By Dariel Bendin
As far as the town of Little River, S.C. is concerned, the month of May means just one thing: the town’s annual and ultra-popular Blue Crab Festival, which takes place this year from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20.
The waterfront area of this fishing village will be full of 200-plus arts and crafts booths, children’s activities, community organizations, businesses and food vendors. According to organizers, all seafood will be provided by local restaurants.
Founded in 1981 as a small waterfront gathering, the Festival’s original goal was to bring visitors to the historic waterfront to support the local businesses. A few enterprising vendors set up their wares under the mossy canopy of live oak trees and a tradition was born. Music and entertainment were added later and the Festival began to showcase local seafood specialties along with arts and crafts. Today, the thirty-first annual two-day Blue Crab Festival is expected to draw over 50,000 people.
Entertainment will be provided by the Craig Woolard Band, Jim Quick & Coastline, Ken Jordan with Jackie Beaumont, the Rick Strickland Band and the Carolina Breakers.
Jim Quick & Coastline, with their soulful swamp funk sound appeal to beach music folks as well as fans of soul, rock and roots music. Quick’s last album was produced in Nashville by Grammy winner Gary Nicholson. The band has opened for a list of national acts that includes Montgomery Gentry and Delbert McClinton. Performance time: Saturday, May 19, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Rick Strickland is an enigma for students of beach music. He writes all his own music, doesn’t play cover tunes and yet he’s written some of the most popular songs in contemporary beach music: “Something Smooth,” “One Step Closer,” “So Do I” and his early favorite, “She Can’t Fix Grits.” If you’ve never had the good fortune to experience the Rick Strickland Band, don’t miss this opportunity. From songwriting to instrumentation to vocal harmonies, this five person group is topnotch. Performance time: Saturday, May 19, 1:45 to 3:15 p.m.
Myrtle Beach entertainer Ken Jordan is a singer/songwriter who has traveled for years performing an Elvis Tribute show. He will play the Blue Crab Festival with vocalist Jackie Beaumont, a favorite along the Grand Strand where she sings jazz and big band music for different clubs and restaurants. She was a founding member of popular Myrtle Beach band TKO and has toured with the Andrew Thielen Band for over 15 years. Performance time: Sunday, May 20, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Carolina Breakers took home the 2011 CBMA award for New Artist of the Year. The high-energy band features four excellent lead vocalists and the band plays a broad range of styles including beach, boogie, blues and classic rock.
Craig Woolard and the guys bring exceptional talent to their straight ahead beach music show. Craig has been a recipient of the local Carolina Beach Music Academy (CBMA) awards multiple times for Vocalist, Song, Duo, Collaboration, Blues Song, Producer and Entertainer of the Year. Always a great performance. Performance time: Sunday, May 20, 3 to 6 p.m.
Several events take place in conjunction with the Festival. The annual beauty pageant was held on May 5 at Conway High School in Conway, S.C. The seventh annual 5K run along the Little River waterfront was on May 12.
The Festival itself will take place at the waterfront in Little River. Ticket prices are $4 per day at the gate. Advance tickets cost $3 per day or $5 for both days. Advance tickets are available at Little River Chamber of Commerce, North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and First Bank in Little River.
Parking is very limited, so free shuttles are provided from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Shuttle stops include: Lowe’s food Store, 2575 Hwy. 179 in Little River; Hope Willard, 701 Hwy. 17, Little River; River Hills Medical Center, 4237 River Hills Drive, Little River; and Collisiono Masters, 825 Hwy. 17, Little River. For driving directions and other information, visit the website: www.bluecrabfestival.org.
All You Ever Wanted To Know About Blue Crabs
Despite its fearsome appearance and aggressive nature, the blue crab is greatly cherished in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Many gourmets prefer the blue crab’s sweet meat over all other locally caught seafood. This interesting animal is often sought by recreational fishermen, and it also supports a considerable commercial fishery.
The blue crab requires both inshore brackish waters and high salinity ocean waters to complete its life cycle. They are common from Massachusetts to Texas and a few have been reported as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Uruguay.
The blue crab’s scientific name, Callinectes sapidus, translates to “savory beautiful swimmer.”
Swimming is accomplished by sculling the oar-like fifth pair of legs, the swimming legs. These paddles usually rotate at 20 to 40 revolutions per minute, but they quickly disappear into a blur as the animal darts away.
Walking is accomplished with the three pairs of thin walking legs. Blue crabs almost always walk sideways, clearing a path with their sharp lateral spines. The blue crab’s most prominent features are the large and powerful claws, which are used for food gathering, defense, digging and sexual displays. If not handled properly, blue crabs can inflict severe injury.
Male crabs can be distinguished from females by the shape of the abdomen. The male has a T-shaped abdomen that is held tightly against the body until maturity when it becomes somewhat free. The immature female has a triangle-shaped abdomen that is tightly sealed against the body. The mature female’s abdomen becomes rounded and can be easily pulled away from the body after the final molt.
Large males, often called Jimmies by fishermen, usually have brilliant blue claws and legs. The mature females or “sooks” can be distinguished by the bright orange tips on their claws. Males typically grow larger than females, sometimes reaching seven or eight inches in point-to-point width. Some males have been reported to grow to about ten inches.
Mating generally occurs in brackish water from February to November with peaks in March to July, and in October and November.
Eggs hatch after about two weeks.Crabs hatched in April or May become two to three inches wide by November and five inches or larger by summer the following year. South Carolina law requires that captured crabs less than five inches in width be returned to the water.