The Port of Brookings Harbor is clamoring over crab today, as the inaugural Southern Oregon Crabfest gets underway.
The dinner — serving 250 people — is sold out, but crab-oriented activities will take place all day on the boardwalk and public docks.
The venture was the brainchild of Robert Grosz, who has organized several such events in larger cities in California. He noted at a city council meeting last year that there is no crab festival within 200 miles of Brookings; the city council’s buy-in was critical to him securing grant money to attract tourists for an off-season event in town.
Events begin at 10 a.m., and include a crab chowder tasting, crab races, opportunities to talk with crab fishermen and view their boats, and purchase fresh and cooked crab dockside.
More than 20 vendors, all featuring crab- or nautical-themed merchandise will be available throughout the day, and crab races will be held from 12 to 3 p.m. Music and a beer garden with beverages from Tightlines and Chetco breweries will also be featured.
The chowder taste tests — conducted by the public — go from 2 to 3 p.m., and winners will be announced shortly thereafter. Grosz said they had three crab chowder entrants as of Wednesday, but expect more to show up the day of the event. Tastings are $5; it costs $5 to enter the competition.
Most of the events will benefit local schools, nonprofit organizations and civic groups.
Two crab boats — the Pisces and Catalyst — will be tied to the docks below the boardwalk and captains will be on hand to relate what a typical day in the life of a fisherman entails.
Both fresh and cooked crab will be available for purchase, as well.
Although the boardwalk most often features slug races, crab will take over today.
For a $5 entry fee, participants select and name their crab — “We might have ‘Speedy Gonzales,’ or we might have ‘Crab Dinner,’ Grosz said of possible names — before they are placed in a box from which they race. Races should take place about every 15 minutes.
“People can yell at them, pound on the table — whatever they can to make them go faster,” Grosz said. “First one to the checkered area wins.”
The organization has made 150 dog-tag pendants to distribute to kids who participate to commemorate their participation in the event and prizes will be awarded.
Grosz and his committee have spent months organizing the event in hopes of making it an annual draw for locals and tourists. He anticipates the crab dinner could double in size in a few years.
This past week was all about the last-minute details.
“It’s not over till the fat lady quits singing,” Grosz said. “And then I’ll sleep. All next week.”
More information can be obtained at southwestoregoncrabfest.com.