By Ernie Williamson
When hundreds of county residents descend on Austin for Brazoria County Day this month, it will mark two milestones.
Not only will it be the 50th anniversary of Brazoria County Day - an event that happens every other year when the legislature meets - but it will be the first held without Wayne Shaw.
It was Shaw who sold the idea of Brazoria County Day to the Brazosport Area Chamber of Commerce in 1973 as a way to make sure the state government was giving our county the attention and support it deserved.
He also came up with a gimmick to make sure the event wouldn’t go unnoticed.
To be sure, other counties in those days also had their day in Austin, but they often relied on traditional fare such as barbecue, sausage or chili to draw crowds to their receptions.
But nothing that other counties tried could compete with Shaw’s idea.
Realizing that in those days Freeport ranked high in tonnage of shrimp caught, Shaw came up with the idea for the “World’s Largest Shrimp Cocktail” complete with a boatload of shrimp, red sauce, crackers, beer and soft drinks.
A tradition was born.
Now 50 years later, many counties have dropped their “Theme Day”, but Shaw’s idea has made Brazoria County Day in Austin one of the most popular events of the legislative season.
In addition to coming up with the idea of the shrimp feast, Shaw for years did much of the heavy lifting and organizing. He passed away in 2020.
On February 28 - Brazoria County Day - hundreds of Brazoria County residents will be in the galleries when both the Senate and the House pass resolutions honoring Shaw for his efforts.
His widow, Sandra Shaw, who is president and CEO of the Brazosport Area Chamber of Commerce, will be on the floor to accept the award.
“I think Wayne would be proud of what has happened to his Brazoria County Day,” says Sandra.
In that first year, Wayne Shaw and only a handful of others did all the work, including cleaning up shrimp shells, drink cups and plates with red sauce, all left behind by 1,500 government officials and Brazoria neighbors.
There are more volunteers these days, and the program has grown to include not just the Brazosport Area Chamber of Commerce but all chambers in the county and the Brazoria County Economic Alliance.
Typically, about 700 Brazoria County residents travel to Austin for Brazoria’s big day.
But Debbie Pennington, vice president of operations for The Alliance, anticipates there might be more this year since the event was canceled in 2021 because of the pandemic.
All the festivities have a serious purpose. The organizers want to make sure our county is recognized as a vital part of the Texas economy.
Legislators and state officials will not only be given invitations to socialize with Brazoria residents at Shaw’s “ Shrimp Cocktail,” but they will also be given a list of issues important to the county.
Pennington says the list of priorities this year includes education, worker training, the environment, and transportation.
There is little doubt, however, that Wayne Shaw’s gathering for the shrimp cocktail is the highlight of the day.
Guests will dine on a boatload of about 1,200 pounds of shrimp. Fittingly, the boat will be named the “SS Wayne Shaw.”