Crab festival draws crowds

PORT ANGELES – Port Angeles seemed to be crabbier this weekend than last year around this time.

Although attendance numbers haven’t been totaled yet, anecdotal evidence suggests more people showed up for the sixth annual Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival than last year which had about 12,000 to 14,000 people in attendance, said Scott Nagel, festival producer and operations director.

Nagel wouldn’t guess how many people showed up over the weekend because attendance figures will be collected over the next few days from the various booths, he said on Sunday, the last day of the festival.

“What I would say is that we have exceeded last year in attendance and in sales,” Nagel said.

“We’re very happy because more and more people are coming to the festival.

“We’ve heard of people from at least 10 different countries as well as, of course, all over the states.”

Weather held up for the festival, which is held in a 7,000-square-foot tent set up in the parking lot of the Red Lion Hotel and arts and crafts booths set up on City Pier.

“The weather has been perfect,” Nagel said.

“[Saturday] it was beautiful, and it was just packed with people eating crab.”

The annual festival, which celebrates the crab named after the small town of Dungeness that once existed between Port Angeles and Sequim, officially began Saturday and ran through Sunday, after a preview meal on Friday night.

“It has been pretty crazy, a whole lot of people,” said Elisa Hawkins, a Sequim High School student, volunteer and first-time visitor to the festival.

“The sun keeps peeking out and it is a little chilly but it has been a lot of fun.

“I’m pretty excited because this is the first year I even knew it existed.”

The popular Grab-a-Crab Tank Derby, sponsored by Wilder Auto, offered a chance to catch a live one.

Those who were successful also got the chance to watch their crab be cooked up right in front of them.

The main venue, the Windermere Real Estate Crab Central Pavilion, hosted food booths with 25 dishes whipped up by North Olympic Peninsula chefs, wine tasting from local wineries, Northwest beer and live music.

Chefs Jason Wilson, chef and owner of Crush Restaurant (one of Food and Wine‘s magazine’s Best New Chefs for 2006); Brian Scheehser from the Kirkland Heathman Hotel; Eric Wright, executive chef of Cactus Restaurants; and Les Chan from Victoria presented cooking demonstrations on the Olympic Memorial Hospital Chefs Stage.

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Matthew Nash/ Olympic Peninsula News Group

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