Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival

2015-shrimp-grits-10th-anniversary logoLooking for a Shrimp Extravaganza? Come out to the coast and eat your way through Georgia’s Golden Isles-starting with The 2015 Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival! The Golden Isles are nestled on the Georgia coast, making a breathtaking view of the four barrier islands of St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island. Running from Friday, September 18th through Sunday, September 20th, this 3-day festival marks the 10th anniversary of Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival! To celebrate this milestone, they are gearing up for a weekend jammed packed with both amateur and professional cooking competitions, cooking demonstrations, and lots and lots of Wild Caught Georgia Shrimp! There will also be live entertainment, goodies for sale, and tons of family fun to be had by all. But in my opinion the highlight of the festival is being able to eat your weight in sweet Georgia shrimp. You’ll also, be able to sample all of the creative and delicious ways people cook shrimp & grits. I’ve seen it deep fried, stewed, pickled, barbequed, stuffed . . . well, you get the idea! In the meantime, you can whet your appetite with my take on Shrimp & Grits. Enjoy!

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp & Grits | Courtesy of The Jekyll Island Authority

Shrimp & Grits with Tomato Okra Gravy
Yields 4 servings
Recipe by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker

1 cup white or yellow stone-ground grits
¾ cup grated cheddar
¼ cup parmesan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 pound medium wild Georgia shrimp (about 30), peeled and deveined
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 medium garden fresh tomatoes, cored and diced
½ pound tender young okra, cut into ½ inch pieces
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pinch cayenne pepper
4 scallions, thinly sliced

In a 2-qt. saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cover and cook until grits are tender and creamy, about 30–40 minutes, whisking frequently. Add additional water if grits are too thick.

Whisk in cheddar, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon butter and season with salt; cover and set aside on low heat

In a medium sized skillet heat vegetable oil over low heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.

Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet with reserved bacon fat and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Lower heat and add onion to skillet and cook until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute more.

Add flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated, while scraping the bottom of skillet, about 5 minutes.

Raise heat to high, add chicken stock. Whisk until smooth, simmering until thick and smooth.

Add tomatoes and okra to onion flour mixture, decrease heat to medium, and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.

Cook until okra softens and tomatoes begin to break down, making a thick gravy. Add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper, and continue to simmer until okra has cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add more stock if gravy gets too thick.

Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice, remaining butter, and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce eats through, about 1 minute.

Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and tomato okra gravy.

Garnish each bowl with bacon and scallions.


jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

Find Your Park at Georgia’s National Parks


Find Your Park at Florence Marina SP

Florence Marina State Park | Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources

This year, the National Park Service celebrates its 99th birthday. Since its start in 1916, the Service has grown to include 403 parks across the 50 states. Georgia is home to 14 of those properties and many of them are celebrating the anniversary with Find Your Park events including:

Butterfly Bio Blitz (August 22) – From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., guests are invited to Ocmulgee National Monument help count as many butterflies as possible with their camera/smartphone. Participants will receive a free t-shirt, backpack, water bottle and much more. In addition to the hunt, children can paint a butterfly jewelry box or sun catcher to take home with them.

While you’re in town, be sure to visit The Allman Brothers Band Museum, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the Hay House.

“Find Your Park” Centennial Bike Ride (August 28-30) – Grab your bike and get ready to ride… or not. It’s totally up to you and there are options for everyone during this family-friendly Find Your Park experience. Registration, route maps and the itinerary for the ride are available online at Activities are also offered for non-cycling family and friends of participating cyclists who would like to visit the parks, camp overnight at Florence Marina State Park or Lake Blackshear Resort and ride the SAM Shortline train.

If you’re heading to the event through Columbus, look into their whitewater rafting experiences. If you’re driving through Albany, take your family to see visit the Flint RiverQuarium

Fort Pulaski Candlelantern Tours (December 18 & 29) – At six times each evening, Fort Pulaski National Monument will commemorate the 154th anniversary of the Confederate Nog Party of 1861 with the family-friendly candlelantern tours. The event includes hot cider, cookies, music, caroling and historic weapons firings.

Want to experience more Savannah history? Take a Savannah Haunted History Tour, visit the Savannah History Museum and stay in a historic hotel like the River Street Inn.

Stay tuned to and for additional Find Your Park activities throughout the autumn and winter.

EileenEileen is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Cheers to Alpharetta, Georgia


Jekyll Brewing line

With names like “Hop Dan Diggity,” the brews at Jekyll showcase the laidback company’s culture where beer reigns supreme. | Photo courtesy of Jekyll Brewing Company

Just north of Atlanta and easily accessed from Georgia 400, the State’s Hospitality Highway, lies a destination worth toasting: Alpharetta. This Southern city is home to the popular Jekyll Brewing Company, established in August 2013, through a Kickstarter campaign where tours, special events and, of course, production of sudsy sips, keep visitors and residents alike returning for a refill.

Historically, the purpose of a local brewery was to provide quality beer and a gathering location for community members. Founder Mike Lundmark, and co-owner, Josh Rachel, heard the community loud and clear: residents and visitors to Alpharetta represented craft beer drinkers and overwhelmingly supported local, quality beer. So, the home brewers got to work and Jekyll opened its tap room to the public in August 2013.

“The community’s response to having its own craft brewery outside the perimeter was overwhelmingly positive,” said Lacey Pyle, whose official title at Jekyll Brewing Company is “Head Cheerleader,” which means she manages all tap room team members and operations, coordinates private events, manages social media and more, including building boxes or mopping the floors, if needed.

Jekyll Brewing process

Brewer Bryan Johnson lifts the lid of Jekyll Brewing’s mash tun to show Cooter Brown American Brown Ale’s grain during the mashing process. | Photo courtesy of Lacey Pyle

Jekyll produces five year-round brews and several seasonal brews. The Tap Room is open to the public (21 and over, even for special events) Tuesday-Thursday 5 to 9 p.m., Friday 4-9 p.m. and Saturdays 1-9 p.m. Tour packages start at $12 per person and include six sample tickets. Each ticket can be used for a six-ounce pour of one of the beers featured in the Tap Room. Tours through the facility are given about once per hour depending on the number of participants and how long the previous tour lasted. The atmosphere at Jekyll Brewing Company is decidedly casual, so no tour reservations are necessary.

Thanks to the recent passage of Georgia’s SB 63, if a guest likes a certain style, he or she can take home a souvenir from the tap room: beer straight from the source. Guests can choose between one six-pack or up to two crowlers of beer.

Don’t miss
Jekyll throws a party just about every quarter—you know how social Southerners are. Coming up: The brewing company celebrates their two-year anniversary party on August 15. Guests may choose among 15 beers to sample, live music, food trucks, cake and all the Jekyll games like corn hole and giant Jenga. In addition to regular parties, the first Wednesday of each month is First Responders night, where the Brewery honors those who serve the community, offering $2 off to police, fire, EMS, military and veterans.

T-Bone & Earl toast Jekyll Brewing

Musician duo “T-Bone & Earl” (Phil Frontal, left, “T-Bone”; Rich Lebo, right, “Earl”) pause from their rocking and rolling to toast Jekyll Brewing. | Photo courtesy of Lacey Pyle

If you go
Plan to visit during one of Alpharetta Don’t Miss Special Events and add a tour of Jekyll Brewing Company to the experience. Find Jekyll at 2855 Marconi Drive, STE 350, Alpharetta, GA  30005 and check them out socially on Facebook , Twitter, Instagram and Untappd.

Take home a souvenir: Jekyll fans can purchase beer on draft at many local restaurants, including Taco Mac, Mellow Mushroom and Rosati’s. Guests can also buy Jekyll brews in area big box stores like Kroger, Publix, Costco, Wal-Mart on Windward, and any bottle shop.

For more about Alpharetta click here, visit the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau at or call  678-297-2811.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Shooting Star Parties in Georgia

AH Stephens SP Starry Sky

The view from AH Stephens State Park | Photo courtesy of Arthur Stiles, Georgia Nature Photographer Association

Stargazers search out Georgia’s darkest skies to view one of the year’s best and brightest meteor showers. This year’s Perseid meteor shower peaks August 12-14 as 50 to 100 meteors an hour streak across the night sky. With little to no moonlight ruining the dazzling display of shooting stars, 2015 is a great year to view this shower. Viewers don’t need telescopes or binoculars to watch the show, but a dark sky makes it even better. So, where are the best places in Georgia to view the meteor shower?

Georgia State Parks and local astronomy clubs are teaming up to make the most of the Perseids this year. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs and snacks to Hard Labor Creek, Cloudland Canyon and Richard B Russell State Parks for shooting star parties.

Hard Labor Creek State Park Shooting Star Party
August 13-14, 10 pm- 3 am
The beach is open late for this special event at Hard Labor Creek. Bring a blanket and lay out for a night of stargazing, rather than sun bathing. The park also hosts “Paddling under the Perseids.” Paddlers hop in a kayak or canoe for a view from the lake. Pre-registration required: 706-557-3001

Hard Labor Creek SP Shooting Star Paddle

Hard Labor Creek State Park | Photo courtesy of Kim Hatcher, Georgia State Parks

Cloudland Canyon State Park Star Party 2015
August 14, 9 – 11 pm
The perfect party for amateur astronomers and meteor shower viewers, Cloudland Canyon invites everyone to take a look at star clusters, galaxies and planets through BSA member’s telescopes! No word on where to meet, so calling ahead is highly recommended! 706-657-4050

Richard B Russell State Park Annual Perseid Viewing Party
Aug 14 9 – 11 pm
Join fellow stargazers and amateur astronomers to count meteors at this park northeast of Atlanta. Bring your own chairs and nonalcoholic refreshments to the disc golf course! Call ahead for directions and more information: 706-213-2045

candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

The Grand 2.0 Columbus Whitewater Paddle

Grand Columbus Whitewater PaddleThis Saturday, August 8th, the Georgia Conservancy and partners Uptown Columbus and Whitewater Express will return to the Chattahoochee in Downtown Columbus for the second annual Grand Columbus Whitewater Paddle.

Last year, more than 1,100 paddlers ran the rapids of the world’s longest stretch of urban whitewater. This year, we look to impressively surpass that number!

Rafters will hit the water beginning at 9 AM and will be guided by the experts at Whitewater Express. Groups will continue to raft throughout the day until 6 PM.

Also, rafters and spectators are invited to join us for our after-paddle music showcase beginning at 3:00 PM in downtown’s Woodruff Park. Southern-indie record label This Is American Music will present incredible tunes from Blue Blood, Fire Mountain, Sailing to Denver and The Bohannon’s.Grand 2.0 Columbus Whitewater Paddle

Our friends at SweetWater Brewing Company will be there, of course! Every Grand 2.0 paddler will receive a complementary wristband, souvenir cup and drink ticket (good for one SweetWater beer or Coca-Cola Company soft drink.)

The after-paddle party will also include a SweetWater Brewing Company beer garden, food trucks, outdoor restrooms, and Grand 2.0 merchandise.

Tickets for rafting and the after-paddle party start at just $25.

For those not rafting, a wristband for the after-paddle party is just $8 and includes a free beverage of your choice!

After the sun goes down, Whitewater Express employees (and any adventurous whitewater kayakers) will put on a “Saturday Night Lights” demonstration at the new section of whitewater illuminated by stadium lights.

Georgia ConservancyThe Georgia Conservancy will also host a Kick-Off Party on Friday, August 7 at The Loft in Downtown Columbus. Join us for live music, a SweetWater Brewing Company tap takeover and learn more about the incredible effort to restore the Chattahoochee River and create a world-class whitewater course.

Thank you to presenting sponsors, PricewaterhouseCoopers and TSYS.

For more information and to register, please visit:

Brian Foster

Brian Foster is the Communications Director for the Georgia Conservancy, a citizen of Atlanta and a proud native of Rome, Georgia. (Bio photo courtesy of Sarah Dodge.)