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Shrimp Fest tradition continues this weekend

By Staff | Mar 13, 2015



Fort Myers Beach’s annual crustacean party weekend is here.

The Fort Myers Beach Lions Foundation 57th annual Shrimp Festival begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and carries throughout Sunday.

The island’s longest-standing and largest event will entertain the masses with a competitive race, parade, pageant, shrimp-eating contest and expanded food and craft expo during the weekend-long celebration of the $100 million shrimping industry.

The “Island Shrimp Festival” dates back to a weeklong celebration from March 2-8, 1959. Back then, the local FMB Lions Club-sponsored event was billed “A Carnival Atmosphere Beneath a Southern Sun,” according to a Feb. 26, 1959 ad in the Beach Bulletin -the island newspaper of record at the time.

Times have changed, but the festival continues.

“Come out to The Fort Myers Beach Lion Shrimp Festival and have some FUN. I think that this year’s Festival will be one for the record books,” said Darby Doerzbacher. “People can expect, hopefully, real Florida spring weather, plates full of Florida fresh gulf pink shrimp and an eclectic variety of items for sale at our expo, including our official Shrimp Festival T-shirts. The parade is lining up to be colorful and entertaining, and our Princesses are as pretty as ever. The Shrimp Eating Contest will be fun to watch on Sunday, and the Lions look forward to being able to distribute all the proceeds to the many groups and entities throughout the community and the state that the club supports. The Lions thank all those in the FMB community who help to make this possible.”

The official kick-off of Shrimp Fest begins with the Fort Myers Beach Lions 5K Shrimp Festival Run at 9 a.m. It starts at Key Estero Plaza and traverses Estero Boulevard and over Matanzas Bridge. Sponsored by the Cypress Lake High School Athletic Booster Club and Cypress Lake High School, the pre-parade race follows the same format as its predecessor, the FMB Chamber of Commerce 5-kilometer race. Go to www.fortmyersbeachshrimpfestival.com to register.

Directly after the race is the Shrimp Festival parade. The route is approximately 1.25 miles in length, starting at School Street and proceeding north on Estero Boulevard to the Matanzas Pass Bridge. Applications and complete details are posted on the Festival website.

Jerry Tatarian, a Beach resident and Realtor for 30 years, will be the parade marshal. A member of the Beach Lions Club for 29 years, he is a past president, a past secretary, current board member and is a Melvin Jones Fellow, the highest award in Lions, which he has been twice awarded. Tatarian started the Festival Expo and the Lions’ Scholarship fund.

Afterwards, head down to the Lynn Hall Park, the site of the Lions festival grounds to visit the many vendors of the Festival Food, Fun & Crafts Expo. Festival goers can witness a full house of more than 90 arts & craft vendors and 18 food booths to enjoy food, drink, shopping and fun from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 to 5 Sunday. World-famous Lions shrimp dinners will be available during the event until the hot item sells out. Go to the festival website to get advance tickets.

The 2015 Beach Lion’s Club Shrimp Festival Queen Pageant will start at 1 p.m. at the park pavilion. The crowned princess receives a $500 college scholarship. Scholarships and trophies will be awarded, and 2014 Shrimp Queen Jordan Ward will crown the worthy 2015 queen. For the second straight year, the Queen Pageant Master of Ceremonies is Eli Baldwin, a local actor and singer and graduate of Cypress Lake High Center for the Arts.

Last Sunday, the princesses took part in the Sunday Social at Lani Kai Resort, which served as a meet-and-greet with the public and the first leg of judging.

On Sunday, the Beach Lions will hold the inaugural Fort Myers Beach Lions Shrimp Festival Shrimp Eating Championship with a tentative 1 p.m. start on the festival grounds. The shrimp-eating contest will feature up to 10 sponsored contestants trying to eat three pounds of cooked and peeled Beach Pink Gold Shrimp in three minutes. WINK-TV’s Bob Irzyk will emcee the event.

The island’s signature event is not just a party, it also serves as the Fort Myers Beach Lions Foundation’s main fundraiser as 100 percent of proceeds from sales go to charities. The Beach Lions support Florida Lions Eyebank, Baskin Palmer Eye Institute, Southeast Guide Dogs, large print books for the Beach Library, FMB Little League, Beach Elementary School projects and Florida Lions Camp to name a few.

1975 Shrimp Queen

to grace parade

Forty years ago, Ellen Springer was crowned the 1975 Shrimp Festival Queen. She will be among the dignitaries to grace the 2015 parade.

Springer ran as Miss Moss Marina. Her father, Dan Springer, co-owned the business from 1971-1977, after purchasing it from Mr. Moss. She then graduated from Cypress Lake High School and was an early admission student at age 16 to Edison Community College where she received an Associate degree and followed up with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Florida.

Springer, MBA, CPA, has been providing business, tax and consulting services to individuals and businesses for more than 35 years. She is also author of a best-selling business book titled, “Turn Your Passion into Your Dream Business.”

The Georgia resident has served on numerous community boards and has received many awards including: 2005 Kennesaw Citizen of the Year; 2006 (NAWBO) Women Entrepreneur Inspiration Award; 2014 5 Star CPA award from Atlanta Magazine; and the 2014 and 2015 NAIFA Top Female Advisor Awards. She has two children and two grandchildren and loves to play tennis.

Shrimp festival

gear selling

As well as being offered on the festival grounds March 14-15, the 2015 edition of the Official FMB Lions Shrimp Festival t-shirts, tank tops, collared shirts and caps can be found at the following Beach locations: Sun Hardware, Gavin’s Hardware, Red Coconut RV Park on Saturdays and Bay Oaks Recreation Center.

“This year, festival t-shirts, tank tops, caps and golf shirts and shrimp dinner tickets can be purchased online. Sending gifts and souvenirs for those who can’t attend is a great way to remember the Shrimp Festival and the fun. As always, all profits Lions make from this event go 100 percent to our sight conservation programs, scholarships and local community services right here on Fort Myers Beach. For complete event updates visit www.BeachShrimpFestival.com ,” Lion and Parade Marshall Jerry Tatarian said.