One thing we love about the PacWest, is that there is a festival for every type of seafood represented in this region (See our blog post for Salmon Days, for example). This past weekend was Dungeness Crab Fest.
The festival – honoring the crab named after Dungeness Bay in which it is harvested – is located on the Port Angeles City Pier and the neighboring Red Lion Hotel. Now in its 12th year, the festival features cooking demonstrations, 60 booths of arts, crafts and tourism information, and of course lots of seafood.
The main tent features the Crab Dinner (a crab or half-crab, depending on your hunger, corn on the cob and coleslaw). Approximately 4 tons or 4,000 crabs were served up at the festival this year. Also served were about 350 dozen oysters courtesy of Taylor Shellfish Farms and chowder at the Captain Joseph House Chowder Cook-Off.
Founded by Betsy Reed Schultz in honor of her son Captain Joseph William Schultz, the Captain Joseph House provides a place for military families who have lost a loved one a haven in which to heal. The Chowder Cook-Off, benefiting this house, featured five competing restaurants cooking chowder. The judge was none other than the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr. Chad and I tasted all of the chowders. Each recipe stood out as all were unique from each other and all were incredibly good. This year’s winner was Oasis Bar & Grill from the nearby town of Sequim. Let me tell you, they deserved it!
The main event of Dungeness Crab Fest is the “Crab Dinner”. In the “Big Tent,” large kettles served up fresh crab caught from local waters and sold at market price (2013’s market price was $29.00 for a full dinner; $15 for a half crab dinner).
Musicians played on the tent bandstage while hundreds of patrons dined. In addition to the crab dinners, eight local restaurants served complimentary foods. Taylor Shellfish Farms shucked over 350 dozen oysters this weekend!
On the pier, the festival also featured “Grab A Crab – Crab Derby” – a fun activity for children to try to catch crabs with fishing poles. Some of the kids were quite good at this. Chad wanted to catch the crabs and set them all free!
We enjoyed climbing the lookout tower on the pier, for fabulous views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Port Angeles.
Once we descended the tower, we came upon a marvelous place called the Arthur D. Fiero Marine Life Center. This is an educational and scientific organization which promotes marine education and conservation. The small building on the pier showcases public exhibits featuring the marine life inhabiting the Strait. We loved the “touch” tanks which featured starfish, sea cucumbers and other creatures you could pet in the water!
I admit, I was a little squeamish about this, but Chad dove his hand right in.
We were amazed at the various types of starfish and their different textures -some had a hard exterior and some were silky soft. Visiting this great marine center offered the perfect balance to consuming and enjoying seafood while also learning about the creatures of the sea. The staff at the Fiero Marine Life Center were fabulous, mostly volunteers and not only really knowledgeable, but very kind and engaging. The docents who talked with us, Burt and Jim, were great! The Fiero Marine Life Center is a great place to take kids to teach them about marine life and how valuable all these creatures are to our ecosystem. And it was the perfect way to cap off our first Dungeness Crab Festival!
Important Travel Notes:
This year the festival was October 11 – 13. Check their website (www.crabfestival.org) for future dates.
To map it: 221 N. Lincoln Street, Port Angeles, WA.
If you are coming from Canada (and hundreds come daily to the festival from Canada!), you can take the Coho Ferry from Victoria. The ferry adds extra boats just for the festival. Check their website for up-to-date schedules (https://cohoferry.com/).