Beaufort News

Crustaceans, sunshine help Port Royal show off best of Lowcountry

Sunny skies awaited hungry diners hankering for a taste of a Lowcountry delicacy Saturday in Port Royal.

Thousands lined Paris Avenue for the eight annual Port Royal Soft Shell Crab Festival hosted by the Old Village Association. The free festival coincides with the beginning of soft shell crab season.

Jason Wright of Beaufort said Saturday's event captured the essence of Lowcountry living.

"Look at this weather, and look at this food," Wright said, a fried soft shell crab sandwich in his clutches. "Not sure it gets much better than this."

Starting 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.

Festival-goers Saturday waited in long lines that snaked from canvas tents, where local restaurants and other vendors served up variations of the event's namesake crustacean.

"It's worth the wait," Sandy Thomas of Lady's Island said, as she waited in one of the festival's lengthier queues. "I usually eat soft shell crab about once a year, and it's usually at this event. I get my fill here."

Town officials have said the event has become a chance for the town to gain exposure with area residents and visitors like Tanya Maywood of Virginia, who is vacationing on Hilton Head Island with her family this week.

"We'd been at the Heritage for the past two days and just wanted a break from all of that," Maywood said. "We have never been to this festival or to Port Royal but heard about it from some friends and thought it sounded like fun. It's a really cute event, and the food has been incredible."