Judging from the lines that stretched from several tents situated along Paris Avenue, it was clear what attracted many to Port Royal on Saturday afternoon.
"It's all about the crab," said Richard Jenkins of Lady's Island. "That's why I came and I suspect that's why a lot of these other people came, too."
Jenkins was one of thousands to pack the south end of Paris Avenue for the 9th annual Port Royal Soft Shell Crab Festival, an event hosted by the Old Village Association. The free festival coincides with the beginning of soft shell crab season.
When local waters begin to warm in mid-April, blue crabs shed their hard exoskeletons, leaving them with just a wrinkled -- and edible -- soft shell, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Soft shell crab season typically ends in early fall.
Though the event featured live music and a classic car show, its namesake crustacean was the star, according to festivalgoers.
Hungry diners waited in long lines as cooks from several Beaufort-area restaurants served up variations of soft shell crab.
"It's totally delicious," said Kathy Benson of Bluffton. "Soft shelled crab is one of those foods that you can't look at too closely or you'll gross yourself out. It's a funny-looking critter but they taste pretty darn good."
Town officials have said the event has become a chance for the town to gain exposure with area residents and visitors, some of whom had never been to Port Royal.
Visiting Beaufort from Charlotte, N.C., Tom and Beverly Winstrom attended the festival on a whim and were pleasantly surprised.
"We saw advertisements for it this morning and thought we'd see what it was all about," Tom Winstrom said. "It's really fun. The food is great, it's a beautiful day and this is such a beautiful and quaint area. It's easy to see the appeal."
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.