Shrimp Festival 53, Fernandina and Lucky Place for Locals

Shrimp Festival is here again.   53 years!  Growing from what I remember as shrimp boat races and a short trip to look at the art, into beauty contests, beard growing contests, staggering crowds and more, the growth fills the Historic District and the entire island.   Like many locals, I’ll enjoy a visit to the event and probably pick a less crowded time to see everything.

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Shrimping….and Fernandina….

The event is great for the local economy.  It showcases the historic district and waterfront.  It brings occupancy to the entire island and it may be one of the few “Old Fernandina” things (relatively) remaining one day, other than old buildings.  Downtown was once the only center of shopping on the island.  With the only hardware stores, grocery stores, post office and far more working shrimp boats, it was the true center of the island and I still see it as the #HeartofFernandina or #HeartofAmeliaIsland.    I can vividly remember going to the post office to get mail most days and listen to the adults talk.  Dad, in one of the side streets, was pitching pennies by a hardware store and, to this day, don’t care for gambling.   Actually, last week, someone pointed out my profession and wondered whether I saw real estate as the same thing, but that’s really “off topic”.    Most of the island was undeveloped, the Ritz and Amelia Island Plantation were just tracts of raw land.  Fernandina moved at a slower pace.  I say Fernandina because, growing up,  I always thought of it as Fernandina…not Fernandina Beach.     This year the change seems to be more noticeable and, as much as I enjoy seeing the world come to us, I can’t help feeling a little nostalgia.


The parade on Thursday and the Friday evening events are closer to the original feel of the event.  Fewer people and the flavor is distinctly local.  If you come back any other weekend, downtown is filled with pieces of the Fernandina I knew growing up.   Even some of the new coffee shops, like Hola Cafe’, have people who know what it feels like to be a part of a community.   Small businesses with the same faces every day and relatively tiny storefronts, compared to a franchise big box, are all about the personal touch and relationships with the community.  When you look around, think about the shop owners, restaurant owners and residents.  We’re all a community.  How many relationships do you have in this town and how important has that become to your life?  There aren’t many places to find the kind of benefits afforded by a strong tourism base, but still have the community you find in a small town.   I’m filled with nostalgia, when I see some of the change, but very aware of the quality of life I’m lucky enough to have enjoyed for nearly 53 years.

 

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