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St. Marys attracts crowds for rock shrimp festival
Forty years ago, very few restaurants in the region served rock shrimp.

The problem had nothing to do with taste, which many people compare with lobster.

"The main problem was they didn't have a way to peel and de-vein it, except by hand," said Jerry Brandon, former mayor of St. Marys and owner of the Riverview Hotel.

Despite the challenge of preparing rock shrimp, a group of residents decided it was worth the trouble when they held the first St. Marys Rock Shrimp Festival in 1972. Luckily for organizers of today's 40th Annual Rock Shrimp Festival in St. Marys, a machine has been invented to peel the rock-hard shells.

The festival has grown steadily over the years and is expected to attract at least 10,000 people. And they'll have a lot more than tasty rock shrimp dinners to look forward to, said Angela Wigger, director of tourism in St. Marys.

An estimated 110 booths will be set up for the day in the city's historic waterfront district on Osborne Road (where Georgia 40 dead ends) and on St. Marys Street, along the St. Marys River.

Wigger said 60 to 70 booths will be dedicated to arts and crafts, and the remainder will sell food or provide information about different community organizations. Some political candidates will also be campaigning during the day-long event.

Booths open at 9 a.m., with the parade beginning at 10 a.m. Rock shrimp dinners will be served beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m.

Dinners are $12, payable by cash or check only, and include fried rock shrimp, boiled shrimp, fried Alaskan pollock, cole slaw, hush puppies and sweet or unsweet tea.

"Visitors enjoy our festivals because there's an authentic hometown feel that one gets while strolling the streets of historic downtown St. Marys and a festival just seems to amplify that feeling," Wigger said.

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