Throwing Shade

Crab Shack queens and kings: A backstage look at the crabbiest festival in the Bay

It all starts about two weeks before Independence Day weekend.

First, you get a notification that you've been added to a private group on Facebook. Then, the photos from last year's occasion starts flooding the page. Red, white and blue attire, sweaty headbands and more selfies that you didn't remember taking start popping up on your newsfeed.

The first step in getting ready for Crab Fest is the Thursday evening cocktail party, but no Cosmopolitans are included. Instead, you trade in fancy drinks for gallons of cocktail sauce to pour into small containers to serve with the weekend's boiled shrimp plates. If you're lucky, you don't spill any on yourself. Most aren't so lucky.

And as soon as the gates open on Friday, it's go time. Located right next to the shrimp po-boy booth, the Crab Shack is full of flashy decorations, flashy outfits, and Coast characters as far as the eye can see.

First, there's Aunt Joy, who can make a po-boy and fries in 30 seconds flat. Angie, who may be the sassiest of the crew, loves "collecting money for the Lord." The proceeds from Crab Fest benefit Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church. Claire helps deliver plates of shrimp and gladly enjoys bubble gum snoballs with extra condensed milk on her breaks.

The most hyper award goes to our shortest friend, Michael, who talks fast, walks even faster, and can convince anyone to buy more crabs and another shrimp plate. Queen of the Crab Shack, Leigh, employs all of her friends to work so she can "supervise," and tell us what to do. We call her Princess Crab.

Kevin, Cayce and Wes were helping plate shrimp and throw crabs in a box while the handlers danced to music and sold plates. And man, did they sell quick.

Big Kevin, Councilman Doug Seal and Jerry West couldn't get the seafood out of the boilers fast enough at some points throughout the day on Saturday, but that didn't stop people from waiting for hot, fresh seafood.

Sometimes, the most fun part of an event is working it and making memories with a crew of rowdy friends who voluntarily spend their holiday helping the church and feeding the festival-goers.

If you've never worked the Crab Fest, I suggest you consider volunteering next year.