It all started on a sailboat. On a beautiful Wednesday evening back in the summer of 2009, I was one of many friends aboard the “Love and Luck,” heading out to the Albemarle Sound for a Wednesday night sail from Colington Harbor. As we approached the end of the canal and the harbor came into sight, a friend of mine, Donny King, sat down next to me and we started talking about the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research (OBXCDR).

At the time, the OBXCDR was a relatively new nonprofit, only just over a year old and very much in need of funding for our local dolphin research surveys. Donny expressed an interest in helping with a fundraiser. We contemplated the options for food cook-offs; there were lots of oyster roasts, pig pickin’s, and chowder cook-offs in the Outer Banks, but no shrimp. And, thus, the Outer Banks Shrimp Cookoff was born!

The Outer Banks Shrimp Cookoff is an annual benefit for the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research and funds a major portion of the organization’s expenses throughout the year.

It is hosted annually by Ocean Boulevard Bistro and Martini Bar on daylight savings weekend in November; this year, the 10th Annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cookoff will be from noon to 3 p.m. Nov. 3. Local restaurants compete to prepare the best original shrimp dishes. Awards are given for Judge’s Choice, Chef’s Choice, and People’s Choice. Shrimp dishes range anywhere from shrimp ceviche to shrimp sliders to shrimp etouffee! Last year’s Judge’s Choice winner was Tatanisha Spencer of Sooey’s BBQ who prepared a delicious Further South Shrimp Cocktail. A $25 ticket bought in advance or on the day of the event gets you in the door for unlimited shrimp.

In addition to the shrimp delicacies, a large silent auction containing items donated by local businesses takes place upstairs in the wine room at Ocean Boulevard.

Every year, I am overwhelmed by the generosity of local businesses owners who support this event and our organization through silent auction donations.

Finally, the shrimp cookoff would not be complete without music. Since the 1st annual cookoff and every year since, local musician (and all-around good guy) Christian Benedi has been our MC, providing music for the event and even competing as a chef one year, playing music and cooking coconut fried shrimp at the same time.

Information on our local dolphins is provided as well, as they are the focus of our research and conservation efforts.

Support for the shrimp cookoff is also provided by local sponsors. Sponsors of the 10th Annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cookoff include Kitty Hawk Kites, Nags Head Dolphin Watch, Outer Banks Veterinary Hospital, Joe Lamb Jr. Realty, Access Design, and Jam Media Solutions. Over the past 10 years, the Outer Banks Shrimp Cookoff has helped the OBXCDR to purchase field supplies such as a new research vessel when our old vessel was leaking, a new engine when our old engine was unreliable, and a new camera for our photo-identification of dolphins in the sound. This fundraiser has truly helped to keep the research program afloat.

Our dedicated volunteers also help to sell tickets, monitor the silent auction, clear tables, and make sure the event runs smoothly. Shrimp cookoff planning will be underway to ensure that the 10th Annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cookoff is the best one ever! Stay tuned for updates on this year’s shrimp cookoff at obshrimp.com; tickets will be available online in early October. For more information about the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research, please see our website at obxdolphins.org. And this fall on Nov. 3, join us at Ocean Boulevard to enjoy delicious shrimp dishes and support local dolphin research!

Biologist Jessica Taylor is executive director of the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research. Taylor has a bachelors of science degree in marine science from Rutgers University and a masters of coastal environmental management from Duke University. She has participated in several field research studies of bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, Stellar sea lions, and predatory fish in Florida, South Carolina, Australia, Alaska, and New Jersey. In 2008, she incorporated the nonprofit Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research, which is dedicated to conservation of bottlenose dolphins in the Outer Banks.

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