Beaufort restaurants are preparing to serve up an abundance of sweet Lowcountry shrimp this weekend and vie for top prizes at the 19th annual Beaufort Shrimp Festival, despite another slow shrimp season.
There should be plenty of shrimp for restaurants' needs, but for the first time S.C. Shrimpers Association representative Jane Webb can recall, organizers will probably be unable to sell uncooked, take-home shrimp in five-pound containers off the boats at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
"I'm not at all sure we're going to have enough for that,"
Webb said she spoke recently to one of the dock representatives and learned only about 200 pounds is expected to be available. The 36-40 size will cost $8 per pound.
"I just don't think we're going to be able to sell them because I don't think people are going to want to pay that much," she said.
Webb had no explanation for poor catches, but said that regardless of how many are coming up in nets, catching and eating shrimp remains an important part of Beaufort living and deserves to be celebrated this weekend.
"Our boys keep going out there ever hopeful," she said. "...They know what they do is so important for our culture and our economy -- to keep bringing in the locally caught products that we can be so proud of that taste so good."
To that end, Main Street Beaufort, USA, event organizer Androula Weiland said the festival is a chance for restaurants to show off their specialties and their best shrimp dishes. Awards are given ranging from best shrimp dish to people's choice to the coveted Silver Cup, which Emily's Restaurant and Tapas Bar won in 2012.
The competition is fierce, according to Peach Morrison, who has been in charge of the judges off and on since 1998.
"Those restaurants take it very, very seriously and they want to be able to display that Silver Cup all year," she said.
From fancy dishes to edible flowers to larger portions to sweet-talking the runners who pick up and deliver food, she's heard it all. But when the dishes get to the judges, everything is anonymous.
And the judges -- who include several people involved with South Carolina marketing -- love it all.
"No matter how full they are, they will keep eating because it's the best of the shrimp dishes in Beaufort," Morrison said.
If you go
Friday, noon to 10 p.m.
- Noon: Arts & Crafts Market opens
- 6 p.m.: Food and beverage booths open
- 7 p.m.: Deas Guyz performs
- 8 a.m. 5K Run/Walk & Popcorn Shrimp Run
- 11 a.m.: Lowcounty School of Performing Arts performs
- 11 a.m.: Food and beverage booths, Arts & Crafts Market and Children's Area open
- Noon: East Coast Party Band performs
- 1:20 p.m.: Adult shrimp heading and children shrimp peeling contests
- 3:20 p.m.: Sea Island Rotary Charity Shrimp Race
- 4:45 p.m.: Contest winners announced
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
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