51st Florida Seafood Festival Oct 31 - Nov 1
September 30, 2014 by SoWal Staff
The 51st Annual Florida Seafood Festival - a two-day celebration of fresh seafood, music, and art - draws thousands of visitors to the historic town of Apalachicola on Florida's Forgotten Coast. The event will be held at the mouth of the Apalachicola River under the shady oaks of Apalachicola's Battery Park Oct. 31 - Nov. 1, 2014.
“When most festivals ﬁzzle after years for any number of reasons, you might ask why Florida’s oldest Maritime Event has kept going strong for all this time," said Festival President John Solomon. "It’s simple…a supportive community. It’s the memories of our history and our heritage. It’s making new memories each year with more stories to tell."
Some of the notable events include Oyster Eating and Oyster-Shucking contests, Blue Crab Races, Photo Contest, Parade, 5K Redfish Run, The Blessing of the Fleet , History of the Festival Exhibit, Fireworks Show, King Retsyo's Ball, and an all new Maritime Exhibit.
Country music star Craig Campbell headlines this year’s festival entertainment, closing out the weekend with an 8:30 p.m. show on Nov. 1. Admission is free Friday, Oct. 31, and $5 for adults and free for kids 12 and under on Saturday, Nov. 1.
New Maritime Exhibit Area
This year the Festival has invited marine labs and Exhibits that are hands on, educational, and fun for all ages. Explore the ecosystem that makes Apalachicola Bay so special, meet local wildlife up close, and learn how the hardworking fisherman of the community earn their living.
Oyster Eating Contest
The object of the contest is to see how many oysters can be eaten by contestants in 15-minute span. But this is no casual pick an oyster from the shell and put it on a cracker competition. The big, juicy, salty oysters are shucked in advance, counted, and placed in paper cups to be guzzled down by contestants. The ONLY rule is that they must stay down. More than a dozen men and women compete in the Saturday mid-day event drawing thousands of cheering spectators. Some of the best eaters consume more than 250 to 300 oysters!
Oyster Shucking Contest
Prior to the Florida Seafood Festival's oyster-eating contest is its equally famous oyster-shucking contest. Don't blink! This event happens so fast that the judging takes longer than the actual event. The fastest shucker isn't necessarily the champion. Each gloved, oyster-knife-wielding contestant stands poised over a tray filled with 18 World Famous Apalachicola Bay Oysters. Often within two minutes a pair of hands have flown into the air signaling completion. When all contestants have completed their chore the judges take over. Mutilate a succulent Apalachicola Bay oyster and get off stage - you're through for the day. Nick it, leave unsightly loose shell, or commit one of a dozen other dastardly deeds and penalty time is added to your score. In addition to prizes, the Florida Seafood Festival champion goes on to compete in the national oyster shucking championships.
The Seafood Festival Parade begins Saturday, at 10 a.m. and winds eastward down U.S. Highway 98 to the Apalachicola River. The parade annually features bands, floats and dignitaries from throughout the region. Always a treat for the kids, the parade is a colorful and festive way to begin your day in historic Apalachicola.
Blessing of the Fleet
One of the most colorful events held each year is the Blessing of the Fleet at Battery Park on Friday afternoon. Several clergymen, joined by King Retsyo and Miss Florida Seafood, bless the parade of passing fishing, shrimping and oystering vessels, as well as the recreational boats from across the country that have jammed the marina.
The historic (1907) Gibson Inn at the foot of the John Gorrie Bridge is the starting point for the Florida Seafood Festival’s Redfish Run. The 5K road race then its way through the streets of the charming 165-year-old city on the banks of the Apalachicola River and Bay. Registration starts at 7 a.m. and the event starts at 8 a.m. on the Saturday of the Festival. Redfish Run Application Forms are available at www.FloridaSeafoodFestival.com.
Blue Crab Races
The Blue Crab Races returned to the Festival 7 years ago after many years of absence. Last year the Crab Races were revamped to include more kids. Now up to 20 can participate at a time. The Races are held at the top of each hour from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturday of the Festival. It is free to any children up to age 12 with prizes for everyone. It's fun for the whole family, but make sure you sign up ASAP, as the slots fill up fast. Blue Crabs are provided.
Arts and Crafts Exhibits
The Festival has up as many as 90 arts and crafts booths each year selling hand made goods along beautiful Battery Park.
Fresh Florida Seafood
Food Row is something of a seafood lover’s paradise, from Fresh Oysters on the half shell to Smoked Mullet, and everything in between. If it’s caught in local waters you can find it here. All the seafood is sold by local Non-Profits to benefit community organizations, including churches, schools and civic organizations. Food Row has also other non-seafood items to satisfy any appetite.
The south end of the Festival grounds is dedicated to the Carnival featuring rides and games that will keep you busy for hours. This year’s festival promises more
The Florida Seafood Festival has many musical acts throughout the two day event. Starting around noon on Friday until the park closes, and throughout the day on Saturday. Country Music star Craig Campbell will headline the Florida Seafood Festival with a show on Saturday, Nov. 1 at 8:30 p.m.
Much of the seafood we enjoy in South Walton comes from the Apalachicola Bay area - one of the world's richest marine estuaries. For true epicureans, there's no better place or time to celebrate the succulent seafood and rich heritage of the seafood industry than the Florida Seafood Festival on the banks of the Apalachicola River. For more information on the 51st Florida Seafood Festival, including a full schedule of events, history of the festival, and location map, visit www.FloridaSeafoodFestival.com