The time has almost come for Fort Myers Beach's favorite event.
The 59th annual Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival, organized by the Lions Club, will take place Saturday, March 11 and Sunday, March 12. The festival will have activities for all. Saturday starts off with a 5K Shrimp Run at 9 a.m., beginning and ending at Doc Ford's, followed by the parade at 10 a.m. and the crowning of the Shrimp Festival Queen at 1 p.m. The race is organized by the Cypress Lakes High School athletic department. Pre-registration is $30, day-of is $35. Runners can sign up online at active.com. The race is competitively timed and first, second and third place will be given to qualifiers in each age group.
All benefits from the race go to the high school's athletic department.
The Sea Gypsy Inn, along the parade route, will be having a special party on the deck of the Inn from
8:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Owner Jacki Liszak said the event would provide chairs to watch the parade, mimosas, lunch, and live music throughout the day. The Gypsy party is free to attend, but Liszak is asking for donations which will be given to the Beach Kids Foundation.
The Shrimp Festival parade will start at the Fort Myers Beach Library and end at Times Square; the rest of the day's activities will be centered around Lynn Hall Park.
A message from Madison Tezak: 2016 Shrimp Festival Queen
Hello this is Madison, your 2016 Shrimp Festival Queen. While being queen I have received a generous scholarship from the members of the Lions Club and participated in the Fourth of July parade. I have also used this title in several honors categories for colleges and scholarships. I am now 17 years old in my senior year at Cypress Lake High School where I continue my passion of working with special needs children, varsity volleyball, and Center for the Arts dance. I am continuing my education at Florida SouthWestern State College for its dual enrollment program. I hope to attend Florida Gulf Coast University in the fall, which I have applied for with help from my scholarship. I am very appreciative of everything the Lions Club has done for me and am excited to see who the new queen will be! Good Luck Princesses!
"Everyone follows the parade folk to Times Square," said Lions President Fred Schmiesing.
Then, it's the moment everyone has waited for: hungry festival attendees get to descend upon Lynn Hall Park for a juicy, tender and locally-caught pink shrimp dinner.
Sunday the fest will run from 10 a.m.to 6 p.m.with more fun activities, such as the shrimp-eating contest.
"Growing up, it was the day. Everyone was so excited," said Liam Farrell, who organizes the 5K race.
When he moved away, he got depressed when he couldn't make it back for the festival. Now that he lives in the area again, he looks forward to it each year - as do many who have moved away and come back just for the festival each year.
"It's completely a reunion for every generation of beach people," he said.
For more information, visit fortmyersbeachshrimpfestival.com.
Here are this year's Shrimp Festival royalty, provided by Tracey Gore, volunteer Shrimp Festival Pageant Coordinator:
Anika Marr : Miss Trico Shrimp
Princess Anika Marr was born in Salina, Kansas and moved to Fort Myers when she was 3. Now she is a sophomore at Cypress Lake High School.
Her passion lies in the arts: she is enrolled in Center for the Arts courses in the visual arts department at her school and hopes to attend an Art Institute upon graduation. Outside of class, she's the vice president of Cypress Lake's Gay-Straight Alliance and is an advocate for LGBTQ teens.
Chloe Stam : Miss Property Medic
Princess Chloe Stam is a Fort Myers Beach resident and a home-schooled junior. Her favorite subject is history, and she's a volunteer for "Visions of the Past," a reenactment of Fort Myers Beach history. After graduating she plans to attend the Word of Life Bible Institute in Hudson, majoring in youth ministry. Stam has an entrepreneurial spirit: she helped found a "Helping Hands" ministry and recently started her own business selling hand-made items.
Elsie Roper : Miss Semmer Electric
Princess Elsie Roper moved here one and a half years ago from Westford, Mass. and is a student at Florida SouthWestern College. She plans to get her real estate license this summer.
Growing up, Roper spent vacations every year in Sanibel and at her great-grandparent's vacation home on Fort Myers Beach, a property that has been in the family for more than 50 years. She works at Wyndham Garden Hotel on Fort Myers Beach and at the Bonita Springs Pincher's Restaurant.
Jordan Seavy : Miss Red Coconut
Princess Jordan Seavy grew up on Anna Maria Island and is a junior at Florida Gulf Coast University majoring in Environmental Studies. Following graduation, she hopes to work at an aquarium as a curator or do coral reef rehabilitation. Jordan grew up on an island and loves the beach community, so she loves being close to Fort Myers Beach while at college. In her free time she likes to paint and spend time with her friends and family.
Kelsey Collins : Miss Professional Gulf Lawn Service
Princess Kelsey Collins is a Fort Myers Beach native and a student at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is studying to become a high school special education teacher, a career she's had her heart set on since seventh grade. Collins has been active in church youth groups on the island at Beach Baptist and Chapel by the Sea. She is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha at FGCU where she is active in its philanthropy efforts. Collins works at Doc Ford's.
Mallory Smith : Miss Fish-Tale Marina
Princess Mallory Smith is a senior at South Fort Myers High School and also enrolled in classes at Florida SouthWestern State College. She hopes to eventually study medicine: her career goal is to become an anesthesiologist, following in her great grandfather's footsteps. Smith enjoys spending time with her family on their boat and babysitting her two cousins, Olivia and Emelia. She enjoys the laughter that is always part of family gatherings.
Princess Samantha : Miss Holiday Water Sports
Princess Samantha Elizabeth Gonnelly is 20 years old and a 2015 graduate of Mariner High School. She is currently attending Florida SouthWestern College studying in the radiology program.