This Friday and Saturday, you will have the opportunity to celebrate one of the Lowcountry's best-known specialties: shrimp.
Between the food and the music and all the other shrimp-themed entertainment, expect to come away from the 17th annual Beaufort Shrimp Festival a little wiser about and more appreciative of this tasty crustacean.
Here's a guide to help you better trawl the festivities:
SHOP BEFORE YOU SHRIMP
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This year, the festival starts at noon Friday with the opening of the craft market. Enjoy the handiwork of local artists before you dance the night away with Deas Guyz, who will perform from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. that night.
The rest of the entertainment -- including the food (food's entertaining, right?) -- starts at 4 p.m. Friday and picks up again at 11 a.m. Saturday morning until 5 p.m.
ENJOY THE RACES
Aside from a 5K and popcorn shrimp (a.k.a. children's) run early Saturday morning, visitors also can participate in the Sea Island Rotary Charity Shrimp Race, sponsored by the Sea Island Rotary Club.
Tom Perkins, president of the rotary club, said the group will drop 5,000 rubber shrimp in the Beaufort River at noon. Each shrimp has a number on it, and the first shrimp to cross the finish line -- made of two decorated buoys -- wins the race. Participants can test their good fortune by adopting a shrimp for $10. The top 10 winners will receive cash prices between $100 and $2,000. There also is a chance for one lucky person to win $1 million, Perkins said.
"We're really excited about the race this weekend. It's very fun," he said. "Everyone has a good time."
All of the net proceeds from the shrimp race will go to local charities including the Child Abuse Prevention Association, Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity and Hope Haven of the Lowcountry, Perkins said.
DON'T BE A SHRIMP
For those who know their way around a shrimp, a shrimp-heading competition might be worth their while. LaNelle Fabian, director of Main Street Beaufort, said the competition gets more and more popular every year.
"Usually, a real shrimper will come out and show them how it's done," she said.
Children also can compete in their own shrimp-peeling contest.
"Sometimes, it's the first time these kids have ever touched a shrimp," Fabian said. "It is real cute."
Booths from 14 restaurants will feature fresh, local, wild-caught shrimp. The eateries compete for the best shrimp dish, and the winner will get the Silver Cup, retaining bragging rights for the year.
Last year, Southern Graces Bistro won the competition. Bethany Boles Hewitt, co-owner of Southern Graces with her husband Christopher Hewitt, said the restaurant has won the Silver Cup three of the past four years, and it is ready to win again.
Last year, the Beaufort Bay shrimp wrap was the winning dish. The shrimp wrap and other traditional recipes from the restaurant will be available again this year as well as some new creations, including shrimp and corn fritters and shrimp and cilantro pesto quesadillas.
Boles Hewitt said the Silver Cup is a coveted award for Beaufort restaurants.
"It's kind of like the biggest award for the restaurants in the area," she said. "This is a big festival where a lot of restaurants in the area participate in. It's a culmination award, where they look for the best food, as well as design and original ideas. That's what makes it such a big deal."
Visitors also can vote for their favorite dish at the People's Choice booth.
Tickets for food are $1 each, and the food will be between two and seven tickets, Fabian said. There also will be options for the shrimp abstainers.
Boles Hewitt said she is excited for the festival this year.
"It's the most fun festival," she said. "There's a lot to it. People have a great time."
DID YOU KNOW?
There are 342 recognized of shrimp that are commercially important either as food or bait.S.C. has three significant shrimp species. They are the white, brown and pink shrimp. http://www.khalsan.com/foodstuff/shrimplibrary/how_we_identify_shrimp.htmhttp://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/pub/seascience/shrimp.html
Shrimp is the No. 1 seafood item in the U.S. Nearly 1.7 billion pounds of shrimp are consumed in the U.S. each year. In 2008, Americans scarfed up more than 1.7 billion pounds of shrimp -- twice what they consumed just 12 years before that.http://bcprawns.com/farmed-prawns-the-dark-side/the-dirt-on-shrimp/
To identify these shrimp: Brown and pink shrimps have grooves along the upper midline of the head and the upper midline of the lower region of the abdomen. The grooves on pink shrimp are slightly narrower than those of brown shrimp. White shrimp do not have grooves and typically have much longer antennae and a long rostrum (horn).
All penaeid shrimps have much the same life cycle. Spawning usually occurs in the ocean from near the beaches to several miles offshore. A single female produces between 500,000 and 1,000,000 eggs and may spawn several times. Several larval stages occur after the egg hatches and lasts for nearly two weeks, depending on temperature, before they take the form of a shrimp. Newly hatched nauplii feed on algae and then begin feeding on zooplankton when the metamorphous into protozoa (4 to 5 days old). http://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/penaeu_setife.htm
Most white shrimp reproduce at one year old. Most shrimp don't live to see their first year. Capture studies indicate that some white shrimp have reached the ripe old age of 4 years old.
Courtesy of Al Stokes at the Waddell Mariculture Center