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Shrimpfest celebrates generations of coastal heritage

By Elena Watts
Aug. 30, 2014 at 3:21 p.m.
Updated Aug. 30, 2014 at 10:39 p.m.

Kaylie Gomez, 17, speaks to the crowd about why she wants to be crowned Miss Shrimpfest in Seadrift.

If You Go

WHAT: Shrimpfest

WHERE: Seawall in Seadrift

WHEN: Second weekend in June

SEADRIFT - Almost 35 years ago, a group of Seadrift women organized the first Shrimpfest for their husbands, whose livelihoods were jeopardized by state legislation.

"We went to Austin and became involved in politics," Janie Waghorne said. "We organized to raise money, community spirit and support."

The little fundraiser to fight state government regulations grew into a wonderful community event, she said. Some summers, the festival attracts twice as many tourists as there are residents. About 1,400 people live in the quaint coastal community year-round.

The festival usually features four to six bands under the pavilion Friday and Saturday. The last couple of festivals have featured music by Bill Pekar and The Rainey Bros., Clay Crockett and the Shotgun Riders, Cody Johnson and Jarrod Birmingham, among others.

Other activities include volleyball, horseshoe and washer tournaments, a kid's fishing tournament, adult and kid's karaoke contests, a 5K fun run and Miss Shrimpfest Pageant.

"My niece was queen last year," said Paula Moncrief, Seadrift city secretary. "And my granddaughter won Little Miss Shrimpfest this year."

Moncrief enjoys the festival's fishing tournament for children the most. The early morning event gives her an opportunity to spend time with her four grandchildren, ages 9, 7, 4 and 3.

The youngest grandchild caught the smallest fish at the last tournament and won a fishing pole and a crab net, Moncrief said.

"They love it," she said. "I'm always working, and I try to make time for them when I can."

The summer heat is tempered by the constant breeze that blows over the seawall from San Antonio Bay. Vendors sell a variety of carnival foods complemented by an appropriate selection of seafood.

The Seadrift Chamber of Commerce charges a nominal entry fee that covers its operating expenses for the year. Proceeds also pay for maintenance of the pier, a local Halloween contest and scholarships for seniors who have lived in Seadrift for at least five years.

"Scholarships for the kids are our first priority," Moncrief said.

Seadrift celebrated its centennial in 2010, said Nan Burnett, Seadrift Chamber of Commerce president. The atmosphere in the old Texas town is unique because many of the families have resided there for four or more generations, Burnett said. And most of the longtime residents have trawled for shrimp and oysters up and down the Texas Gulf Coast almost as long.

"Shrimping is not as large an industry; it's sad," Waghorne said. "But the spirit is still there - what it is about."

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