ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WKRG) — The festival winds seem to be changing in south Baldwin County.
Instead of the National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores during the second weekend in October, a festival in Orange Beach is wrapped in red, white and blue and with a message.
“Making Freedom Fest happen was important to us,” says Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon. “Because we are making a statement that we’re not rolling over because of a virus. We know it’s dangerous. We understand all that, but we’ve got to go back to normalcy.”
For the second year in a row, the National Shrimp Festival was canceled citing the lack of volunteers and the pandemic as the reason. It was a surprise to Tuscaloosa artist Durhonda Lamb. “Shocked, needless to say, because the Shrimp Festival is one of our best shows throughout the whole year.”
“It was disappointing,” says Crestview, Fla., artist Judy Maines. “Because that is a good, financially good, and that’s a fun show.”
In the three weeks since the cancellation, Freedom Fest was able to get commitments from almost 100 artists and food vendors from around the country. “I’m actually pleasantly surprised that they are able to pull this off together like they have,” Lamb said.
There are high expectations for the one-day festival. “We had a hard time finding a place to eat so there are people here and I think it’s going to be a good show,” Maines said.
Art and politics can be a recipe for disaster — “This is not the Shrimp Festival but at least they know we care enough to make the effort to provide something but more than that, we’re not rolling over because of a virus,” Kennon said.
This is the first Freedom Fest but it might not be the last. Kennon says it will be back next year bigger and better on the same weekend in October as the Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores.
The gates open Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Admission is free.