Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival’s strong numbers could prompt expansion

Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival’s strong numbers could prompt expansion

An estimated 6 tons — 11,500 pounds — of Dungeness crab were consumed at the waterfront festival in Port Angeles.

PORT ANGELES — Rain schmain. Waterlogged skies failed to dampen attendance at the 15th annual Dungeness Crab &Seafood Festival from Friday through Sunday in Port Angeles.

Participation was so strong that expansion plans already are germinating for the 2017 event so more people can avoid long waits for crab and spirits, festival Executive Director Scott Nagel said Tuesday.

Nagel estimated that nearly 6 tons — 11,500 pounds — of the namesake Dungeness-area crustaceans were consumed at the waterfront festival site at the north end of Lincoln Street and Railroad Avenue or purchased whole for future feasting.

He said that equals about 6,000 crabs at 1.75 to 2.25 pounds each.

Nagel estimated that a third more crab poundage was purchased at the festival compared to the 9,000 pounds overall that crab lovers bought at the 2015 event.

“We had big growth in spite of the rain,” Nagel said.

“We’re sitting here trying to accommodate our capacity to handle at least another 2,000 pounds and get the lines shorter,” Nagel said.

“This is such a good problem to have.”

Festivalgoers from Friday night to 5 p.m. Sunday sat under a 1,000-seat tent in the Red Lion Hotel parking lot and at 400 more seats outdoors.

They ate $29 crab, coleslaw and corn-on-the-cob dinners Saturday and Sunday, and sampled seafood fare from scallops to crab enchiladas.

Eight restaurant booths flanked a crab-dinner service line that snaked outside the tent along Lincoln, causing 20-minute waits Sunday.

They listened and danced to a nonstop array of live music and sauntered to adjacent City Pier for take-home crabs.

The crustaceans were steamed in a giant cooker — which might get a twin next year to handle the crowd, Nagel said.

Nagel estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 participants attended the festival, which has a $205,000 expenditure budget, including donations, that will be taken from profits, the amount of which he said will be available in about a month.

Exact crowd counts are not taken, but the same number of people might be spending more money, as the site presently can handle only so much traffic — each seat is occupied for about an hour per crab dinner, Nagel said.

“We may very well have the same number of people spending more as the economy is improving,” Nagel said.

“If people are coming and having a good time, that’s all we care about. Sales are good and it’s paying the bills.”

Nagel also attributed strong attendance to a marketing effort fueled by $11,000 in lodging taxes and good press from a recent upbeat Seattle Times profile of Port Angeles.

Black Ball Ferry Line brought 2,500 to 3,000 passengers to Port Angeles from Friday through Sunday, selling out on the 10:30 a.m. Saturday sailing to the city.

It’s the only capacity, standing-room-only sailing of the year, Ryan Malane, Black Ball co-owner and vice president of marketing, said Tuesday.

“Ninety-five percent of each load was coming to the Crab Fest,” he said.

Black Ball’s Coho passengers, many of whom bought Black Ball festival-event packages, accounted for 1,171 prepaid dinners alone.

Malane said Canadian visitors could not find a hotel room Saturday night.

“Just about every spot was taken in the city,” Malane said.

Acquaintances of Malane’s ended up at the ToadLily House International Hostel on Fifth Street — and were glad they did.

“It was the only thing available,” Malane said.

Malane said the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar is 76 cents compared to 85 cents last year.

“Given the tremendous decrease in the Canadian dollar, this was a pretty outstanding result,” Malane said.

Many Canadian visitors also concentrated on booths on the pier, including five additional food vendors.

“It’s a big event for Canadians for sure, an annual pilgrimage to Port Angeles,” Malane said.

A City Pier thickly populated with 90 craft and food entrepreneurs had no shortage of customers who braved the rain, especially Saturday, festival craft coordinator Elizabeth Norris said.

“It was probably an average year,” she said. “The weather doesn’t off-put people at the Crab Fest. They’re used to coming in the rain.”

Nagel said tent seating might be expanded next year, a third satellite beer booth might be stationed under the tent, a second service line might dispense crab dinners and a second mondo crab cooker might be purchased.

The festival is put on by 50 staff, 40 to 45 business sponsors and 200 volunteers from groups including Puget Sound Anglers, the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center and the Peninsula College Athletic Department.

Primary, or presenting, sponsors are Black Ball Ferry Line, Red Lion Hotel, Kitsap Bank, the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Peninsula Daily News, which also sponsored the $26-a-plate community crab feed Friday.

The festival is produced by Olympic Peninsula Celebrations, a state nonprofit corporation run by Nagel that is applying for 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News                                Canvas tent sections from the 15th Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival are rolled into a Grand Event Rentals truck Monday by Sergio Ruiz, left, of Kent and Chris Turner of Bellevue.

Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News Canvas tent sections from the 15th Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival are rolled into a Grand Event Rentals truck Monday by Sergio Ruiz, left, of Kent and Chris Turner of Bellevue.

Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival’s strong numbers could prompt expansion

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