On Saturday, Feb. 29, more than 1,000 people packed the boardwalk for the inaugural Shrimp & Grits Festival along the Destin Harbor, celebrating one of the South’s most beloved dishes.
The afternoon was filled with variations of the dish, by local restaurateurs and chefs from Fort Walton Beach to 30A, all competing to be crowned the best Shrimp & Grits on the Emerald Coast. The first year festival raised more than $20,000, with all the profits going to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast, a nonprofit devoted to “enhancing the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence through its programs focused on academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.”
The afternoon started quickly with a bang, as the event sold out within 20 minutes of its commencement. The nearly thousand attendees enjoyed more than 850 pounds of jumbo shrimp, over 160 gallons of cheesy grits. Topped with everything from fresh grilled corn, bacon, andouille sausage to crispy fried okra from 13 local restaurants/chefs: Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar, Sunset Bay Café, Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer, Tailfins Ale House & Oyster Bar, Harry T’s Lighthouse, Half Shell Oyster House, 790 on The Gulf, Flambé After Dark, The Henderson Beach Resort, Mama Clemenza’s, Fudpucker’s, Knife’s Edge Private Chef & Catering and The Beachwalk Café.
Cocktail booths offering samples of local brews by Idyll Hounds Brewery and craft cocktails from Tito’s Handmade Vodka, White Claw Seltzer, Bacardi and Hornitos to complete the afternoon. Rocking the docks with the sounds of local bands the Shenanigans, and Cadillac Willy completed the day for all our visitors. We are extremely thankful to all that attended, all of our cooking participants and all of our sponsors for making our first-year event an instant hit. We were humbled by the response of the community to support this event, and excited for what the future of this festival will be.