Next weekend marks the start of the annual Scallop Festival in Port St. Joe and this year’s festivities will see two weekends worth of activities where an expected 8,000 attendees will celebrate Port St. Joe’s favorite mollusk.

Next weekend marks the start of the annual Scallop Festival in Port St. Joe and this year’s festivities will see two weekends worth of activities where an expected 8,000 attendees will celebrate Port St. Joe’s favorite mollusk.

Though the Scallop Festival is in its 17th year, the faces behind the event are new.

Chamber Director Paula Pickett was instrumental in gathering the music and volunteers for the 2013 celebration, but it was chamber newcomer Chellsey O’Neil who coordinated the layout of the event.

O’Neil recently graduated from Florida State University with a degree in event management and worked to create an organized festival that she hopes will be consistent from year to year. For someone who up until now had focused on coordinating weddings, O’Neil welcomed the challenge of tackling Port St. Joe’s largest event.

“It really opened up a door for me to learn on a big scale,” she said. “It’s been a good experience.”

This year’s layout will condense vendors, music and seating to create an atmosphere that will allow attendees to celebrate together rather than be widely spread out.

In addition, Pickett and O’Neil have also worked to qualify vendors, ensuring booths aren’t repetitive and they are selling products suitable to the festival.

Other updates for this year’s fest will include a streamline of the registration process for vendors, a green room for participating musicians, an on-site information and first-aid tent, a VIP tent for event sponsors, and the amount of scallop cooks will be increased to shorten lines for hungry attendees.

“Everything is well-organized,” said O’Neil. “It’s like our baby.”

On Saturday, July 27 the Race for the Scallops begins with 5K and 10K runs down the Port City Trail.

“Runs have been successful in the past and it’s a different way to engage visitors,” said Pickett. “We can show the sights and sounds through a different avenue. In this case, our beautiful trails.”

The following day offers a 20- and 42-mile bike “fun ride” from St. Joseph Peninsula State Park to Salinas Park for the first leg, and those interested in completing the journey can continue on to the Franklin County line before returning to the Cape.

“We’d like to get people to the Cape and State Park,” said Pickett. “We want to get people into different parts of the community.”

Registration for the footrace and fun ride is $15 in advance and contestants will receive a T-shirt to commemorate the Scallop Festival. The fun ride is sponsored by Velo bicycle on Reid Avenue and the Friends of the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.

The following week, the party moves to George Core Park where on Friday, Aug. 2, gates will open at 5 p.m. ET. Vendors and live music will be on hand for hours of pre-weekend entertainment.

This year’s festival will include music acts from all over the region, from Tallahassee to Fort Walton to South Florida, to right here in Port St. Joe.

The Curry Brothers, Flabbergasted and Jim Morris will provide the lineup for the first day and music will go until 11 p.m. in the evening.

“There will be music the entire time that the gates are open,” said Pickett. “At any point you can come out and hear live music.”

There are 57 vendors booked with two weeks to go. Arts and crafts will be the central focus and artists will be on-hand to showcase and sell their work.

On Saturday, Aug. 3, festival gates open at 11 a.m. ET for the classic car show and a day-long concert.

The car show, to be held inside the gates, along Miss Zola’s Drive, will award prizes in eight categories.

Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf will host a Ducky Derby where kids can purchase a rubber duck to be dropped into the park’s lagoon. The owners of the first ducks to make it across the water will receive prizes and have a chance at nabbing an iPad mini. The event will raise funds for the Sacred Heart Guild.

The Kidz zone will give the young ones a place to work off some excess energy and enjoy games and crafts.

Food vendors will be selling scallops which can also be purchased frozen at $35 for five pound bags. Raffield Fisheries provided the mollusks for the event since it is illegal to commercially harvest local scallops.

The day’s music will be provided by Bowen and Bowman, Reed Waddle, King Cotton, The Sauce Boss, Cadillac Willy and the Kevin Jacobs Band.

The festival will close on Sunday, Aug. 4 with events that include a Worship by the Bay, sponsored by the First United Methodist Church at 9 a.m. ET; a Brunch by the Bay at Sunset Coastal Grill at 10:30 a.m. ET; a performance by the band Thirty-Three at George Core Park at 1 p.m. ET; and finally a the final leg of the Race to the Scallops with a kayak and paddleboard event starting at George Core Park.

An event this big can’t hope to survive without the aid of volunteers and Pickett reported that there are still positions available for those who wish to help.

She estimates that 100 volunteers are needed and responsibilities range from handing out wristbands at the gate, selling T-shirts, serving scallops, or operating the ever-popular beer tent.

Though the summer weather wasn’t cooperative when it came to a planned music festival and some of the recent centennial celebration events, Pickett said that the Scallop Fest will go on as planned, rain or shine. She and O’Neil feel confident about their plans for this year’s event and hope it will be one to remember.

“Planning the festival was a daunting task, but I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” said Pickett. “I think we’ve created a great prototype for the future.”

Those who wish to volunteer can call Chellsey O’Neil at 850-227-1223. Volunteers will receive a free Scallop Festival T-shirt. Admission to the Scallop Festival is $5 for August 2-3. Admission is free for children under 6 and military personnel.