08 November 2010


Gila Bend, Arizona is not anywhere that you'd expect to find someone farming shrimp. Here's pretty much what it looks like all around the town of some 1,600 or so people, halfway between Tucson and Yuma along Interstate 8:
That isn't to say it doesn't have its attractions, especially around sunset:

And if you've got an appreciation for small American towns that probably haven't changed a whole lot over the years, which I do, well, places like Gila Bend are a fine place to spend a day wandering around:

Now I suppose that when they inaugurate the new solar energy plant on the outskirts of town, that's going to be a pretty big celebration. But once a year Gila Bend hosts its Shrimp Festival and that's where I was last Saturday.

If you click on this paragraph you will get to the website of Desert Sweet Shrimp and maybe you'll understand why there is a shrimp festival in the middle of the desert where temperatures during the summer are often somewhat north of 115 degrees.

I stayed at the Space Age Lodge - pictured above - ate plenty of shrimp (and a Sonoran hot dog - hold the mayo and ketchup (on a hot dog? are they insane?)) - drank some beers at Neto's Bar after the festival closed for the night, and took some pictures.

As for the shrimp, I had it simply boiled with a hot sauce, "scampi-style" and as "shrimp poppers." Sadly, and in spite of what it claims on the website, the local shrimp just didn't seem to have much flavor. It was plenty fresh, reasonably well cooked, but lacking in, how do I put this, shrimpiness. Maybe the water they use is too clean, or something.

But I had plenty of fun anyhow and here's some photographic evidence:
One of the winners of the bobbing for shrimp in cocktail sauce contest.

Shrimp eating contestants - non-bobbers.

The festival grounds. The salad on a stick ladies (I had one, not bad) told me that they thought maybe they'd misjudged the crowd that was going to be there. Other than myself, I never saw anyone at their booth. Maybe if it had been deep fried salad on a stick.

As darkness fell, and the band played a mix of '50s and '60s oldies, blues standards and Norteno corridas, dancing broke out.