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Shrimpfest: Light on shrimp, heavy on fun

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
June 9, 2012 at 1:09 a.m.

Roy Mengot played one of the sheriffs during a performance where a couple of intoxicated cowboys were causing a scene outside of the bar. The situation escalated until a gun fight broke out. The good guys won.

The wild, wild West arrived in South Texas on Saturday, for the 32nd annual Seadrift Shrimpfest.

Donning 1800s-style western wear, Chuck Clark and members of the Brazos Bottom Cow'ographers, performed as the event's Wild West entertainers - a first in Shrimpfest's three-decade-long history.

Erecting theater-quality sets including a saloon, gun store, hotel, telegraph office and bank, the western clad actors performed comedy and historical skits about the Old West, while shooting prop pistols into the air.

"The group is 50 people. The average show is about 25-35 people. We are all volunteers. We get paid nothing," Clark said, who serves as vice president for the Cow'ographers.

Based in Copperas Cove, the traveling wild west entertainers perform about 16-21 shows annually, a total of about 125 shows since their inception 12 years ago.

"The kids love it, and they learn about Texas history and gun safety by watching us," Clark said.

The Cow'ographers were just one of Shrimpfest's highlights this year. The 2012 battle of the bands, 5K run and walk, Miss Bayrat Contest, Miss and Jr. Miss Shrimpfest, horseshoes, washers and volleyball tournaments, and water activities spanned Shrimpfest's two-day calendar.

Seadrift Chamber of Commerce president Jason Jones, said Shrimpfest began more than three decades ago to raise awareness for shrimpers and kick off shrimping season.

"Now it's a fundraiser for the community, and the money is used for the community and put into beautification projects," Jones, 32, said.

About 40 food and merchandise vendors set up around the downtown Seadrift pavilion, including a few offering a specialty shrimp menu items, such as shrimp kabobs and shrimp poboys.

A staple attendee, Joyce Heit said she makes sure to visit Shrimpfest every year because it's an important event for the community. She also enjoys the after-hour events, where she can let loose on the dance floor.

"I'm a fabulous dancer. I can get down, honey," Heit, 61, said. "I taught my own self how to dance."

Heit said she attends Shrimpfest to both volunteer and enjoy the town's biggest community attraction.

"It's usually packed. This is the main event of the year with the best dancing - and I plan on shaking a leg tonight," she said.



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