out the parking lot on Friday afternoon and every parking spot will have a different vendor,” she said.

Saturday will feature the Shrimp Festival Queens Pageant, with master of ceremonies Mayor Tracey Gore.

Eight young women, aged 16-21, are competing for the coveted title of Shrimp Queen.

“Some of them are Fort Myers Beach locals, some of them are just Fort Myers gals who maybe go to Cypress Lake High School, I think we have one from Naples whose aunt is on the beach, but they all have a connection to Fort Myers Beach,” said Peters.

The princesses will ride in the parade in Corvettes decorated in signs they made themselves.

“They’re really the highlight of the event,” said Tracey Gore.

Other categories being judged include Miss Photogenic, Miss Congeniality, Miss Personality, and the People’s Choice Award, which is based on how much each princess can fundraise from the public.

“The queen will be crowned from a combination of the scores from those different categories, as well as three judges at the pageant on Saturday at 1 p.m. who will judge them on their poise and how well spoken they are,” said Peters.

But of course, the main attraction is fresh pink shrimp straight from the Gulf, boiled to perfection from 10 a.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday by members of the Lion’s Club.

Half a pound of shrimp delivered straight from the Fort Myers Beach Fleet can be yours for $15, complete with a side of the Lions’ famous cocktail sauce.

At 1 p.m. on Sunday, up to 10 sponsored contestants will compete to see who can shove the most shrimp into their mouths the fastest in the 5th Annual Shrimp Festival Shrimp Eating Championship.

Reigning King Joel Martinez from the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department will return this year to defend his 2018 title.

To vote for the People’s Choice Awards in the shrimp eating contest or shrimp queen pageant, visit www.fortmyersbeachshrimpfestival.com.

Entries are also still open for the parade and can be registered on the website or by calling Lion Diane Clifton at 239-634-3887.

“We need to know ahead of time, if someone has a 20-foot trailer or 30-foot or 50-foot, they need to know that to be able to park people and get them to feed into the parade,” said Peters.

For more information, call the festival’s dedicated phone line at 239-848-6776, or email info@fmblions.com