1st Annual “37th” Tybee Seafood Festival

1st Annual “37th” TYBEE SEAFOOD FESTIVAL Draws crowds to South End,… and everywhere else!

The brisk wind off the Atlantic didn’t seem to matter to the crowds at Tybee’s South End at the 1st Annual “37” Tybee Seafood Festival “Seafood Review” on Saturday, April 10th.

“I can’t believe it! I love being on the pier. Eating seafood! Music! This is great!” Such exclamations of pleasure were common as families ready for a weekend at the beach gathered to enjoy food on the Tybee Pier and Pavilion, and music featuring locals Randy “Hatman” Smith, Roy and the Circuit Breakers, and headliners, the Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love from Thunderbolt, GA.

In fact the island was so packed with visitors that several smaller eateries originally signed up to participate in Saturday’s event were forced to cancel because they were completely “slammed” and couldn’t spare attendants. Restaurants that did participate included Fannies on the Beach/ Marlin Monroe’s Beachside Grill, A.J.’s Dockside, The Crab Shack, Sting Rays Seafood, Lighthouse Pizza, Spanky’s Beachside, and Burton’s By The Beach. They served up a delicious array of briny favorites – crab cakes, deviled crab, crab stew, crab balls; shrimp sliders, cocktails, gumbo, and fritters; grouper fingers, lobster bisque and gator tail bites, as well as fish tacos and gyros. Other fare included chilled seafood ceviche and even seafood “pizzas.” Hungry crowds were definitely pleased!

Famed Savannah Connect “foodie” Tim Rutherford was joined by Tybee’s noted Hunter House chef, Espy Geissler to judge the festival winners as follows:

Best Use of Local Ingredients: A.J.’s Dockside – for their shrimp cocktail using fresh, tasty shrimp from the Darien, Ga. docks.

Best Overall Taste: Fannie on the Beach – for their shrimp sliders and fried alligator tails.

Best Appearance: A.J.’s Dockside – for their seafood ceviche, and shrimp cocktail in disposable martini glasses.

Best Overall Booth Display: The Crab Shack – for their 7-foot-tall alligator, tropical plants, and extended restaurant theme set-up.

The brainstorm of Dean Morris and Richard Adams, the festival was organized with a skeleton crew this year and despite a few glitches fell together well. The idea was to capitalize on the release of Disney’s “The Last Song,” the long-awaited box office hit starring Miley Cyrus that opened in theaters across the country the week before Easter. The film features Tybee’s pavilion and pier staged as the site of the “37th Annual Seafood Festival,” thus the reason for the name used by organizers.

According to Morris and Adams, Tybee’s event was all about helping local restaurants increase their revenues by offering them maximum exposure at minimal expense. Event promoters sought to grab the attention of the spring break crowd itching for an early holiday and give them a “taste” of summer. Adding a four-day carnival in Ocean Plaza parking lot completed the picture. To say it worked is an understatement, (and the weather also cooperated.) So far, despite the glitches, feedback has been very positive and the festival committee is already preparing for next year.

There were complaints however about the lack of parking at South End, a problem with which City officials grapple daily, especially during tourist season. Festival visitors were also looking for souvenirs, tokens, and t-shirts, and say more decorations associated with the movie might have made it more festive. Organizers are taking such feedback to heart, and also plan to accommodate more restaurants and visitors next year. If the premiere event is any indication of what’s possible, the pavilion and pier alone will probably not be a large enough venue. (photo 9)

For certain, families with small children especially enjoyed the festival’s carnival that operated Thursday through Sunday in Ocean Plaza parking lot off Butler Avenue and 15th Street. Some complained about the prices, but also stated they were in line with other fairs they’d attended recently. Unfortunately, festival carnival vendors weren’t permitted to sell their wares during the first two days of the festival, due to the fact that during organizational meetings in February, several Tybee restaurants and businesses stated they were reluctant to allow sales of any food items that might compete with local establishments. For this reason City Manager Diane Schleicher was told not to permit this activity. However it was determined into the festival on Friday that these vendors should be allowed to sell items such as cotton candy, candy apples, and funnel cakes, and they were later permitted to do so.

The fact that once again there was a Ferris wheel on South End was exciting. Many of Tybee’s residents reminisced about the days when there was an amusement park on the island year round just a block away from where this year’s midway was staged. There’s even talk of bringing one back before next year’s Seafood Festival – maybe even this summer.

Tybee’s 1st Annual “37th” Seafood Festival Committee would like to thank the following sponsors for making the festival such a success – Chatham County Public Works & Parks Services, the City of Tybee Island and the following local sponsors: Coca Cola, Southern Eagle Distributing, Savannah Special Events, Royal Restrooms, Ocean Plaza, KDI Media, The Tybee Times, The Tybee Tourism Council, DeVivo Marketing, The Tybee Breeze, WJCL/Fox 28 and WRHQ 105.3. Thanks also go out to Mallory Pearce for his help inscribing the cute little chef trophies that went to the festival’s winning restaurants.

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One Response to “1st Annual “37th” Tybee Seafood Festival”
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