Published on October 23rd, 2014 | by Shellie Ward0
The Wild Georgia Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival
When asked if I would like to come to Jekyll Island for their annual Georgia Wild Shrimp and Grits Festival, there was absolutely no hesitation in my reply. Of course I had no idea what to expect, but what I did know is shrimp + grits + island= awesomeness!
Off the coast of Georgia is an island sandwiched between Savannah and Jacksonville, FL. It has both palm trees and Spanish moss, creating a tropical, yet Southern vibe. We arrived at night, which made for a difficult time in navigating because of the lack of street lights until……we stumble upon a well-lit mansion.
I asked someone in a chef’s jacket, if he knew where the Jekyll Island Club was, and he pointed to that mansion. I pulled up closer to the mansion and parked in the driveway and several people asked if they could assist. By the look on my face, I was perplexed. It didn’t look like a hotel. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was in a time capsule and another income bracket….. My blogger buddy Maria of put it best in her review a few years ago. It felt like we were in the movie The Great Gatsby! Very well-dressed adults, crowded around bars and outside areas smoking cigars with loud laughter and no cares in the world. I thought “this is where we are staying?” The kids were so excited and this time….. so was I! We managed to find the front desk, checked in, and got our key. The key, was an actual KEY, which put me back to my own youth before cards that you slide in the slot.( I’m telling my age) From the hallways to the room itself, had so much character and I’m sure has stories to tell. My Facebook status said “Stunning!!! Can’t wait to see in the daylight!”
We missed all of the events on Friday, due to our late departure from Atlanta. Friday was the chance to experience all of the main food vendors for $3. It’s also the beginning of the battle of the best shrimp and grits! Saturday morning we got up a little bit early to catch the release of the turtles at Great Dunes Beach. It was rainy and windy but that doesn’t stop anything on this island. Jekyll Island is all about the preservation of turtles, and their habitats. There is a turtle center which is like a hospital where they care for turtles that are sick or have been hurt due to being hit by a car or boat, and even shark bites. Once the turtles have been rehabilitated, they are returned to the sea to be released. There was a nice crowd and cheers as each turtle was returned to the water. We returned to the festival area where there were cooking demos, vendors, sample tastings, shrimp eating contest, and live music. The kids, especially my oldest, were in hog heaven. I didn’t realize that there are different types of grits other than hominy, at least that’s all they sell in the grocery store.
Apparently The Walking Dead is filmed in the area, and so there was a zombie on site and we took a picture with him…..kind of. The girls were at an arm’s length distance from him and were freaked out. There was a kids zone with zip lining, face painting, and other activities. By mid afternoon, the rain was coming down hard, so we did an indoor activity and toured the Turtle Center. There were turtles as small as your big toe to as large as a tire on your car! Haven, our resident animal lover, fell in love wanting to adopt a turtle. We went back to the festival for more food and then retired to our lovely room for some much needed R&R.
Sunday morning was simply glorious. It was beautiful skies, bright sun, and perfect temperatures. After breakfast, we walked to the beach which is about a 1/2 mile from the resort. The water was perfect, the sand was perfect…just icing on the cake. We headed back to the festival because Haven entered the shrimp eating contest. She didn’t want any lunch, just so she had room in her tummy for those little critters! On the way, we met the artist that created this year’s official artwork for the festival. She autographed our poster and took a picture with the girls. Haven headed to the main stage to take her seat for the 12 and under shrimp eating contest…..She was presented with a basket of peel and eat shrimp to consume in 2 minutes….. (Haven has never had to peel shrimp so this would pose an obstacle, but that didn’t stop her) Although she didn’t win, she got to indulge in her favorite food for 2 minutes! Speaking of winning, the People’s Choice Shrimp and Grits Winner for 2014 was The Jekyll Island Club Hotel! We wanted to go back to the beach, but I thought about the 4.5 hour trip that was ahead of us, and my two little girls needed to get back to Atlanta because of school the following day.
This is definitely something that you want to add to your bucket list of places to visit! Although in Georgia, Jekyll Island has Florida warm temperatures for most of the year!
Thanks to Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Jekyll Island tourism, and the Jekyll Island Club for hosting SeeGoMama to this wonderful event!
The Georgia Wild Shrimp and Grits Festival is usually held the third week of September, so mark your calendar! Next year 2015, will be the 10th annual and will be even more spectacular!