Set your taste buds for Shrimp Feast

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 19, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

Those who haven’t already purchased tickets to the 26th Annual Shrimp Feast should find one as soon as possible because with the event only three weeks away, they’re going as quickly as an ice cube on a Fourth of July sidewalk.

Suffolk’s biggest party of the year, the Suffolk Ruritans Shrimp Feast, takes place Thursday, Oct. 7, at 3 p.m., and this year is expected to be another sell-out event.

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After all, it’s the only party in town-in fact in Hampton Roads, where you find 5,000 pounds of Old Bay seasoned steamed shrimp, southern fried chicken, and North Carolina-style barbecue all heaped upon one plate.

And, if that isn’t enough to draw the heartiest of appetites to the fest, consider that the event is also peppered with some of the hottest entertainment in Hampton Roads.

Sponsored each year by the Suffolk Ruritan Club’s 100-plus members, Shrimp Feast has traditionally offered several entertainers who have gone on to the &uot;big time.&uot;

Take the Dixie Chicks, for instance. They appeared at Shrimp Fest and inside a year, they were all over the charts with hit after hit. Now, the Ruritans don’t claim to be their catalyst, but the crowds here were jumping for the Chicks, even before they were stars.

Jimmy Franks and Henry Boswell are co-chairing the Shrimp Feast this year, and as they pointed out, nowhere will you find such an evening packed with entertainment that will set you dancing and also satisfy your appetite for some of the best in southern cuisine. And, the best news yet: tickets are still only $25 each.

&uot;Along with the Dixie Chicks, we’ve brought plenty of other big names to Suffolk for Shrimp Feast,&uot; said Franks. &uot;We’ve hosted SHeDAISY, and The Clark Family Experience, to name a couple, but we’ve also had some of the great regional entertainers like Fat Ammons, Island Boy, the Rhondells, Wooden Nickel, and many other great bands. The music and all that great food make the Suffolk Ruritan Club’s Shrimp Feast one of the foremost annual events in Hampton Roads.&uot;

As Boswell noted, Shrimp Feast is attended each year by more than 5,000 people from Hampton Roads and surrounding states.

&uot;They all consider the $25 ticket to be a great value,&uot; said Boswell. &uot;The money we derive from the event goes right back to the people of Suffolk in the donations that we provide to many worthy organizations. This year, we gave almost $19,000 in scholarships to local students.&uot;

Scholarships are just a part of what Suffolk Ruritans do for the community. In tough times, they have proven they are truly committed to preserving the quality of life in this city.

For instance, they not only give to more than 60 worthy causes like Meals on Wheels, Sickle Cell Anemia Society, Boy and Girl Scout troops, the Genieve Shelter and the Suffolk News-Herald’s &uot;Cheer Fund,&uot; but also, they were quick to respond when Hurricanes Floyd and Isabel struck this city.

They provided aid through the Suffolk Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, giving $5,000 to each to help with disaster relief. As always, those funds were derived from their single yearly fund raising event; Shrimp Feast.

&uot;This year, we expect our event to be even better than ever before,&uot; said Franks. &uot;We’re pretty excited and we think we’ve got a great event planned.

&uot;This is my second time to serve as chairman and I’m honored to be helping bring the event together again this year. I’ve been a member of Suffolk Ruritans for 24-years and every year, I’ve seen this event be even better than ever and this year is no exception.&uot;

Boswell added that anyone who purchases a ticket will certainly get a bargain considering that once you leave the Shrimp Feast party at 7 p.m., you can walk right into Suffolk Festival’s 27th Annual Peanut Fest. In fact, the Shrimp Feast is the &uot;opening act&uot; for Peanut Fest, an event that is annually attended by more than 200,000 people from the region and several other states.

&uot;This Shrimp Feast is going to be an exciting kick off for the Peanut Fest and we hope that everyone will come out to enjoy the food, music and fellowship and at the same time, support the community,&uot; said Boswell.

Suffolk Ruritans have tickets located throughout the city for this year’s feast. Look for them at First Federal Savings Bank at 1703 N. Main St., Bennett’s Creek Pharmacy, 3219 Bridge Road; Oliver’s Grocery at 1328 Holland Road; Mike Duman Auto Sales at 2300 Godwin Boulevard; and Physical Therapy Works, Inc., 2007 Meade Parkway. There are many other locations throughout the city. Just look for the &uot;Shrimp Feast Tickets Sold Here&uot; signs in front of local businesses or call 539-6300.

The Suffolk Ruritan Club meets the third Thursday of every month (Second Thursday November & December) at the Elks BPO Lodge #685, 329 West Constance Road.