2024 Shrimp Festival Underway!

The Fort Myers Beach Lions Club Shrimp Festival will take place for the first time since Hurricane Ian devastated the Beach and shrimping industry in 2022. 2024 marks the 66th annual event and it is back and better than ever! Taking place over a week long span, there will be 9 total events that make up the festival and involve all aspects of the Fort Myers Beach community as well as artists from across the country. The list of events includes a kids fun run, 5K race, parade, arts & crafts fair, queen’s pageant, shrimp crawl, the blessing of the fleet, a shrimp eating championship and the newest addition, the closing ceremony and concert.

The longstanding home of the event, Lynn Hall Memorial Park, is still under construction and without facilities such as the bathrooms so the Lions have taken the Town of Fort Myers Beach up on their offer to host the arts & crafts fair in front of Bayside Park and between 1st & 3rd streets. Due to the limit on space at Bayside, the arts & crafts fair will exclude food vendors and the infamous Lions Shrimp Boil. But, have no fear, the Lions have gotten creative and decided to send attendees out into the local business community to get their fix of local ‘Pink Gold’ shrimp via a Shrimp Crawl. This relieves the Lions of the pressure to toil & boil shrimp for 2 days and provides an opportunity for area restaurants and bars to cash in on the opportunity to attract festival attendees to their businesses. From March 4th thru March 10th, interested participants can take advantage of an official Shrimp Crawl passport with details of dishes and drinks at 16 local businesses who will be creating mouth watering concoctions of all things Pink Gold. Once a pink gold dish has been purchased, the business will stamp the passport to mark off their spot along the trail. Once six stamps have been collected, the shrimp connoisseur can submit their passport proof and be entered into a raffle to win prizes from beach businesses. Shrimp Crawl passports and 50/50 raffle tickets can be picked up starting Saturday March 2nd at Tunaskin FMB, Erickson and Jensen Seafood, the FMB Chamber of Commerce and at the Bayside Park Concert on March 3rd.

In addition to the arts & crafts fair and the shrimp crawl, historic portions of the event such as the parade, queen’s pageant & blessing of the fleet will take place over Shrimp Festival weekend. On Saturday, March 9th, Estero Blvd. will be lined with parade goers looking for their favorite floats from area organizations and businesses. Many floats will be new to viewers as a ‘boat load’ was taken by the storm. Beach Talk Radio will host a live stream of the parade for anyone unable to attend in person. But, for those attending, it is imperative they be over the Matanzas Bay bridge by 9AM before the road is closed for the 5K race. Something viewers can expect and have come to rely on are the outstanding Corvettes which host the princesses as part of the Queen’s Pageant. After waving to the crowd along the 2-mile route, pageant participants will line up at 1PM for the crowning of the 66th Annual Shrimp Festival queen. Our 64th annual queen, Miss Trico Shrimp, Lilleigh, will hand over her title to a well deserved contestant who will represent the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club in events throughout the upcoming year. Pageant viewers will be perfectly positioned to shop the arts & crafts fair post-pageant as it takes place at festival grounds around Bayside Park. Here, they can purchase their official lions Shrimp Festival t-shirts and 50/50 raffle tickets for the big drawing taking place Sunday at the closing ceremony. 

The blessing of the fleet has taken place since 1959 and always in conjunction with the shrimp festival. Over the years the two events dates didn’t always align but it has become the priority again to ‘Bless this Mess’ and honor our local shrimping industry with an official blessing hosted by Saint Raphael’s Episcopal Church on Sunday, March 10th. The newest addition to the blessing is that St. Raphael’s will hold a traditional Sunday mass service on-site at the shrimp docks and will follow it with a dedicated Shrimp Festival blessing service with prayers, music, and readings followed by a walk along the docks to bless the shrimp boats that are in port. All are welcome to both services and encouraged to stay for a true ‘Pink Gold’ celebration with Peel & Eat Wild Caught Florida Gulf Pink Shrimp & Cocktail Sauce featuring 10 shrimp for $10 and cold beer with a donation to the Lions ‘We Serve’ scholarship fund.

Another highlight to this year is that The Whale, one of the Beach’s most popular restaurants, has sponsored the entire shrimp eating championship by offering to purchase, prepare and host the 8-minute rush to down the most pre-peeled Pink Gold shrimp possible. While the recent champion, Joel Martinez, a Fort Myers Beach Firefighter, is unable to return this year, our original champion, Carl Cius, is making a comeback and will be there to challenge those from all over the country looking to participate.

The 2024 Shrimp Festival will end with a closing ceremony and concert at Bayside Park where there will be live music, the arts & craft vendors, official Lions Shrimp Festival t-shirt sales and a drawing for 50/50 raffle tickets being sold over the course of the 2 week festival at participating locations. Club President, Lion Drew Yelle, stated, “It’s been a roller coaster. Headwinds have been strong and The FMB Lions Club really felt the strain getting everything together. Until about mid-Janaury, Shrimp Festival seemed unlikely. But with some behind-the-scenes brainstorming and really good conversations with great partners on the beach, we were led to a groundswell of support and interest. So we’re going for it!! Building on last year’s success with the shrimp crawl at the area restaurants, we are bringing back in the crowd favorites…the parade, shrimp run 5k and vendor expo. It’s going to be exciting for this 66th anniversary!!!”

Make sure to stay tuned to our official club Facebook and website for updates along the way! Sponsorship opportunities are still available to businesses and donations or volunteer efforts are always welcome from individuals looking to contribute.