APALACHICOLA, Fla. (WMBB) — Thousands gathered in downtown Apalachicola Friday and Saturday for Franklin County’s biggest event of the year.

Returning for its 59th year, the Apalachicola Seafood Festival activities began on Friday and lasted through Saturday night.

Saturday morning began with a parade down U.S. 98.

For Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith, the parade is his favorite part of the event.

“You get to interact with so many different people from everywhere,” Smith said. “A lot of local folks like these folks right behind you, just come out to enjoy it. So it’s just a great time to interact with the community and be here and watch everybody smile, everybody, parades make people happy.”

Apalachicola is known for its seafood and this event gives the community a chance to show others what they are all about.

“Seafood has always been king here, and now we’re getting more tourism but we still think of ourselves as the seafood port, the seafood capital of Florida,” Smith said.

“The Seafood Festival itself celebrates our seafood industry, which is what made Franklin County great and put us on the map for many years,” Board of Volunteers Directors President John Solomon said. “So the festival was started to celebrate that, to celebrate our fishermen and our seafood and how much it means to our community.”

Solomon said with just Friday sales, vendors said they made more money than both days combined last year, a testament to this year’s impressive turnout.

“Apalachicola is a town of 2,500 people and then 25,000 people visit the Seafood Festival during the weekend,” Solomon said. “That’s a huge impact on the economy. That’s people staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, and shopping in the local shops all over the county. That’s what makes it important for Franklin County.”

For one vendor, he was there not only to sell his honey but also to compete in the oyster eating contest.

“Oyster eating contest at 1:00 and the record for most oysters eaten in a small time period is 40 dozen and I’m going to try to go for that,” attendee and vendor owner Keith Nixon said.

From the parade to the blue crab races to live music, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

“This is for everybody, you know this is always, we put ourselves as a family-friendly event.”

As for next year, Solomon said there will be a firework display to mark the 60th anniversary of the festival.