Shrimp & Grits Festival

Tony Cobb, an engineer with Custom Audio and Lighting, preps a speaker to be hoisted Thursday adjacent to a stage on Jekyll Island as part of setup for the Shrimp & Grits Festival.

Jekyll Island’s historic district was abuzz Thursday as crews worked putting up stages, tents and signs for the 11th mostly annual Shrimp & Grits Festival.

The celebration of food, drink and Georgia’s coast was cancelled last year amid Hurricane Irma, but organizers are excited for its return today, said Jessica Scott, a spokeswoman for the Jekyll Island Authority.

“We’re optimistic,” Scott said Thursday as she and her co-workers surveyed the ongoing setup. “That’s been the response from our staff, our volunteers, our venders — all around.”

The return of Shrimp & Grits is about more than just having a good time and a great bite to eat, Scott noted. The 45,000 festival goers contribute more than $40 million to the county’s economy directly and indirectly, according to the JIA.

“It’s a huge impact on the community,” Scott said. “This is a livelihood for some people. It’s not just about having fun.”

But fun there will surely be. The three-day event will feature classic Southern food, live music, an artists’ market, kid zone and craft brew fest.

Weather is forecast to have highs in the low 90s, partial cloud cover and a 20 percent chance of rain all weekend.

Patrons will also have the chance to help out victims of Hurricane Florence.

“Guests will be able to make donations to the Red Cross for (hurricane) relief,” said Meggan Hood, JIA’s chief marketer. “At our bars, we’re asking guests make a cash donation rather than tip the bartenders. In the festival tents, guests will be able to add a $1 donation to each purchase and the (JIA) will match the donation up to $5,000.

Admission is free, but VIP passes can be purchase for those who want to up their experience. The entry fee to Jekyll Island, usually $6, will increase to $10 for the weekend, however. Annual passes are exempt.

The primary parking location will be the Jekyll Island airport, and signs will be located along the way to guide visitors there. A fleet of 42 Glynn County school buses will shuttle people from the airport to the historic district where the festival is held. The ADA-accessible shuttles are available.

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