Review: The 2017 Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival was the ultimate success for the James Foundation. More than 100 vendors come together annually to share their knowledge of shrimp with the local community.
“Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it” – Bubba, Forrest Gump.
This classic Forrest Gump line is was the first thing that came to my mind when asked to cover the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival this past weekend. After arriving at the festival, the Forrest Gump reference was quickly replaced by the realization of how much there is to learn about shrimp. The Southwest Florida delicacy is taken very seriously at the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival. For 59 years, locals have flocked to the festival to passionately partake in the festivities and learn more about the precious fruit of the sea.
One vendor, Darby, is a particularly knowledgeable and seasoned veteran of the shrimp industry. She has worked in the business for 39 years and loves sharing her passion with shrimp-loving festival goers. She is even the author of a cookbook appropriately titled, “Enjoying Shrimp.”
Darby was eager to show me the proper way to peel a shrimp. She not only walked me through the process but grabbed a shrimp to model how it’s done. Darby explained that there are three key parts to successfully peeling a shrimp: First, she grabbed the shrimp by the tail, telling that if you take the first two parts and peel it back, the shell will peel off. Next, she pulled off the legs, which left a tail-on, peeled shrimp. She continued to the last step, eating it straight off the tail or taking the tail off to have a fully cleaned shrimp. Darby’s friend asked if she would like some cocktail sauce with her freshly peeled shrimp, which she politely refused.
It is easy to see why hundreds of Southwest Florida locals return to Fort Myers Beach annually to partake in the shrimp festivities. With a belly full of shrimp and new found knowledge, I left feeling satisfied and enlightened. There is no doubt in my mind that like many of the dedicated festival goers, I will be returning to Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival year after year.