Judging the Shrimp Festival


Does this photo make anyone else feel a little oozy?


Last night Kim and I watched a marathon of singing talent shows, where we consistently agreed with each other and disagreed with the celebrity judges, on the merits of all the contestants. Kim’s criteria for who should move on to the next round was based on singing ability, performance and song choice. I based my decisions on things like, “He sings okay, but have you noticed that all his facial features are kind of bunched up in the center of his face?”  and “I can’t even listen, I hate her headband so much.”


That is typical.  Kim reminded me of the time we judged the art contest at the Fernandina Beach Shrimp Festival . I was incredibly hung over, it was like 110 degrees and the entire town stank of boiled prawns and waffle cakes… During the Shrimp Festival, the streets are filled with hundreds of tents where hopefuls display their arts and crafts. The fair culminates in a judged show with the winner receiving a money prize and an example of their work is displayed at a bank on the high street for all to see.


Now this is not Art Basel. It’s a crafts fair. Kim and I were to visit every booth (our ruffled “Judge” buttons pinned to our damp t-shirts), choose 30 or so finalists and select the winner. Past winners and finalists proudly hung their credentials on their tent flaps and it was (I assume) a boon to sales during the festival in years to come.


I was surviving on Diet Coke and aspirin. Kim was chipper. We visited the tents, the artists jockeyed for inclusion in the coveted contest and I tried not to faint. Kim would say, “This one isn’t too bad. The photo of the kittens with pirate hats is kind of artsy, and they won last year.” I’d say, “I hate it.” She’d say, “What about these manatee salt and pepper shakers?” I’d say, “I hate them.” I was like the Simon Cowell of crafts judges – surly and perpetually unimpressed.


We ended up choosing a handful of finalists (according to the organizers they were “surprising” choices and weren’t there more?), there are actually some good artists at the festival, and giving the prize to a first timer who’s work I cannot remember at all.


I am telling you this story, because I was so hung over I was unable to think. My nausea was like a blanket. But I remember looking at The Palace Saloon and thinking If I could just go in there – it looked cool and dark – and have a glass of wine, I’d feel better….



The oldest bar in Florida – it still looks like someplace I’d like to hang out – sorry…



Isn’t that incredible? It’s like getting food poisoning from bad fish and craving tuna tartar. Suffice to say, in those days I should not have been trusted to judge anyone or anything.


Come to think of it, I should stay out of the judging business all together…

Today I’m not drinking because I’m NOT judging…

How come you’re not drinking?