FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — An annual tradition is coming back to FMB this weekend under a new name.
What would be the 65th Annual Shrimp Festival has become the ‘Shrimp Crawl.’
There’s been a few setbacks— the lack of electricity from Hurricane Ian still impacting portions of the beach along with red tide. It’s just a number of obstacles business owners are hoping to avoid.
They say they’re excited to see an annual tradition return in a year that has been challenging. And it’s recent challenges, like red tide, they say won’t be holding them back.
"Without shrimping on this beach, there might not be a beach," said Bill Ignatti, operating partner at Wahoo Willie's. "I mean that's what started it back in the day.”
An homage to shrimp as Fort Myers Beach preps for its 65th Annual Shrimp Festival.
"They normally sell shrimp down in Times Square and they do a shrimp boil and stuff," said Ignatti. "So my partners and I reached out to all the local businesses to get local shrimp bought from the local shrimpers and we're all going to have shrimp specials going on.”
Specials that have a variety of names.
"We have a shrimp burrito, bubba gump, shrimp tacos, shrimp quesadilla, you can get shrimp taco salad," said Thomas Houghton, owner of La Ola Surfside Restaurant. "It should be a great, fun weekend to support the local shrimpers here.”
That's right— all of the shrimp being sold during this year's crawl is locally sourced. With proceeds going to the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club Foundation and their “We Serve” scholarship fund. Helping local students further their education.
"People need a good reason to celebrate right now and I think this is a great event," says Houghton. "I think they'll be out in full force tomorrow, supporting the local community.”
It also comes at a time where red tide has made its presence known at beaches in recent weeks. But on this Friday, plenty of visitors could be seen on the beach.
"Last weekend was terrible, there's no denying it, but it's been much better all week," says Ignatti. "Yesterday and today we're both gorgeous. It's not affecting anyone down here anymore. You don't hear anyone coughing or you don't smell it now as much so it's getting better.”
With the weather and tide changing— seemingly for the better— there's one thing these local business owners are looking forward to.
"All the smiles on all the faces, that's what we're looking forward to," said Houghton. "Seeing people out and enjoying themselves.”
The Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Crawl will be getting underway tomorrow starting at 10:30. You can learn more about this year's event online right here.