The 48th National Shrimp Festival opens Thursday, October 10, 2019 in Gulf Shores. More than 400 vendors spent the day before setting up shop and getting ready for big crowds. Those crowds will notice some changes this year and one of the biggest is how they will get there.
This year, Gulf Shores School buses will be used to shuttle nearly 20,000 people to the festival. That’s because the Baldwin Regional Area Transit System backed out at the last minute, saying it didn’t have enough people to cover the event. So, in stepped the Gulf Shores School Board. As always, there will be a five-dollar fee, but this year the fee will help raise money for Gulf Shores schools.
“Our band boosters especially, have a plan to buy new band uniforms. It’s fitting right into that,” said Gulf Shores Schools superintendent, Dr. Matt Akin. “We’re really excited and the Dolphin Athletic Club is constantly working with all our athletic programs with uniforms and equipment so we’re looking at it as a long-term benefit for us and Shrimp Fest.”
Gulf Shores residents like Michael Powell who take the shuttle every year are glad to see the new partnership.
“I love Gulf Shores, love that they put in city schools and we’ll just go at it from there and look forward to riding the shuttle and enjoying the Shrimp Fest tomorrow,” Powell said.
The schools will provide 15 buses and drivers to run six routes Thursday through Sunday. On the north side, riders will be picked up at either Pelican Place or Erie Meyer Civic Center, Waves to the west and either Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion, Rouses-Orange Beach or The Wharf to the east.
This will be the second year the Shrimp Festival will occupy the new, Gulf Place beachfront and festival officials said they learned some things from last year. Visitors will notice some changes to the footprint of the festival.
“We listened to the feedback we got, added some food to the eastern end of the footprint so people won’t have to walk so far to enjoy some of the delicious food that’s offered down here,” explained Shrimp Festival chairman, Spencer Cade. “We tweaked a few little sites just to make them a little more user friendly, having areas for people to walk, making it a little bit better for them as far as the enjoyment of the festival.”
Those who ride the shuttles on Thursday will experience a lapse in service from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. so that the buses can get the students home from school. The Shrimp Festival is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.