This year’s Beaufort Shrimp Festival was also a sort of homecoming for actor Gary Sinise and more than 50 of his friends. In the movie “Forrest Gump,” the actor portrayed the struggles–and the successes–of a wounded war veteran-turned shrimper. Thanks the Independence Fund and Sinise , 50 severely wounded vets came from all parts of the U.S. to enjoy the South Carolina Shrimpers Association premiere festival.
Donna Starkey of Main Street Beaufort, USA, the group coordinating the event, explains that the Independence Fund raised money by selling T-shirts, wrist bands and other ways to “bring over 50 veterans, the most severely-wounded and their care-givers, their family members and in some cases their friends, to come and have a couple of days in this beautiful Lowcountry.”
The Oscar-winning film “Forrest Gump” was filmed in the Beaufort area and in nearby Savannah, Georgia. This is the first time that Sinise has returned to the area, according to locals. And he made his presence known. Starkey says a highlight was Sinise and his 13-piece band, yes, the “Lt. Dan Band,” having a free concert at the waterfront, and they had to turn away thousands of people from the crowded waterfront park:
People were practically hanging from the trees to see this. Gary has taken over the role apparently of Bob Hope as the premiere entertainer of the troops and the person who most promotes them.
The festival is also an annual effort to promote South Carolina’s shrimping industry. A popular sign read: “Friends don’t let friends eat imported shrimp.” Starkey says, “Local shrimp tastes a lot different than something brought in by ship from halfway around the world.”