Hurricane Irma may have forced Jekyll Island to cancel its premiere event, but it hasn't stopped the community spirit.
The Shrimp & Grits Festival in September is by far the island's biggest event. It takes more than a year to plan and features the top two happiness-inducing ingredients for any Southerner: shrimp and grits, y'all.
When the hurricane changed the plans, the community was heartbroken, said Meggan Hood, senior marketing director of the Jekyll Island Authority, and simply moving it to another date was not an option.
"But no one felt that should keep this community down," she said.
Instead, island officials merged the best features from two of the island's signature events, the Shrimp & Grits Festival and the annual tree lighting celebration, into one unique event coined "Merry Shrimpmas."
Merry Shrimpmas is Nov. 24 to 25 and features some of the region's favorite restaurants selling classic shrimp and grits dishes. The event also includes live music on the Main Lawn; a curated artists market for holiday shopping; regional food trucks; and even fireworks and snow. Younger festival-goers can take in story time with Santa Claus, mail their letters to the North Pole, and run, jump and play in an interactive Kids Zone that includes bounce houses.
The festivities will come to an end Nov. 25 with the highly anticipated lighting of the great Jekyll Island Christmas Tree.
There will also be plenty of holiday revelry before and after the festival. A special holiday Movies on the Green showing of "Elf" will be Nov. 24 in the island's Beach Village. Guests can also take a spin on the oceanfront "ice" rink while enjoying a panoramic view of the Atlantic.
"This is a huge opportunity to show how much these local businesses, from the restaurants, hotels and shops to the local artists and entertainers, mean to our community, at a time when we'll all be getting into the holiday spirit," Hood said. "And, after all we've been through, who wouldn't like to begin the holidays with a some delicious shrimp and grits and a grand tree lighting?"
IF YOU GO
What: "Merry Shrimpmas"
When: 2-8 p.m. Nov. 24; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 25
Where: Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District
Cost: Admission is free; costs vary for attractions, food, refreshments; parking starts at $10