Port Royal crab festival draws a crowd

Sitting next to her parents in the shade of a large live oak along Port Royal's Paris Avenue, eight-year-old Madeline Tucker cautiously inspected her lunch, her eyes suspicious eyes, her taste buds skeptical.

After much coaxing from her mother, Jane, and father Tom, Madeline closed her eyes and took a big bite of a her fried, soft-shell crab sandwich.

"Nice," she said. "I'm not sure I like the little legs hanging out of my sandwich, but it's pretty good."

The Tuckers were among the thousands who flocked Saturday to the 6th annual Port Royal Soft Shell Crab Festival hosted by the Old Village Association.

While some were trying soft shell crabs for the first time, others attended to partake in what has quickly become an annual Port Royal tradition.

Henry Clausen and wife, Meredith, have attended the festival for the last four years and said the event serves as a seasonal rite of passage.

"When it's soft shell crab time, you know that summer is just around the corner," Henry Clausen said as the couple checked out a display of vintage cars from the Classic Car & Truck Club of Beaufort.

"You've got seafood, good music and gorgeous weather. This is a slice of life in the Lowcountry," Meredith Clausen added.

Festivalgoers strolled down Paris Avenue, some playing carnival games, others checking out homemade candles, jewelry and other goods sold by vendors.

But it was the festival's namesake that was clearly on the minds of many in the crowd.

Some of the longest lines snaked from the canvas tents of Plums, C.J.'s Seafood Express, and the Port Royal Seafood Company, where Derrick Vaughn of Beaufort stood in one that stretched nearly a block down 10th Street.

"I'm here for the crabs," Vaughn said. "Judging by the look of this line, I'd say a lot of people are here for the same thing. I hope they brought a lot of crabs."

Event organizers said they expected between 8,000 and 10,000 people to attend this year's festival.