ARANSAS PASS, Texas — For most people in the area, the return of the Aransas Pass Shrimporee means fun, food and a return to some sense of normalcy.
Fred Pena has been a clown for six years, and goes by Jolly Go Phred. He said the tips he receives while working the Shrimporee allow him to spread joy to the community, and donate money to some local churches and the Ronald McDonald House.
“It’s just my way of saying 'thank you' to the rest of the, you know, everyone that’s out there doing other things that are good,” he said. "There’s a lot of people out there that have a misunderstanding of clowns. Some people run from us, some people get scared and holler but, you know what? I try my best not to be that way."
Pena and the Coastal Bend Clown Alley 23, weren't able to raise funds last year, after the event was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the 73rd annual event is back June 11-13, and the Aransas Pass Chamber of Commerce is expecting large crowds; they said ticket sales on Eventbrite have quadrupled this year.
In anticipation of the crowds, they are adding more marking spots, and have three trams shuttling people to the event.
Fifteen non-profits are participating in this year’s Shrimporee to raise funds for their organizations. The cancellation of last year's event meant groups such as the Coastal Bend Clown Alley 23 weren’t able to give money as they normally would.
The event's return, however, brings a smile to the 66-year-old's face after having experienced tough times such as enduring a heart surgery.
“It’s a reward….just seeing kids smile -- elders smile," he said.
The Aransas Pass Athletic Boosters are another non-profit looking to raise money at this year's event. That group supports Aransas Pass High School sports.
The money goes towards things such as equipment for the sports teams, and scholarships that benefit athletes’ college careers, or trade school. They also use the money to promote the school's athletics teams at home and away games.
“When we go to other schools and we see banners and we see their banners and our children don’t have that at home . . . I pushed a lot for that,” said booster club president Ericka Lozano.
Other athletics programs, such as Mustang Infinite Softball, are cooking food to raise money for tournaments. They don’t charge their players dues, so their goal is to raise thousands this year.
“Our goal is to raise some money to take the girls out-of-state to play in a tournament and get them new gear and upgrade everything they have,” said coach Abel Salazar.
The Shrimporee runs throughout the weekend.