Gulf Shores, Alabama
BY MICHAEL VATALARO
WITH THREE seasons of great weather, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, host more than their fair
share of events. As if the sugar-sand beaches,
family-friendly atmosphere, and numerous
seafood restaurants weren’t enough, throw
in music and seafood festivals, fishing tournaments and, well, mullet tosses, and the
Alabama Gulf Coast can keep a visiting boater
entertained just about year round.
The last full weekend in April is home to
the Interstate Mullet Toss – possibly the odd-est excuse for a party known to man – hosted
by the Flora-Bama Bar. In the middle of a
three-day beach festival, contestants line up
to see who can throw a whole, wet baitfish
across state lines the farthest – for charity,
of course. Think Pike Place Fish Market, but
with sand, sun, and surf.
If you prefer to eat seafood rather than
fling it, the LA Gumbo Festival might be
more your venue. Held Mother’s Day week-
end at The Wharf, a large entertainment
complex on the ICW anchored by a 200-slip
marina, gumbo masters from all over the
Gulf compete in a cook-off and then con-
spire to create “The World’s Largest Bowl Of
Gumbo,” which being more than six feet tall,
takes a lot of roux.
In mid-May, the Hangout Music Festival
hosts more than 70 bands over three days,
packing 35,000 concert-goers into a huge
swath of beach that features six stages.
Headliners in 2014 headliners included Jack
Johnson, The Black Keys, and Outkast. If
you missed the 2014 event, it’s time to think
ahead, anyway. You need to book plenty early
to make next year’s edition. But if you don’t
have plans yet for the rest of summer …
The Blue Marlin Grand Championship
of the Gulf fishing tournament kicks off July
8, with slots for 56 boats, and more than
$1,000,000 in prize money expected to be
awarded. Though the event is in only its
third year, it’s generated lots of buzz. Last
year, tournament anglers broke the Alabama
state record for blue marlin, one that had
stood for 24 years, not once but twice in two
days of fishing. More than 9,000 spectators
gathered to watch the second night weigh-in
during the 2013 event, hosted again this
year by The Wharf.
August 22 brings Thunder On The Gulf,
with high-performance powerboats such
as Miss Geico racing just off the beach.
Additional boating events and a race village
hosted in nearby Pensacola, Florida, round
out the weekend.
Columbus Day weekend marks the 43rd
Annual National Shrimp Festival (see photo).
This four-day event attracts 300,000 visitors
and features food, music, lots of mouth-
watering samples, and even 5- and 10-K
races to help you work up an appetite.
These are just a few highlights. Other
events include a wooden-boat festival,
lots more music, plus Civil War reenactments, and even a hot-air balloon fest.
To find one of the half-dozen BoatU.S.
Cooperating Marinas, which offer discounts to members on fuel or transient
dockage, go to www.BoatUS.com/MSL.
For more event listings, see this article online at
850-492-0611 or 251-980-3407
The Wharf Marina
LA Gumbo Festival
Blue Marlin Grand Championship
Of The Gulf
Hangout Music Fest
Annual National Shrimp Festival
Thunder On The Gulf
For more on the Gulf Island’s hur-
ricane history, see this article online,
The Annual National Shrimp Festival ( myshrimpfest.com) is held the second full weekend of October in Gulf Shores,
Alabama, and is free to attend.