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Saturday April 19th 2014

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No One Freaks Out at Shrimp Fest


Nearly two months into shrimp season and people are freaking out.

Some reports a putting harvests at 80 percent below normal. People are talking about deformed shrimp. Or, no shrimp at all.

But everything was just swell at the National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala., this past weekend. The throngs of festival goers scarfed down seafood and took in performances by Warrant and Firehouse. Good times.

Unless you ventured off the boardwalk and onto the beach. Then it got depressing in a hurry.

“A majority of people think everything’s OK,” said John Gooding. “That’s why they’re all over there eating the shrimp.”

Gooding sat under a canopy along with a small group of people about 50 yards away from the Shrimp Festival, nearer the tide than the boardwalk. Authorities had mandated they stay that far away.

“Our message is to show people the other side,” said Michele Lalker. “To kind of get that out there to people.”

As a member of the Alabama Oil Spill Aftermath Coalition, Lalker helped organize this “anti-BP” protest to coincide with the festival. The group spent the previous week haggling out this spot on the beach with Gulf Shores officials.
The National Shrimp Festival, they reasoned, would be a good place to educate the public in regards to studies emerging which conflict with the official government-line that all is well. Most recently, a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council claims that government testing methods are wildly out of whack and Gulf seafood poses a threat to children and pregnant women.

“Everything our government has been saying, everything BP is saying, is not exactly what is up,” said Kimberly McCuiston, another member of the group.

Under their canopy, beyond the volleyball nets and lifeguard stands, that message proved a little difficult to hear all the way up at the festival. Especially during a Warrant performance.

Eddie and Bambi Fisher made the trek from Pensacola to enjoy the National Shrimp Festival. From where they sat enjoying a stunning view of the Gulf, the protest tent was but a dot on the horizon.

“What do you mean?” Eddie Fisher said. “I haven’t heard anything about it.”

Fisher shared a basket of shrimp with his wife. It looked delicious. The couple hadn’t given much thought to its safety until the subject was brought up.

“I have some reservations when you think about it,” he said. “When you start bringing questions up.”

Bambi Fisher said those reservations wouldn’t stop them from enjoying gulf seafood.

“It’s kind of part of living on the Gulf Coast,” she said.

“Oh well,” said Eddie Fisher, laughing it off. “Twenty years from now when we have children with tails, we’ll know.”