The annual Pensacola Seafood Festival is in its 34th year of delighting locals and visitors alike with their delicious seafood dishes, musical performances and family activities. Every kind of seafood dish you can imagine is offered from local restaurants and vendors. Grilled conch, seafood gumbo, oyster croquettes, soft shell crab, coconut shrimp, Caribbean crab cakes and more will be available.
The Festival is the biggest fund raiser of the year for the Fiesta of Five Flags organization; it helps them fund other events such as the Fiesta Parade, Fiesta Landing, The Crawfish Festival and many more.
“It is really ‘fun’raising,’” according to Festival Chair Mike Mangrum.
The Fiesta of Five Flags mission is to celebrate heritage, promote tourism and build pride in Pensacola through festive activities which enhance the quality of life in the community.
In our conversation with Mangrum, it was apparent the incredibly high level of camaraderie that exists between the Fiesta leadership, the committee members and the volunteers. The volunteers are also called the Fiesta Forces. The whole group is called the Fiesta family, and everyone pulls together to help all the events run smoothly. This is Mangrum’s first time as chair, he was co-chair last year and, before that, had worked his way up.
“You work hard, have fun and you are a part of something you can be proud of,” he said.
When asked what was new this year at the Festival, Mangrum said, “New this year is that we divided the Festival into three distinct, yet similar, parts. In Seville Square, there will be the traditional arts, crafts and seafood. In Fountain Park there will be an area called Gulf to table, complete with a seafood grill and cooking demonstrations and a tent for dining. This area will really cater to the foodies. Local restaurants will be set up selling tapas, with small prices. Along with all of this, we are very pleased to have Brooke Parkhurst, and her husband Chef James Briscione. Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., Parkhurst and Briscione will have a cooking demonstration, providing cooking tips and answering questions. Then in Bartram Park, we will have the musical performances, and football fans will be able to enjoy their games on Saturday and Sunday.”
On top of all the incredible seafood and events, the Seafood Festival offers music to entertain you at night. This year there are two headliners: Drivin’ n’ Cryin performs 9:30 p.m. Friday, and Emerson Drive plays at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. Both performances will take place in Bartram Park and there is a $5 admission fee each night. Opening for Drivin’ n Cryin’ on Friday night will be the Reunion Band and Breakfast Club. Then on Saturday night, Katie Rogers and Adam Holt Band will take the stage before Emerson Drive. On Sunday more local bands are to be announced.
Drivin’ n Cryin’ is a southern rock band from Atlanta. They have 12 albums under their belt, and have toured with the likes of Neil Young and Soul Asylum. They have many Billboard magazine, Top 20 chart toppers and are always a crowd pleaser.
Emerson Drive is a country band hailing from Canada, who has opened for Shania Twain. They have seven albums to date, and have won many awards. In 2010, their album “Believe” was nominated for country album of the year by the Canadian Music Academy, the Juno Awards.
Local artist Diane Brim, who created the artwork for the 2011 festival, will be available to sign posters next to the gazebo in Seville Square. Posters are $25 and signing times are Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 2 p.m.
On Saturday morning there is the traditional 5K walk/run. This is in conjunction with the Pensacola Runners Association and coincides with the festival each year.
“Once they finish the run, most people stay there and enjoy the food and music with their families,” Mangrum said.
Friday, Sept. 23
The Reunion Band, 5 – 6:30 p.m.
Briscione and Parkhurst demonstration, 6 – 7 p.m.
Breakfast Club, 7 – 9 p.m.
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, 9:30 – 11 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 24
Global Grill, 12 p.m.
H20, 1 p.m.
Jackson’s, 2 p.m.
The Fish House, 3 p.m.
Nancy’s Haute Affairs, 4 p.m.
Katie Rogers, 5 – 6:30 p.m.
Adam Holt Band, 7 – 9 p.m.
Emerson Drive, 9:30 -11 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 25
The Oar House, 11:30 a.m.
600 South, 12:30 p.m.
Jaco’s, 1:30 p.m.
Dharma Blue, 2:30 p.m.
Vic and Ike’s, 3:30 p.m.
Local bands, TBA.
WHEN: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday, Sept. 23; 10 a.m. – 11 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24; 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 25
WHERE: Historic Seville Square, Fountain Park and Bartram Park in downtown Pensacola
COST: Free during the day; $5.00 after 5 p.m., for concert performances