Brinnon ShrimpFest returns to Memorial Day weekend

Posted 6/5/19

After a hiatus last year, the ShrimpFest made its return to Brinnon this past Memorial Day weekend, in spite of inclement weather during the first of its two days.

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Brinnon ShrimpFest returns to Memorial Day weekend

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After a hiatus last year, the ShrimpFest made its return to Brinnon this past Memorial Day weekend, in spite of inclement weather during the first of its two days.

Brinnon Parks and Recreation Commissioner Diane Coleman reported that, in spite of “a downpour of rain” that resulted in slightly lower attendance on May 25, the “peak period” of May 26 “saturated our main parking lot, as attendees filled our overflow lot.”

Coleman counted more than 5,000 people showing up to the ShrimpFest, with paid attendance at 3,200, and non-paid attendance including both active military members and children younger than 12 years old.

“We’re still tallying our income and expense receipts,” Coleman said, adding that the Parks and Recreation Board will meet June 8 to discuss the future of the ShrimpFest. “Brinnon Parks and Rec will use their funds to further community activities, while the Emerald Towns Alliance (ETA) will donate their portion of the funds toward community needs, as they have in the past.”

Coleman noted that attendees throughout the weekend took the time to thank both Parks and Rec and the ETA for bringing back the ShrimpFest.

“We were surprised at how fast the shrimp sold,” Coleman said.

The ShrimpFest sold through its first day’s allotment of 600 packages in two and a half hours. The second day, they sold through their remaining 350 packages of shrimp in about three hours.

“There is an insatiable demand for the Hood Canal Shrimp,” Coleman said. “People were lining up outside our ticket booth an hour before the gates opened.”

Coleman was also surprised that turnout remained strong in spite of several hours of gray skies and cold rain during the first day.

“While Saturday’s attendance was down, those who came weren’t phased by the weather,” Coleman said. “They came, they ate and they stayed for our musical entertainment.”

Coleman thanked Dave Calhoun, Birch Pereira and the Gin Joints, Kalan Wolfe, and The Tropics for providing “fantastic” music for the ShrimpFest.

“Hosting ShrimpFest is a huge undertaking,” Coleman said, crediting the event’s community volunteers and sponsors with contributing to its success. “In moving forward, we would need to ensure our base volunteers are with us and then continue to grow that base.”

Coleman noted the continued importance of Hjelvik Farm to the ShrimpFest, given how they’ve shared the use of their site for the event.

“We also need to review the feedback we have received from the community, visitors and vendors, especially when it comes to needing more shrimp,” Coleman said. “We will need to work with our local tribal fishermen, to explore purchasing more shrimp to process. Clearly, the amount we have been able to secure is not enough.”

Coleman cited comments requesting informational booths on shrimping and additional shrimp-themed items from vendors.

“Even after a year-long hiatus, ShrimpFest has a strong foundation to build on,” Coleman said. “There have been many good ideas tossed onto the table about how to improve and grow the event.”

Phil Thenstedt, president of the ETA, noted that the organization has held the ShrimpFest annually for nearly a quarter of a century, “but there is still an element of the community that’s unaware of who we are.”

The ETA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on areas of local need ranging from food banks and community centers to schools and other programs for children, including annual scholarships for high school graduates.

“We hope transition of the festival operation into the hands of Brinnon Parks and Rec will increase awareness that the event is a fundraising event with great benefit to the community,” Thenstedt said. “We hope to see greater community participation, which will result in new ideas and the continuation of a festival Brinnon residents are proud to call our own.”

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