A special place

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, it is a special place where I spend my afternoon."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Florida Seafood Festival

   This was the year of the 49th annual Florida Seafood Festival in Apalachicola. It's the largest maritime festival in Florida and every year, tens of thousands of people come to Apalachicola, at the mouth of the Apalachicola river, to join in the fun. Apalachicola is about twelve miles northwest of St. George Island, on highway 98. 

     Some "local flair"
    There was too much to see in two days to get pictures of  everything. And I spent most of my time watching the people. But hopefully you'll get a good idea of what the festival's all about and see enough to know that a good time was had by all.

   Of course, there is a king and queen of the festival. King Retsyo, son of Neptune, is the guardian of the inland waters, the bays, and the estuaries. He also protects the natural resources, and the seafood industry. (Retsyo is oyster spelled backwards). And the queen will travel to other festivals to represent this area and the seafood industry. They're also the grand marshalls of the parade.

"Keeping it Green"
The oyster eating, and the oyster shucking contests, are the most popular events of the festival and bring in thousands of people. There's only a couple dozen contestants, so that leaves a lot of  people to cheer them on. The competitors aren't in it so much for the $100 prize money, as much as they are for the bragging rights. The only rule for the oyster eating contest is that the oysters have to stay down. A serious competitor can keep down around 250 to 300 oysters during the competition. There's a few more rules for the oyster shucking contest. If you mutilate the oyster, you're done. If you nick the oyster, or get a piece of shell in it, you lose points. The goal is to shuck 18 perfect oysters in 2 minutes.
Strolling around under the old oak tree
   When you look at the arts and crafts at the festival, it's easy to see that the people in this area are extremely talented. Pottery, jewelery, paintings, plants, and anything you can think of made with shells, fill the booths lined up under the huge oak trees.  
   And then there's the booth for the local taxidermist, also there to show off his talent. But, this taxidermist only stuffs crustaceans, and lobsters are his specialty. I doubt you'll see that at many festivals up north.   
  One of the very special events of the festival is the "blessing of the fleet". Several clergy, along with the king and queen of the festival, bless the line of vessels that parade down the Apalachicola River.  Shrimp, oyster, and recreational boats, come from across the country to be blessed and protected  from the harms of the seas, and given hope for a good bounty.
   So, add in the Red Fish Run (a race of about three miles around Apalachicola), the blue crab races, live country entertainment (Lee Brice), the rides on the midway, and of course, the best seafood you've ever had, and you've got everything you need for two great days on the river.
   I'm sure the fifty year celebration will be a festival not to be missed. It's hard to imagine how they can fit much more into Battery Park. But, it was hard to imagine someone eating 300 oysters at one time too. But they did it!   

"Kick back and enjoy the fun"

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