Thousands On Board
Roatan Festival Celebrates B.I. Shrimping Industry

July 1st, 2005
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

The children's fashion show amongst hundreds of spectators.

The children's fashion show amongst hundreds of spectators.

They came by boat, car, some even walked… over 8,000 people attended the first Roatan International Shrimp Festival on June 19, the biggest one-day event in the history of the Bay Islands, and perhaps Honduras.

The festival, held at the beach at Parrot Tree, was an opportunity to celebrate the men and women working in the Bay Islands shrimp industry. The festival was timed to take advantage of Father’s Day and the shrimp season break that will end on July 1.

Ronald Cummins, an American residing on Roatan, originally came up with the idea of the shrimp festival. Suyapa Edwards, a business owner from Parrot Tree, took the idea and within two months organized the one-day event, possibly the biggest of its kind in Honduras. After three years of organizing private and public events on Roatan, Edwards took on her biggest challenge to date. Even though the event was by paid admission, only the Saturday of the La Ceiba Carnival and the last day of the Ferias Junianas of San Pedro Sula, both open admission events, could compare in number of visitors to the Roatan Shrimp event.

“I never left my booth [to taste the competitors’ food.], I was too busy,” said Dian Lynn, owner of Dian’s Garden of Eat’n and the festival winner of the “Best Quality” award. Dian’s Garden of Eat’n prepared eight different plates, six of them shrimp plates, priced at Lps. 100 each. Lynn expected to sell out her food around 9:00pm, but at 6:30pm was already folding her cooking gear. “I was prepared to sell 300 plates. I sold 300 plates,” said Lynn, who organized three Taste of Roatan festivals.

“Getting the money from sponsors was the easy part. The hardest thing was getting a good logo,” said Edwards who commissioned the logo at Ideas, a Tegucigalpa graphic company. A giant red colored shrimp wearing a chef’s hat, official logo of the festival, was visible on posters, sculptures, awards and tee-shirts for weeks prior to the event.

A six foot shrimp statue displayed at the festival main stage was carved out of three 4′ by 8′ sheets of fiber board over two weeks and donated by Gessell Brousek of Maple Leaf. “I had to explore marine themes in my artistic style to do this,” said Brusek. The carving was meant to bring to life the official festival logo.

Photos of the shrimp industry on the Bay Islands were also displayed by the main stage. Looking at large photographs of veterans of Bay Islands shrimp industry and boat work was Rotha McNab, owner of French Harbour’s Bormac’s. “Shrimp is very hard work,” said McNab, who spent a couple weeks working on a shrimp vessel.

As 11 bands entertained the visitors, the Parrot Tree lagoon was filled with kayaks, children playing in the water. “I wasn’t expecting so many people to come,” said McNab. The beachfront venue filled with participants and sponsors while 34 volunteer policemen, working in two shifts, provided security at the event.

A trampoline, children’s slide, 15 big and 5 small kiosks, 10 restaurants and five performance stages filled the Parrot Tree beachfront. “Parrot Tree is too small for this. We will probably have the event at Marbella Beach next year,” said Edwards.

Artistic Stone of Tegucigalpa donated the stone sculptures given as awards to restaurant winners of shrimp recipes. Truman Jones of French Harbour was recognized for pioneering the shrimp industry in the Bay Islands.

When the event ended at midnight, over 8,000 ended-up buying tickets. 3,000 tickets were pre-sold at Lps. 100 and another 5,000 tickets were sold at the gate for Lps. 200.

The original cost of the event, estimated at $43,000 ended-up closer to $57,000. “We still have enough money to do a calendar and have money for next year,” said Edwards. According to Edwards, Galaxy was a key sponsor of the event donating 52 return tickets to Roatan. Overall, 92 people were brought in as entertainers, media and organizers and stayed in hotel rooms donated by Fantasy Island, Executive Inn and Half Moon Bay Cabins.

The event brought national media attention to Roatan and brought an influx of visitors to Roatan in what typically is the slowest time of the Bay Islands tourist season. “Next year I will have six months to prepare. Just imagine how many people are going to come,” said Edwards. [/private]

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