As the 51st Annual Florida Seafood Festival held over the last two days in Apalachicola came to a close last night, its opening day was reminiscent of other great seafood festivals of the past where clear sky's accompanied by cool fall weather ushered in a weekend full of events and activities.
With an average temperature of 66 degrees Fahrenheit the oldest maritime event in the State of Florida kicked off Friday with the Blessing of the Fleet and the arrival of the 2014 Festival Royalty. King Retsyo (oyster spelled backward) was portrayed by former county commissioner Bevin Putnal and Franklin County High School senior, Erin Elizabeth Riley won the honor to serve as Miss Florida Seafood.
The actual number in attendance was unknown at the time of this post, however judging from the increase in both pedestrian and vehicular traffic throughout the city it had to once again number in the thousands.
The annual event celebrates the maritime heritage of Franklin County and the hundreds of men and women who for generations have earned a living working in the local seafood industry.
“We are delighted to have each of you celebrate with us the heritage of a proud people… a heritage that for generations have supported the livelihoods of families that work the Apalachicola River, Bay and Gulf of Mexico and has sustained the economy of an entire region… a heritage that has more times than not faced what seems like insurmountable obstacles and unprecedented challenges, but by its faithful people have always held steadfast to the belief that with God all things are possible”, remarked Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson during Friday’s opening ceremony.
Most of the tens of thousands of visitors that temporarily surge the population of Apalachicola during the two day event held the first weekend in November are natives from the area who use the occasion to return home to visit with family and friends in what have widely become viewed as Seafood Festival Homecoming.
Then there are those who make the trip to consume what is considered by many as the best seafood in the world and to purchase the fine arts and handmade crafts on display by the many vendors that line the festival grounds.
The live entertainment booked by the festival board of directors is a major draw all by itself, with this year’s opening day performance featuring all Christian music performed by local churches and headlined by Grammy nominated Christian music artist Jamie Grace singing ‘Beautiful Day’ to the delight of local festival goers from her ‘Ready to Fly’ album and Country music singer Craig Campbell, who headlined Saturday’s entertainment and by all accounts brought the house down with an arousing performance to close out the festival.