PALATKA, Fla. -- One of the biggest Memorial Day weekend festivals in the area is the Blue Crab Festival in Palatka.
The Blue Crab Festival was started 25 years ago as a way to bring people to downtown Palatka. Now it is an economic engine for Putnam County.
Star and Jerry Denmark drove to the festival from Belleview, near Ocala.
"We come every year to the Blue Crab Festival. We love it," Star Denmark said. "I haven't started shopping yet, but sometime we've spent a hundred dollars here."
The Blue Crab Festival always takes place Memorial Day Weekend.
It's a red, white and blue event that local folks created in order to see some green.
Mary Makie Conner handles publicity for the festival. "It was a way to bring people to downtown 25 years ago. That's when things were starting to deteriorate in some of the downtown areas." Conner said. "It just snowballed from there."
Business is still bubbling up in downtown Palatka.
"Just in the last year, we've had 12 news businesses come in," Conner noted.
She said estimates the festival generated $4.2 million into the local economy.
The festival has free admission and parking and this year there were helicopter rides. A new zip drew people's attention, and patrons couldn't miss the tall, new Ferris wheel.
This weekend, local hotels were reportedly full according to Conner.
She and her colleagues -- who are all volunteers -- believe it's one of the best crowds they've ever seen at the festival.
However, some vendors disagree.
Jostin Sattler has been selling blue crabs at the festival for 17 years.
"Business this year seems down a little. It's not quite as well attended as in years past." Sattler said. "If attendance isn't high, sales aren't high. We all shoot for the best."
The layout this year is different. Some buildings are gone which makes the space seem more wide open. Some vendors say the layout hurt their business.
However, the Denmarks -- and thousands more -- will surely be back.
"It's a small town. We love it," Star Denmark beamed. "The people are friendly here, and we love that."
First Coast News