And you meet some real characters. My first year, a guy from New York was [competing]. He talked a big game, was very brash. He had the Noo Yawk accent and all that. He [tied for the title]. I thought, 'I'm not letting a guy from New York keep that trophy.'

[At the next contest], we both made the finals. His meat weighed more than mine, but the judges saw he'd stuck about half a crab shell and a claw in there! They took that all out and remeasured, and I won. When he left, he was upset.

How did you get into all this to begin with?

From the earliest time I can remember, I saw people [picking crabs]. It always meant a really enjoyable social gathering — family time, time with friends.

My grandmother was originally from Solomons Island. She worked part time for one of the local crab guys. I can't remember her actually teaching me stuff, but I was around and saw what she did.

Later, my parents moved to Cape St. Claire. I grew up two blocks from the docks. My dad bought himself a commercial crabbing license, and he started taking me out in his jon boat to go crabbing when I was about 8.

My older brother has a July birthday, and that always meant a crab feast. I've always loved it.

So it all sank in.

Oh, yeah. People think I'm crazy. When I started dating [my wife, Kathy], the first few times we went out, it was to some of the local crab houses.

We were getting to know each other, and it was going pretty well, and I remember one night she asked me, "So, what kinds of qualities do you think you're looking for in a possible wife?" I said, "First of all, you have to eat crabs, and you have to pick crabs. That's a must." She had no problem with that.

And you're still involved in crabbing?

Yes. A couple of times a week, I get out on the water at about 4 in the morning to go crabbing. I have this crazy rig. I use a kayak. I use collapsible traps and keep a bushel basket on the back.

One morning, I saw a boat approaching. It was one of the watermen. I figured he was going to say, "You're too close to my boat," or "You're interfering with my area." But he pulled up alongside me and said, "Hey, man, that's the craziest setup I've ever seen. Can I take a picture?"

Where do you crab?

I'm not going to tell you that. Let's say it's a local creek and leave it at that.

Do you have any thoughts about the seafood festival in general?

Actually, it has always been part of my life. Members of my family have [been volunteers there] for the past 35 years. I've been volunteering for 30.

I love the volunteer and charity aspects. The vendors at the festival are [mostly] nonprofit organizations. They work for nothing, then the management company [ABC Events Inc. of Annapolis] makes a donation to those organizations after the festival.

Like Mount Zion [United Methodist] Church [of Lothian]. They're the ones with the gumbo every year. We all know and love that [booth].

What will this year's contest be like?