Alabama is known the world over for its fresh, delicious seafood, and for many, the jewel of the Gulf's mouthwatering bounty is without doubt the shrimp. This tasty crustacean — plentiful in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico — has been an integral part of the area's economic and cultural heritage for hundreds of years.
Every year, the people of Gulf Shores honor this exquisite 'fruit de mer' with four days of fun and festivities. The Annual National Shrimp Festival is always a major fixture on the state's calendar, but this year, the event will be even bigger and better than ever as it celebrates its 40th year. Initially conceived as a one-day event to attract tourists to the region outside of the peak vacation season, the shrimp festival has grown over the years to become one of the most eagerly awaited outdoor events on the Gulf Coast.
Each October, the Annual National Shrimp Festival draws more than 300,000 visitors from around the globe. Many are enticed by the huge selection of fine arts and handmade crafts offered for sale, as hundreds of artists display their work during the festival. Families simply love the Children's Activity Village, where crafts, carnival rides, face painting, and a whole range of on- and off-stage activities entertain kids.
Among the multitude of great things to see and do over the four-day festival is the annual Sand Sculpture Contest. This is always a guaranteed family favorite, attracting scores of enthusiastic participants and spectators. With categories for several age groups, everyone can take part in building the most ingenious and eye-catching sandcastles and sculptures! Two stages host non-stop live music throughout the festival, keeping visitors thoroughly entertained from morning to night.
But of course, the real focus of this great yearly get-together is the mighty shrimp! Vendors from far and wide prepare an astonishing array of delicious shrimp treats to tempt festival goers' taste buds. A whole range of seafood and other culinary delights can also be found; from enticing gourmet dishes to traditional festival snacks.
To help celebrate the festival's 40th anniversary, organizers are offering three lucky people the chance to win a fantastic 2-night stay at the beach. One winner from each category — Best Photo, Best Story and Best Shrimp Recipe — will be awarded prize packages worth hundreds of dollars. For details on how to enter the competition, see the Best of the Fest Contest.
The Annual National Shrimp Festival kicks off at 10am on Thursday, October 13, 2011 and comes to a close on Sunday 16 October at 5pm. And should you need any further incentive to head to Gulf Shores for this fun-packed weekend of family entertainment, you may be interested to know that admission is completely free to all!
If you're planning to attend this wonderful event, be sure to make your accommodation reservations early. The Gulf Shores area is home to many high-end condos and beach houses that can offer a gorgeous seaside sanctuary for your trip. To view condos and other properties in Gulf Shores, please see our Gulf Shores Real Estate page.