I took the boys on a road trip this weekend back to my U.S. hometown to visit mom and take the boys to the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival. The Shrimp Festival and Parade is about the biggest thing that happens on the 7-mile-long barrier island where I grew up. The entire island shuts down for the parade and festival and it ends with the crowning of the Shrimp Queen. The parade started in the 1950s when they blessed the Shrimp Fleet and held a big beach party. It's now grown into a fun small-town parade and festival where they serve huge plates of peel-and-eat shrimp fresh off the shrimp boats.
It was fun taking the boys to see their first ever parade and it totally took me back to my childhood where I watched and rode on floats in plenty of shrimp parades. There's something so great about a small town parade - it's all the great slices of a small Florida beach town that you'd expect - it's a little quirky, a little trashy, a little touristy, a little taste of America that kids in big cities never get to experience.
Here's a taste of the Shrimp Festival and Parade for you.
This group of golden oldies was preparing for the parade and I couldn't resist snapping this photo of them lining up in their bikini shirts.
The rear view on the parade route was even better.
Of course the shrimp princesses vying to be shrimp queen were on the backs of the corvettes and waving appropriately to the crowd.
This group of older ladies were dressed like pink fluffy birds and loudly cawed and flapped their feathers in unison down the parade route. I have no clue what they were representing, but they were enjoying themselves.
And this Kookie band uses kazoos and washboards to make quite a racket.
And what's a parade without a old guy in a Fez?
Of course everyone loves the Shriners in their Flintstone cars, although most kids today have no clue who the Flintstones are.
Did you know I'm terrified of clowns? Like seriously creeped out. I was not a fan of the clown float.
But I did like the guy blowing the conch!
And the seeing eye dogs had stars spray-painted on their rear ends.
There were plenty of floats with people throwing out beads and candy. My boys ended up with so many beads they could hardly stand. Many of the beads had shrimp beads on them, which were really cute. My old elementary school was marching in the parade too. It's a small island school with only 9 kids in the kindergarten class.
Then we went down for some Peel and Eat Shrimp, which we snarfeled up with gusto.
And finally we caught part of the judging for the much-coveted Shrimp Queen title. Even when I was a teen I eyerolled at the Shrimp Queen contestants. I've never been a beauty pageant kind of girl, but it's fun to watch them vying for the title of Shrimp Queen. Now THAT's something for your resume.
The weather was gorgeous - the island was hopping - the boys had a blast - and I had fun going home to see my old neck o' the woods. Fort Myers Beach is off the Southwest coast of Florida and is connected to the mainland with a bridge on either end. It's known as "the world's safest beach" and is a great family-friendly place to visit off-season. It's a bit too busy during tourist season for my tastes, but it's worth the hassle of the traffic and the tourists to experience the Shrimp Festival!