Come on along, on this walking, tasting, visual July 4th Holiday experience on the Mississippi Gulf Coast…
With the 4th of July here again, many Mississippi Gulf Coast residents and visitors made plans to celebrate the Holiday weekend by having picnic, swimming and bonfire parties on the many miles of cleaned and restored beaches along the coast.
A number of those same Holiday celebrators, and many thousands of others, including, the Coast Rat, traveled to nearby Bay St. Louis to attend and enjoy the 25th Annual CRAB FEST, the mid-summer fund-raiser of Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church and Our Lady Academy, located just off the beach in ‘The Bay.’
This was the 25th Annual Crab Fest, celebrated in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
Again, like last last July, two of my good friends here on the Coast, Andrea and Ralph, invited me to go with them to The Bay CRAB FESTIVAL, and we did just that, Saturday morning.
Also meeting us to go ‘fest-ing,’ was buddy John, his next door neighbor, Ed, who both live north of my travel trailer, up on the Arcadia Bayou, and also two friends of John’s, Terry and spouse, Lisa,visiting him from Jackson, for the weekend.
This was the Crab Fest beautiful commemorative t-shirt for this year.
Saturday morning, came, and like last year when we went to the CRAB FEST, and like the last 3-4 weeks, it was VERY HOT, in the mid-90s, and HUMID!
As I mentioned in last year’s Crab Fest post, this area of the coast continues to recover and rebuild from being in ground zero for Hurricane Katrina, when it came ashore as a Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour, and a 31-foot tidal surge, which put this entire area under water for miles around.
Another commemorative clothing item at this year’s Crab Fest, was the Crab Fest Cooking Apron.
At about 10:00am, Saturday morning, John and his group met us at Ralph and Andrea’s home in Pass Christian, and we set off down on the Hwy 90 beach highway, across the Bay of St. Louis bridge, over to the grounds of Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church, and the 2009 Crab Fest.
Andrea, at left, with water cup, took time to walk among the craft vendors and see what they had available for sale.
Once we arrived near the Fest, found nearby parking, and after a very short walk, had arrived at the Fest grounds, the sun was out in full blaze, with the temperature hovering around 95 degrees.
Stand in the direct sun for more than a few minutes, was a real challenge. Most Fest goers I saw there, were somehow standing or sitting in the shade somewhere.
The Crab Fest preparation crew, to their credit, tried to place as many picnic tables in shady areas as there was room for, a move that was appreciated by all who wanted a cooler, shady place to sit and eat their choice of the delicious seafood tidbits available under the food shelter.
Already there was a good crowd on hand at the Fest when we arrived, and the first item on the agenda for our crew there, was acquiring something cold to drink, whether it was a go-cup of one of the beers on tap there, or a cold bottle of water, some iced tea or a cold soda.
That item accomplished, the rest of the crew walked over among the craft vendor tents, while I started out around the grounds to snap some candid images of interesting things and people.
A view from the east edge of the Fest grounds, showing the nearby waters of the Bay of St. Louis. The ground where I snapped this image was probably under about 10-12 feet of water during the morning surge of Hurricane Katrina, Aug. 29, 2005.
The craft vendor area at the Crab Fest had a wide variety of craft items displayed for sale to Fest-goers, including a large display of hand-made bird houses.
There were Fest-goers of all ages, checking out the craft vendors.
As I was snapping images of vendor tents and people walking by, I happened to see this young lady walking by, but didn’t catch the message on her t-shirt.
A little while later, when I stopped under a Live Oak tree to get in the shade for a few minutes, the young lady, “Lana,” walked over, too, to talk on her cell phone, from the shade of the same tree. I asked her permission to take a posed shot of her and her t-shirt message, which she graciously consented to, advising that if she did, I would probably use the image in my blog about the Fest.
I next found myself walking along under the food shelter, viewing the various seafood dishes that were available for Fest-goers to partake of during their visit to the festival grounds.
A quick view of the areas behind the long rows food counters, and the many workers behind them, quickly showed that it takes huge numbers of volunteers to put this festival on, especially to cook all the food, and also to sell it to hungry customers, for 12 hours on both Saturday and Sunday.
And all of the volunteer workers made sure they had plenty of food and beverages available to satisfy hungry appetites and heat-produced thirsts of the thousands of Fest-goers attending the special event.
Prices were very reasonable for the beverages and food items, and I’m pretty sure that most Fest-goers felt that the money they spent at the Fest went to a very good cause.
Although there was a good amount of shade in the volunteer worker food service areas, I still felt for those folks, working there among all those cookers, fryers and grills.
It sure looked like it was hot for volunteers working in the food shelter.
Some fried seafood waiting under a heat lamp for some hungry customers.
I went over to the band shelter and looked for a vacant picnic table we could all sit down at and eat our lunches, preferably a table in the shade. Fortunately, I found one along the edge, right near a line of porta-potties.
This young volunteer server, was dishing up a shrimp dish.
Following are more images of many of the varieties of seafood dishes that were available to eat at the Crab Fest:
Boxes of blue crabs, waiting to be purchased.
There were lots of different kinds of seafood one could purchase and try at the Crab Fest.
I’ve eaten several varieties of seafood po-boys during my mission here on the coast, and there were several varieties available to try at the festival.
The plates of boiled shrimp really looked inviting, too.
Shrimp has long been one of my favorite seafood dishes during my life.
The fried crab claws we tried were just excellent!
Trying to find a table to sit down at, in the shade, to eat lunch, was one of the challenges at the Crab Fest this weekend.
This gentleman came over from Biloxi to enjoy the Crab Fest.
John heads towards me to let me know the group is ready to get some seafood lunch.
Shortly after I had finished snapping a couple of dozen images in the food shelter area, the rest of the crew walked over from viewing the craft vendor tents, and went to pick out their favorite seafood dishes for lunch.
Our crew ready to partake of various choices of seafood. Left-to-right, seated – this side of table: John’s weekend guests from Jackson, Lisa and Terry, standing, left – John’s neighbor, Ed, seated, facing camera: John and Andrea.
For several days leading up to the Crab Fest, I had kicked around what to purchase for lunch at this festival, and thought perhaps this year, I would try some of the blue crabs, that John and Andrea had eaten last year, there.
John and Andrea love the blue crabs!
Andrea bought a box and a half of them to start, and when she put them on the table, several of the crew each picked out a crab and started to break the shells apart to get at the sweet crab meat inside.
The same band that was playing last year’ fest on Saturday, was playing again this year.
I finally decided that I would try some blue crab, too, and set out to try to crack some shells and get at some of the meat. I quickly learned, however, that cracking the crab shells without sticking yourself repeatedly with the small shell spines, would take some practice. Buddy John tried to show me some shell-cracking technique, but my continuing efforts to crack the shells efficiently, met little success.
Although John didn’t shell and eat this entire box of blue crags, he did make a major dent in the pile that originally came in the box! And he is very accomplished at the shelling part of that process.
Finally, I said to myself, I had better go to Plan B, and go buy a plate/dish of some other seafood which didn’t have a shell to crack to get at the good stuff. Shortly thereafter, I returned with a bowl of Shrimp Etouffee, which was absolutely delicious!
One of our crew also bought a plate of friend crab claws, which we all tried, and I have to say, that they are also very tasty!
These youngsters were heading for a shady spot so they could enjoy eating some of the seafood.
Ralph had a bowl of seafood lasagna, along with trying a new beer, and he praised the lasagna, as an excellent dish!
Lots of hungry folks at the Crab Fest.
This youngster has a shady spot, and dad to share a hot dog with him.
Ralph was all finished with his seafood lasagna, and just enjoying the moment.
Having been at the Crab Fest for almost 4 hours, and having had a very enjoyable time, Ralph and Andrea slowly move toward the Crab Fest grounds exit, and the welcome relief of the air conditioning that their car will quickly supply.
If you are in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area on the July 4th weekend in 2010, consider attending the Bay St. Louis CRAB FEST on that Saturday and/or Sunday, for an amazing seafood experience!
Come on down, Mandy, and Quin…
You won’t be disappointed!
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