Today was the rescheduled Crescent City Wine, Crab, & Cheese Festival. The event was originally scheduled for Saturday, March 12,but the March 11 tsunami forced its delay. The venue sits near the shoreline, close to the harbor that was destroyed by the surges. Water reached the venue’s doors, though I’m not sure how much damage, if any, occurred at the venue. The event is a fundraiser for the North Coast Marine Mammal Center, so I wanted to be sure to stop by and spend some money to show my support. I enjoy visiting the center to see the rescued sea lions and otters, and I’m glad they are there to help injured sea life.
The festival offered food for sale from local eateries, as well as a wine bar. Despite losing the harbor to the tsunami, event organizers were able to find a local fisherman to supply the Dungeness crab. (Most locals took their boats to sea to avoid the surges but had to find a new harbor up or down the coast since they had nothing to return to.) I had half a crab–those things are HUGE compared the blue crab I ate growing up in NJ–and a cabbage side dish from a local Mexican restaurant. I skipped the ‘wall of wine’ since I was alone and had driven. As for the ‘cheese’ portion of the festival, all I found were samples of cheese curds from Rumiano, a local cheese factory. They offered to fill part of your plate with curds if you bought other food, but half a plate of cheese curds doesn’t really fit my new ‘eat healthier’ initiative.
In addition to comestibles, there were activities for the kids. I had to go outside (despite the ridiculous wind) to witness the “NASCRAB races.” Volunteers had affixed a plastic crab over a remote-controlled car and drew a ‘track’ in chalk on the patio of the venue. The races themselves weren’t too exciting; most of the young kids didn’t know how touse a remote-controlled car. But the cars were cute, and the kids’ reactions were priceless. After failing to complete the course and sending the crab-car flying off the patio steps, one five-year-old exclaimed, “That was AWESOME!”
Next up, I headed down the road to Crescent Beach for the main attraction (in my opinion, at least): crab races. I imagined crabs scurrying around on the beach, heading for the surf like the sand crabs I’d seen at the outer banks of North Carolina or the beaches of Florida. But Dungeness crab are not the active little crabs I had in my head. They are the largest true crab on the West Coast, and they don’t scurry.
I gathered with a few other brave souls to watch the festival crew release the crabs. The wind was strong, making the air at the beach chilly and sandy, so most attendees chose to stay at the heated indoor venue. The crew dumped a cooler of big crabs and tried their best to line them up at the shoreline. One crab took off into the surf, but the rest simply sat there. Some shoveled sand and tried to bury themselves. Festival staff encouraged the crabs to head to freedom, but the crabs weren’t having it. I eventually left despite the fact that the ‘race’ was far from over. But I was cold and had sand in my teeth from all that wind. I looked back and watched the few spectators run from the tide, then rush back to see if the crabs moved. They hadn’t.
- Fresh Dungeness crab is meaty and delicious.
- Cheese curds are not a good accompaniment to crab.
- Dungeness crab races are not much of a spectator sport.