Meeting your goal at annual crab feast means having a plan and sticking to it

Staff writer

Steaming enough crabs to satisfy 2,500 people at the 73rd annual Annapolis Rotary Club’s Crab Feast is its own feat of logistics and planning. But when diners have a mere three hours to eat all they can before the smorgasbord ends, they develop strategies to get the most for their money.

“I’ve got to eat more,” Baltimore resident Ranee Scott said Friday.

With a small pile of shells sitting on a cardboard tray before her, Scott was just three crabs deep. That’s a relatively microscopic sliver of the 350 bushels that are eaten at the annual feast, a much-anticipated event and a major fundraiser for local charities.

To accomplish her epicurean goal, Scott arrived before the feast opened at 5 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to get a seat located near one of the stations where crabs were being served.

Scott said she made a strategic decision to cut down on the time she’d spend walking, increasing efficiency and giving herself more time to pick crabs and eat them.

“I think I can do about a dozen. And a bunch of sodas,” she said.

The Rotary’s crab feast bills itself as the largest event of its kind. Held annually at the Naval Academy’s stadium, it serves about 350 bushels of crabs, 3,400 ears of corn, 100 gallons of crab soup, 150 pounds of beef barbecue, as well as hundreds of gallons of sodas and beers, according to the Rotary.

The feast has raised more than $1.5 million for Annapolis-area charities since it was first held in 1946, according to the Rotary.

Braya Evan, a 7-year-old from Silver Spring, was attending her fourth feast and had her own strategy since she just learned how to pick crabs on her own. She demonstrated her technique.

“You just peel this,” Braya said, prying the apron off the underside of a jimmy.

“Then you pull,” she said, taking the shell off.

“You really don’t want to eat these,” she said as she wiped away the gills. She took a white plastic knife and started probing for lump meat before breaking off the crab’s claws. The legs, Braya said, might not have much meat in them and aren’t worth the trouble.

“Sometimes you don’t eat these ones,” she said.

Sam Sampson had a much more mechanized approach.

“I’ve got to get as many crabs as I can get,” he said.

He was a one-man disassembly line. Using just his hands and sometimes a bit of a claw for leverage to get into a tight part of the crab, he would take off the shell, pick out the lump meat and detach both claws. After his crabs were reduced to just piles of crab parts, he had his fill.

“I put the claws here and then I come back,” he said.

At 5:50 p.m., he said he had about 14 crabs, a pace that would mean, stomach capacity aside, he could have about 50 before the feast was over. He estimated, however, he would have about 30 before he was full.

Others in the crowd were just getting started.

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