CRUSTACEAN Celebration

This little shrimpy went to market. To the farmers market! Though warmer water brings a sad end to the Royal Red Shrimp season, we should not put on our little pouty faces. Instead, we should celebrate. We won’t see any more Royal Reds at our local farmers market, the Fernandina Beach Marketplace, until next winter, but we still have our normal, glorious fresh shrimp with which to celebrate.

We islanders celebrate these delicious wonders in a big way. For those not in the know, this year marks the 54th Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. The event kicks off with an outrageously quirky Pirate Parade starting promptly at 6 p.m. May 4.

When I say quirky, I ain’t kiddin’. The parade features the Fernandina Pirate Club, an organization in which grown men and women dress in 17th- and 18th-century-style pirate garb. They look as if they just stepped off the set of The Pirates of The Caribbean. The club performs all kinds of charitable civic duties ranging from a scholarship fund to blood drives (give us your blood or we’ll take it from ya) to a 5K run and a “stop hunger” campaign.

As you might imagine, they’re also a very entertaining bunch. During the parade, they stroll the route handing out candy and beads, and add a spectacular finish with a Pirate Ship float equipped with live and extremely loud cannons.

The entire parade is, naturally, SHRIMP themed. You’ll see the Woman’s Club members parading in very attractive shrimp costumes, all manner of floats decorated in wacky shrimp motifs and even Miss Shrimp Festival contestants waving to the crowd from atop their shrimpy ride. It’s a terrific way to spend an evening.

The reason for all this hubbub? Fernandina Beach is where the modern shrimping industry began. Like any seminal moment in history, the advent of the modern shrimping industry was brought about by the convergence of several seemingly unrelated events. The result? Delicious.

Like I’ve told y’all many times, fresh local shrimp are where it’s at. They are without a doubt among the top 10 foods in my life, and that’s saying a lot. Although there are millions of different ways to prepare these succulent little delicacies, the main thing to remember is to be gentle. Always cook them on a lower heat than you think is necessary, and don’t over-season them like some drunken sailor! Here’s a fun way to Chef Up these here local shrimp. See all y’all at Shrimp Fest.

Chef Bill’s Shrimp Guacamole

  • 1/2 Pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 Tsp. chipotle spice
  • 2 Avocados, deseeded, scooped and diced
  • 1/2 Red onion, diced
  • 1 Serrano, or chili pepper of your choice
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Lime, juiced
  • Salt to taste


  1. Toss the shrimp with the chipotle spice. Sauté shrimp on medium heat until just cooked through. Cool, then dice into 1/4-inch pieces.
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients and add the shrimp when it’s cooled.
  3. Adjust the seasoning.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips.

Until we cook again,

Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of The Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at [email protected] to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!