Fest kicks off with feast

Published 10:32 pm Thursday, October 4, 2012

From left, Chris Copeland, Matt Fussell and Dustin Burkey show off the shrimp they were about to eat at the Shrimp Feast on Thursday. The annual celebration is the highlight of the Peanut Festival’s first day.

The 35th annual Shrimp Feast drew thousands of people to the Suffolk Executive Airport on the first afternoon of the Peanut Festival.

Floyd Byrd of the Suffolk Ruritan Club said about 2,000 tickets had been sold as of Monday, but he expected that many people had bought their tickets in the last couple of days or at the gate.

“We’ve got tickets being sold all over town, so it’s hard to know how many we’ve sold until after it’s all over,” he said.

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Ticketholders came through the gate to the sounds of Island Boy and enjoyed adult beverages until they were ready to feast on shrimp. In the eating area, volunteers handed out generous portions of fried chicken, barbecue, cole slaw, rolls and, of course, the star of the night — shrimp.

Country music singer James Wesley entertained later in the evening.

The heat of the day was just dying down as people began arriving, and cloudy skies did not deliver any rain.

“We had good weather, surprisingly,” Byrd said. “I think it’s turned out well.”

Byrd thanked the community for its continued support of the Shrimp Feast.

“It all goes back to the community in one way or another,” he said.

Much of the proceeds go toward scholarships for local students. Organizations such as the American Red Cross, Western Tidewater Free Clinic, Boy Scout troops, food banks and more will benefit.

The Peanut Festival continues Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It opens at 10 a.m. each day.

Special events on Friday include Senior Day activities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the popular Nation-Wide Demolition Derby at 6 p.m.

Friday entertainment includes Honkytonk Highway at 6:30 p.m. and Guava Jam at 8 p.m. on the main stage and school bands from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the family stage. Bands Fourth Day, Stronghold, Hicktown, JACT and A New Day Rising will perform on the family stage every hour from 5 to 9 p.m.

On Saturday, the schedule features horseshoes, bingo and sidewalk art contests beginning at 10 a.m., a cornhole tournament at 1 p.m., a jalapeno-eating contest at 1, 4 and 6 p.m., the World’s Only Peanut Butter Sculpture Contest at 2 p.m., the 250 Truck and Tractor Pull at 3 p.m., a karaoke contest at 7 p.m., and fireworks at 8 p.m.

Saturday entertainment includes River Boyz at 6:30 p.m. and Casey Abrams at 8 p.m. on the main stage, with local sports groups on the family stage all day.

On Sunday, the Suffolk Swamp Roar Motorcycle Rally will depart at 10:30 a.m. A gospel showcase will begin at 2 p.m. on the family stage, while Thunder Creek Bluegrass Band plays at 2 p.m. on the main stage and headliner Kellie Pickler closes out the festival at 4 p.m.