We’ve had some long-standing festivals around here, and have seen more than one check out during the past couple of years. But you’d be hard pressed to find an event that has outlasted the hardcore stamina of the National Shrimp Festival.

Celebrating 45 years of bringing what our Gulf Coast does best — shrimp — to our Gulf Shores beaches, this year’s Shrimp Festival is upon us, rocking the beach Oct. 13-16. We can expect more of the same this year, and then some.

Every day the festival will run from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., likely hosting more than a quarter of a million people, with 80 hours of music on two stages, 50-plus local and regional food vendors and 200 pounds of shrimp per day prepared by our best regional chefs with their award-winning recipes, and given away as samples. Tasting times will be posted outside the sponsor tents.

The Children’s Activity Village will be bustling with karaoke, face painting and much more, as an “American Idol”-style contest will be held for high school students — “Shrimp Fest Idol” aka Singing for Scholarships — with prize money awarded to the top three contestants.

Stretch out for the 5K and 10K runs with proceeds going to Coastal Baldwin Education Enrichment program, benefiting Gulf Shores and Orange Beach public school systems.

Close to 200 booths of fine art, arts and craft vendors, and the newest Chevrolet models will also be on display. All you have to do is show up. This is one of the South’s biggest events, and the Gulf Coast will be bursting at the seams with activity. And we still have the Hangout Oyster Cook-off Nov. 4-5, followed by the World Food Championships at the Wharf Nov. 11-13!

Great Chefs of Oakleigh a hit
The first (hopefully annual) Great Chefs of Oakleigh event went off without much to complain about. The limited tickets kept the crowd controllable without feeling sparse, and the chefs brought their A games.

Congratulations to the finalists! Fifth place went to Reese Flottes’ Mighty Meaty Pizza Dip; Danny Howe took Fourth Place with his Bourbon Pecan Bars; Third Place went to a very deserving Diane Rummel for her Broccoli Chicken Diane; Second Place went to the Switzer family for their Shrimp, Crab and Chicken Corn Chowder; and First Place went to Jace Aran of South Georgia for his jambalaya. It’s hard to beat that parabolic pot when you do it right!

You budding Oakleigh chefs, get ready for next year.

Order Champion gumbo for your holiday meals
With Halloween parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, there is no time like the present to order some of our city’s best gumbo. Bettie Champion has all you can handle in $62-gallon, $16-quart and $8-pint sizes so you don’t have to do the work yourself. Contact our favorite professor of the Gumbo Academy via email at championbettie@hotmail.com or call 251-458-1570.

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