THIS YEAR, the River Street Seafood Fest and the Kentucky Derby happen on the same day.
So of course there will be crab racing.
The folks at the Savannah Waterfront Association who put on the event each year— the Seafood Fest, not the Derby! —explain:
“Our staff is always looking for new and creative ideas to add to our festivals and give our festival goers something else to do,” says Carrie Bligh, Executive Director.
"Seafood Fest used to host a mullet toss competition, and so we thought it would be fun to do hermit crab races as a new activity. When Googling for ideas on how to host this event, we found the National Crab Racing Association and they were excited to host the ‘River Street Crabtucky Derby.’”
Yes, crab racing’s a thing, and there’s also such a thing as the National Crab Racing Association. Though this weekend’s Crabtucky Derby is hosted by SweetWater Brewing Company, it’s an all-ages free event, beginning 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and continuing throughout the day.
It works like this: Each player can select their own racer (with a painted number on their shell, naturally) for five heats to select the top two racers. The rest of the racers have one final race and the top three racers will compete for the championship race. First, second and third place winners will receive an official certificate and digital photo with their crab and pit crew.
Each derby lasts for 15 crazy, sideways-walking minutes.
“The Kentucky Derby touts themselves as the fastest two minutes in sports. Ours are the fastest 20 seconds in sports,” quips Jim Morgan, founder of the National Crab Racing Association.
For those not down with the crustacean speed event, there’s always the namesake of the Fest: Seafood. This year you can help be a part of the revival of this great old Savannah event.
“The SWA was founded in 1974 and shortly after began hosting our famous River Street St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. Years later the organization added the Annual Oktoberfest and River Street Seafood Fest, making it one of the original festivals on River Street,” says Bligh.
The River Street Seafood Fest took a short break for five years and came back to the festival series in 2013.
“The organization is working to grow this event back to a larger food event, similar to when it first began,” says Bligh.
“We would like to see more local restaurants participate and continue to provide great live music, and fun activities for visitors, locals, and families.”
Speaking of live music, entertainment this year features a Jimmy Buffett-themed Friday night Parrot Party. Saturday performances include The Fabulous Boomers and Damon and the Shitkickers, and Sunday brings a special performance by Julie Gribble.
This year also features a great community tie-in to two deserving local environmental organizations.
“When The Dolphin Project and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary reached out to us to get involved with one of our events, we felt that River Street Seafood Fest was a natural fit,” says Leigh Anne DiVito, PR Manager for the SWA.
The Dolphin Project will be providing video images, a dorsal fin match game, info on how to protect wildlife, and books and T-shirts with a donation.
Gray’s Reef will be providing a display monitor with underwater images, educational materials about the organization, tips for safe boating, and a sea turtle tote bag with a donation.
“The SWA works hard to support local restaurants, regional artisans, and local non-profits at our festivals. We extend a free booth space to community organizations to give them a platform to promote their mission, upcoming events, and take donations. We also look for non-profits that will add an educational component or activity for families and fit into one of the themes of our First Friday & Saturday weekends,” says DiVito.
River Street Seafood Fest
Weekend festivities kick off on Friday, May 1 from 4-10 p.m., continue on Saturday, May 2 from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday, May 3 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
May First Friday Fireworks presented by Wet Willie's will begin at 9:30 p.m.