Turnout at the 20th Annual Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival surprised its executive director.
“Turnout has been way beyond expectations,” said Scott Nagel, executive director of the annual event known locally as the CrabFest, on Saturday, with one day remaining in the event.
Attendance is down from prior years when Canadians filled the Coho ferry to travel to the festival — an estimated 30 percent to 40 percent less, he said — but with local residents and visitors from the Interstate-5 corridor, the grounds have been crowded despite the closure of the border to Canadians, he said.
“We are so excited that people have shown up in these great numbers,” Nagel said. “Nobody knew what would happen with Covid and everything else and all the problems, but we knew we wanted to put on something for the community as we have done every year for 20 years.”
In an effort to keep Crabfest as Covid safe as possible Nagel and other organizers spread out the festivities among 3 acres of waterfront property to include the Red Lion parking lot, Gateway Center and the City of Port Angeles Pier at the north end of Lincoln Street where it meets Railroad Avenue.
They also instituted social distancing and other safety measures, all of which visitors have cooperated with, Nagel said Saturday.
“It’s been no problem,” he said. “People are just having a good time.”
Gusts wreak havoc on Sunday
Wind gusts blew down all but 12 of the 70 vendor tents at the Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival early Sunday morning, Nagel noted.
“There was a huge blow,” he said Sunday afternoon. “We’ve been cleaning it up all day. Most canopies were blown away.”
A wind gust of 39 mph was recorded at the Fairchild International Airport early Sunday morning, said meteorologist Samantha Borth with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
A 45-mph gust was recorded at the New Dungeness Lighthouse. The wind reached 51 mph at Marrowstone Point, she said.
The West End wasn’t affected as much as were central and eastern points on the North Olympic Peninsula, Borth said.
The wind was due to a cold front that was causing thunderstorms in Seattle on Sunday afternoon.
Despite the mess, the CrabFest at the north end of Lincoln Street opened at its scheduled time of 10 a.m. Sunday for its last day of a three-day run. Some vendors purchased new canopies so they could reopen, Nagel said.
All the food had been in trailers and was OK, Nagel said. In fact, the festival had sold out of crab by about 3 p.m. Sunday, two hours before closure.
The festival had expected to sell 5,000 crab dinners. A popular feature during the COVID-19 pandemic were advance orders to curbside pickup of crab dinners — some 2,500 were sold, Nagel said.