There was a time in Aransas Pass when oil was king. Large industrial companies discovered that the city was a great location for terminals and storage facilities.
Shrimping was also big. Aransas Pass was known as the “Shrimp Capital of Texas” and Conn Brown Harbor was filled with more than 300 shrimp boats. Starting in 1948, Aransas Pass held an annual “Shrimporee” to celebrate the shrimping industry and its impact on the community. The festival featured parades, a beauty contest and lots of food, including of course shrimp cooked in all sorts of ways.
The fortunes of both the oil and shrimping industries have risen and fallen but over the years, the Shrimporee has grown, attracting visitors from all over Texas. Fifty to sixty thousand people attend the Shrimporee, held in Johnson Community Park, and enjoy everything from arts and crafts, cooking demonstrations, a kid’s corner, carnival rides and games. Continuous performances including dancers, magicians, comedians and other performers keep the crowd entertained. Various nonprofit groups serve up a variety of foods, sales of which benefit area projects and scholarships. There’s also over a hundred vendors offering clothing, craft items, décor and the like.
And of course there’s shrimp. Shrimp raw, fried, grilled, boiled, etoufeed, stuffed, kabobbed – you name it. The Texas Department of Agriculture will be on hand this year to educate visitors about the importance of Texas brown shrimp and how it impacts our economy, and there’s a Shrimp Eating contest.
I went in 2011 year and I was really impressed at how big the festival was. A half-dozen chefs from the HEB and restaurants like the Port Aransas’s Venetian Hot Plate and Rockport’s Hemingway’s were on hand to demonstrate the delicious things that can be done with shrimp. Too much fun was the “Iron Chef” type challenge held on the HEB stage. Guest chefs had to work with pantry items chosen by five members of the crowd.
I missed the Men’s and Women’s Sexy Legs contests for which the Shrimporee is well-known, and they’ll be held this year as well, as well as the Miss Shrimporee Pageant. I did not miss the great music, another highlight of Shrimporee. The music stage was busy from Friday evening through Sunday evening. This year the lineup includes Kyle Park, No Justice, Pear Ratz, Ram Herrera, Lyrical Bynge and Seth Candan. And what Coastal Bend festival would be complete without Larry Joe Taylor? He’ll be there too.
The 2012 Shrimporee runs from 6:00 p.m. Friday night, June 8 to 12:00 a.m. Saturday, June 9. The traditional Outhouse Race is scheduled for downtown Aransas Pass on Saturday, followed by the Annual Shrimporee Parade beginning at 10:00 a.m. The Shrimporee grounds remain open from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. on Saturday and on Sunday from noon until 8:00 p.m.
The Chamber of Commerce will provide free air-conditioned shuttle buses from the Chamber at 130 W. Goodnight or from the shopping center at 703 S. Commercial St. but I don’t recall the parking being a big problem last year. Volunteers from community groups served as parking valets and the valet fees benefitted their organizations.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids between seven and 12 years old. Kids under 6 are free and there are discounted rates for seniors over 65 and for active military with ID. A three-day pass is available for $10. For more information, visit the Aransas Pass Chamber of Commerce at 130 W. Goodnight. You can also visit the Chamber’s Web site at www.aransaspass.org, call toll free at 800-633-3028 or local at 316-758-2750. I’ll see you there.