BAY ST. LOUIS -- The Our Lady of the Gulf's Crab Festival kicked off Friday on the Catholic church's grounds for the first of three days of carnival rides, arts and crafts and all the crab dishes you can eat.
This year's fest features the crowd-pleasing combo of live music, 100 vendors, raffles, crab races and carnival fun.
Hog Wild Production and The Chee Weez performed for festgoers Friday.
What is it that keeps the crowds coming to the festival after 30 years?
"It's the food. Everything you see is made by parishioners and volunteers," said Pamela Metzler, festival chair.
"Nothing's brought in. We make all our own stuff, all fresh. We cook about 5,000 pounds of crab, 3,000 pounds of shrimp and 600 pounds of crab-stuffed potatoes."
Hungry diners can also fill up on shrimp and catfish po-boys, gumbo, burgers, hot dogs, red beans and jambalaya.
"The favorites are our crab specialty items," Metzler said.
"We have people who come from Louisiana to eat our crabs. They say we cook them a lot better here in the Bay."
The Crab Fest has a reputation for drawing visitors from around the country, and the world.
"We have people come from all over -- Alabama, Georgia, Texas, you name it. There's a couple from California who've been coming for years," Metzler said.
"They take their vacation each year to come to the Crab Fest. One year, we had a couple come from England."
It's an event Coastians look forward to as well.
"It's a community thing, and they've been doing it for years," Metzler said. "They grew up here, and now their kids are growing up here. It'd a tradition.
"It's a family outing. It's a great place to come with your children. It's not too expensive to enjoy."
The proceeds benefit Our Lady of the Gulf, which has in prior years been able to fund projects such as completing the community center or installing new pews.
The Crab Festival runs today from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Entry is free. A 5K run will get things started today at 8 a.m. and a 1K fun run will step off at 9 a.m.
"It's people coming together for three days and having a wonderful time," Metzler said. "They're 'fellowshipping.'"