8,000-plus enjoy inaugural seafood festival
By all accounts the first-ever Outer Banks Seafood Festival was a rousing success, from the weather and food, to the entertainment and fellowship.
The festival was the second open-air event held at the old Windmill Point restaurant site on land owned by the Town of Nags Head and the Outer Banks Visitor’s Bureau.
Festival officials estimated the crowd at close to 8,000 while the fire marshal stated that perhaps as many as 10,000 people had visited the ground by 4 p.m.
The parking lot at the event site filled up quickly and a tour of the lot revealed license plates from Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
Festival organizers said ticket orders online came from as far away as California, and by mid-afternoon they reported close to a quarter-million food and drink tickets, valued at $1 each, had been purchased.
The purpose of the event was to honor, educate and demonstrate the value of our local commercial fishing industry.
Educational programs and exhibits were held an always-crowded tent sponsored by Outer Banks Catch, an organization dedicated to bringing together local restaurants and seafood purveyors to encourage the use and sale of locally caught seafood.
Outside the tent, traditional boats with information plaques explained the design and use of traditional fishing boats such as dory’s and skiffs.
Inside, Outer Banks Catch offered information on the commercial fishing industry, membership applications and ‘swag’, such as tee-shirts and visors. Greeters outside the tent included local commercial fishermen, county commissioners and other dignitaries.
Exhibits included the North Carolina Aquariums, Marine Fisheries, the marketing division of the Department of Agriculture’s “NC Seafood” effort, arts, crafts and cookbooks chockfull of local seafood recipes.
By far the most popular attraction in the Outer Banks Catch tent were the live talks about traditional fishing methods and exhibitions by local chef’s on how to cook local seafood.
“Frying Up Outer Banks Fish” by Sharon Peele Kennedy, “Shrimping It Up” with Tommy Peters and “Shell Fish Stories” with L.B. Fulcher and Capt. Eph O’Neal were well attended.
Attendees at the latter talks learned how to rake clams, catch crabs, and the tough life of the watermen who make their living harvesting these delicacies.
Just outside the Outer Banks Catch area, four long rows of local craftsmen, charities and artists offered up a variety of locally-made art, clothing, baked goodies and other delights.
But the food was the main attraction at the Outer Banks Seafood Festival.
And once more, patrons were taught the importance of the connection between locally caught fish and its transformation into the delicious seafood our locally owned restaurants are known for nationwide.
Twenty establishment served up everything from staples such as fried shrimp and scallop to more eclectic offerings such a poached shrimp in beurre blanc, ceviche and shrimp & stone ground grits.
There were plenty of po boys, chowders, bisques, fish tacos and crab cakes.
The prices were incredibly reasonable, with entree-sized plates for $10 or less, but most offerings were priced between $3 and $5.
There were also a great selection of specialty, locally-made microbrewed, and national brand beer available.
I purchased $30 worth of tickets, filled up on my share of food, and had eight tickets to give away as I departed.
The entertainment stage was also a big hit. With free admission to the festival, many locals brought chairs and blankets and camped out around the stage.
The entertainment kicked off with the nationally recognized First Flight High School Jazz Band.
The Blind Prophets brought rocking tunes from the 60′s and 70′s, followed by “Old Enough to Know Better” playing oldies such as “Unchained Melody” and “Good Loving.”
Ocracoke’s Molasses Creek, fresh off a newly released album that has climbed to number four on the national folk music charts followed, playing a set including original songs, such as the event-appropriate “I’m A Fisherman”, as well as tradition folk tunes.
Local banker and musician Bill Rea served as master of ceremonies, and one of the bands he plays in “The Crowd”, closed out the stage with a 5 p.m. show.
At the Kids Zone a number of games were available and youngsters could even practice surf casting using small rods and plastic fish targets.
The police and fire departments from Nags Head did a wonderful job directing traffic on the bypass, and informing drivers of the location of satellite parking lots.
Shuttle buses were available at many spots around Nags Head and Manteo, and ran efficiently with minimal wait times once the entire fleet got rolling.
Event organizers and sponsors should be proud of this inaugural event and the overwhelming support and attendance from locals and visitors alike.
And, like last year’s Town of Nags Head 50th anniversary carnival, the success of this outdoor event suggests the public and our visitors like the idea of these type of events on the publicly-owned site.
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