Celebrating Shrimp, etc.
2006 ShrimpFest becomes the largest two-day cultural event in Honduras since the visit of the Pope

July 1st, 2006
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

As workers finish construction of the main stage a girl looks on at a beauty contest.

As workers finish construction of the main stage a girl looks on at a beauty contest.

The 2006 Roatan International Shrimp Festival was what the 2005 CaribFest should have, but never was: a two day international event promoting the Bay Islands and Honduran music and culture to thousands of visitors. All that for an entry price Roatanians could actually afford.

Suyapa Edwards, the organizer of the event, has almost single-handedly accomplished what the entire Honduras ministry of tourism failed to do: fill Roatan’s hotel rooms in the low season. The artists and visitors to the festival could feel proud to be a part of an archipelago rich in culture, that may be sidelined, but key in its boom as a tourist and retirement destination.

While San Pedro might have the crowds and Tegucigalpa might have the government attention it is Roatan that has the organizational capability and the support of its diverse international, business community and is fast becoming a dependable venue for setting up mass cultural events. ShrimpFest, outside of Honduras’ several city carnivals and Gracias’ Lempira Day celebrations, has become one of the country’s biggest culture events.

Over the two years Parrot Tree and Coral Cay have been tested to prove themselves capable of hosting large national and international events. Anthony’s Key, Palmetto Bay, Mayan Princess, Las Palmas and now Turquoise Bay Resort have a capability to organize smaller events.

12,000 people bought tickets to walk through the festival entrance way built to size and resemblance of a shrimp boat. Even though not everything went as planned: there were no schedule of events available to the public, but the people found a way to enjoy themselves.

During the day businesses opened their booths to the public and displayed their products and networked while TTI offered free internet and international phone calls.

As the afternoon turned into evening, three stages begun filling with bands offering something for everyone: reggaeton bands, classic rock, Punta dancers, even glistening blue and fake diamond stud covered Elvis impersonator.

Some vendors found it difficult to pay the Lps. 17,000 booth fee and three of the last year restaurants failed to show up. Several restaurants found themselves working on Saturday to pay the rent, and on the next day working on making a profit. There were just as many chicken, pizza, burger and hotdog vendors as there were restaurants selling shrimp plates. One of the vendors was Pizza Inn who worked until 2am on Saturday to sell 78 pizzas, still well below its 150 pizzas sold during the 2005 one day ShrimpFest. One thing that reminded people that they are at a shrimp event was the competitive eating contest in which five participants, raced to devour four pounds of fried shrimp. The winner: Ansel Velasquez.

Roatan public received its always awaited new beauty queen. While Andrea Casco, was named the carnivals prettiest adult queen, 10-year-old Cherish Parker secured her crown in the children’s beauty queen competition by answering the question “how to protect the island’s resources.” “Don’t throw things in the water,” suggested the French Key contestant. [/private]

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