Whale of a Party

GULF SHORES, Ala. (WBRC) - We first met Steve Jones shortly after The Gulf Oil Spill. He had a mission to photograph and document the state of the Gulf Shores Beaches and show the recovery as it happened. The area has seen its share of challenges over the past few years including hurricanes and COVID, which caused the cancellation of the Annual National Shrimp Festival, but this year the festival is back.

“It just started really just as block party really in 1971,” remembers Steve. “There wasn’t much of a road here, but they put a few hay bales out and had a band. They had a parade. They had Miss Sunny, and it was just an opportunity to get a little bit more money in here before the sidewalks got rolled up and the town really closed for the Wintertime. It has just grown to include so many different things. It showcases the youth of the area. It showcases the food of the area, and it’s everything shrimp and it’s everything Gulf Shores, Alabama and Orange Beach. This whole region benefits from this, and we’re so proud to throw what we call Alabama’s Original Beach Party. The weather gets mild. The temperatures are just perfect, and it is October, pretty much our favorite month down here.”

Bigger and better may be an expression that’s overused sometimes but not here on The Great Gulf Coast. Now the National Shrimp Festival is coming back, bigger and better.

“COVID did really knock a hold in things down here. It almost destroyed tourism. People were afraid to come down here and when Governor Ivey closed the beaches, we didn’t really have any options for the first year of Shrimp Festival but the second year when there was still a scare and there was a spike at that time. We couldn’t get volunteers. They were nervous and we understood that, but this is a volunteer event and without volunteers it cannot function, so we had to skip one more year, but this year we’re back with a vengeance,” says Steve.

Coming to the National Shrimp Festival, scheduled for October 6-9, will literally give you an authentic taste of The Alabama Gulf Coast.

“We require our food vendors that participate, especially selling shrimp sell Alabama Shrimp or local shrimp if they can, not imported, and that’s a very important part of the festival. People come here to enjoy that, and they want what’s authentic. They want what’s Gulf Coast, and we proudly provide that experience for them.”

By next weekend Ian will be gone, so the festival will go on, just like the Gulf Coast itself, bigger and better and Absolutely Alabama.


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Fred Hunter

Fred Hunter

WBRC First Alert Meteorologist Fred Hunter was born in Alabama in the historic town of Ft. Payne. He has lived, attended school, raised his family and worked in the South all his life.