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Crabs trump rain at Port Royal festival

Employees of Port Royal Seafood hustle to keep the fried soft shell crab moving as seafood lovers wait in line during the seventh annual Soft Shell Crab Festival in downtown Port Royal Saturday afternoon. The event included arts and crafts as well as live music. A variety of local restaurants were also on hand.
Employees of Port Royal Seafood hustle to keep the fried soft shell crab moving as seafood lovers wait in line during the seventh annual Soft Shell Crab Festival in downtown Port Royal Saturday afternoon. The event included arts and crafts as well as live music. A variety of local restaurants were also on hand.

A light drizzle and cloudy skies Saturday did little to quell the appetites of thousands in Port Royal for a local delicacy.

Despite the rain, thousands of crab-crazy people flocked Saturday to the seventh annual Port Royal Soft Shell Crab Festival hosted by the Old Village Association.

John Stanley of Beaufort was one of them.

With a fried, soft-shell crab sandwich in one hand and an umbrella in the other, he said it would have taken worse weather to keep him from this year's festival.

"I mean it's just rain," Stanley said. "If I have to hold an umbrella, that's OK. As long as I have one hand free at all times to hold food then I'm good in shape."

Predictably, the festival's longest lines snaked from the canvas tents from which local restaurants were selling different versions of the festival's namesake crustacean.

Despite its relative youth compared to events like the Beaufort Water Festival, which is in its 55th year, the one-day festival has become a social staple for Rebecca Ronson of Port Royal.

"It's only the seventh year?" Ronson asked as she waited in line for a soft shell crab sandwich. "I love this event. I wish we could have had better weather today but at least we've got crabs and beer."

Port Royal Town Manager Van Willis said the festival has become a chance for the town to gain exposure with area residents and visitors.

"The festival is a fantastic opportunity for the townto showcase itself to those who live here and the visitors that purposely attend or just stumble upon us," Willis said. "I've had more interactions with folks that happened upon the event and truly enjoy the atmosphere created by the festival."

The festival coincides with the beginning of soft shell crab season.

Starting in mid-April, blue crabs beginning shedding 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.

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