Perma-tanned teenagers stagger down a golden beach, droplets of vivid red spattering the soft sand. DO NOT SWIM signs mounted on the dunes are ignored. Bikini-clad girls scream in the sparkling sea. Children run into the arms of panicked parents. Silver fins break the surface, shining in the sun, and dart forward to claim their victims.
No stereotypes were harmed in the introduction to this blog. By now, most will have towelled off and joined the barbeque sizzling on the beach, limbs altogether intact. This is a re-enactment at JawsFest 2012, the world’s premier tribute to the heart-warming story of a shark the size of a tram that bites people in half.
No matter how hardy the traveller, there is in most an irrational part of the brain that, when confronted with a natural body of water, kicks into overdrive. You could be collecting shells on the Isle of Wight or deep in the labyrinth of a coral cave, when some instinct compels you to glance over your shoulder. Did something just brush your leg? Is that alarmingly large toothsome shadow heading your way? Should you, in fact, indulge in a spot of screaming and running?
It isn’t mere sensationalism to attribute this inherent terror to a single movie. After thirty-seven years it’s still the theme tune from Jaws that thunders in our ears as we flail for shore. JawsFest offers an opportunity to exorcise those fears. On paper, it’s one of the stranger US events. The last time legions of people flocked to the summer paradise of Martha’s Vineyard they became a veritable hot buffet. Except that the only shark you’re likely to encounter on the island is one of the famously malfunctioning animatronics.
Martha’s Vineyard, which hosted all principle shooting of the Jaws movie, is an attraction in itself, with walking trails through salt-marshes and lush forest, picturesque lighthouses, and the aforementioned (though blood-free) beaches. The festival holds presentations by original cast and crew members, a host of VIP guests, and numerous extensive exhibits culminating in a showing of Jaws on the big screen. Come home-time, you might wonder why you ever worried so much about sharks in the first place.
This is another central aim of JawsFest. As well as a fond tribute, the festival acknowledges that Jaws had a detrimental impact on sharks. Even though you’re more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than shark attack, the body count of the film triggered a violent misconception that still stands today.
An estimated one-third of shark populations are currently threatened with extinction, more a result of over-fishing than being exploded by barrels of compressed air. Initiatives have sprung up worldwide in an attempt to reverse this decline. Travel to Cape Town, for instance, to face your fears in a diving cage, and you’ll also get a lesson in ongoing conservation efforts in that part of the world. The experience itself is educational; there’s no better way to learn that sharks aren’t likely to eat you than by not being eaten. JawsFest works with the Shark Savers organisation and a number of experts to develop presentations and exhibits to educate its visitors on the dire situation faced by sharks worldwide. And nothing eats you.
So a visit to JawsFest 2012 might finally make it feel safe to go back in the water.
JawsFest takes place 9-12th August 2012. For more information please visit www.jawstribute.com
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Category: Events & Seasonal Celebrations