Discovering Seadrift by Jasmine Gordon…

Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 24 May 12 - 0 Comments

Shrimp eating contestants, Howard Kitto, Clinton Wooldridge, Pete Sprague, Jose, Russell Cady, Elizabeth Cady and Azalea Bonneau all ready to chow down in the early 80s.

Jammin’ on the Bay Front, Part 2

As with most things, the longer you are involved with a particular place the more you uncover. It is sometimes difficult to piece the puzzle together, especially when you are not familiar.

While Shrimpfesters have celebrated the event for over thirty years, the event originated from a fund raiser held in the mid-70s which started out like a street dance, they blocked off the road along the bay front. In future years the fence was added and Shrimpfest was born. The Concerned Families Involved in Seafood Harvesting (Concerned F.I.S.H.) hosted the first festival on Bay Avenue. Their main goal was to raise funds to hire a lawyer to oppose a state bill which would designate red drum and speckled trout as game fish and prohibit the sale of these fish taken from public Texas waters.

While their efforts were strong and determined, they were no match for organizations such as the Gulf Coastal Conservation Association (GCCA) and the “Save the Redfish” campaign.

The Redfish Bill was passed in 1981. That single piece of legislation was a precedent and blueprint for similar regulations in other coastal states which were aimed at both commercial and sport fishing over-harvest. In fact, the GCCA was converted into the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) to continue conserving and restoring our coastal marine resources.

Despite the loss, the festival has now evolved into a two day party with attendees from as far as Dallas, Austin and Houston! While a handful of events and attractions such as the carnival, old antique cars, fireworks, tin boat races, sexiest leg contest and blessing of the fleet are no longer a tradition, the Ms. BayRat Pageant has remained a popular tradition. A quick search on YouTube will give you an insight into what the pageant where men dress up as women is all about!

Another aspect of the event which has changed is the date on which Shrimpfest has been celebrated; it has fluctuated from previous years. It has been as early as the first week of May to the last weekend of July. In our last issue we published a photo from 1981*. In the photo, contestants were competing in an oyster shucking contest, April 31st is the last day of oyster season, which documents the event two months earlier than today. For the past seven or eight years the event has been the second weekend in June.

Another change in how the event was originally run are the beauty pageants. In the early years they were held the Thursday before Shrimpfest at the Civic Center or School. Contestants would have fancy dresses and costume changes. “We wanted to attract people to the event, so I suggested we move the pageants to the bay front,” said Brenda Edwards. “I remember my niece was a part of it the first year I helped. One year, the Coast Guard held a presentation in the bay right as I was starting the pageant. We stopped and watched them because everyone was so distracted.” She rolled with the punches and this is her ninth year to organize the event.

There are a lot of people who have done well for the event. The Seadrift Chamber is still in need of volunteers, if you wish to participate please don’t hesitate to contact the Chamber at 361-237-0406 or email Chamber president, Jason Jones at

Download the event entry form and find out more online at

Till next time.

* In the picture from last issue, Rita Miller commented to us that she recognized Patrick Henley, Blanco Gonzales, Russell Cady, and Peanut’s wife and daughter, Vanessa.

Elwood (Steve Boado) and Jake (Mike Powell), otherwise known as the Blues Brothers at Shrimpfest 2007 interviewing one of the Miss Bay Rat contestants.

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