Village Craftsmen Ocracoke Newsletter
Ocracoke Crab Festival
From 1984 to 1989 the Ocracoke Civic
Club Business Committee
hosted an annual Ocracoke Crab Festival in early May. The Festival was
event featuring crab races, a crab cooking contest, a crab picking
crab pot pulling demonstrations.
Foot races, crafts, crowning of Crab
King & Crab Queen,
plenty of down-home music, and clogging added to the festivities. Of
than two thousand pounds of tasty crab meat, nine kegs of beer, and
of Cole slaw were a major attraction.
Folks arrived from all over
eastern North Carolina, as well
as from more distant areas and surrounding states. Ultimately the
the victim of its own success. Crowds of festival goers overwhelmed the
capacity of the Ocracoke community to provide for them and to control
spontaneous and after-hours partying. After six years, the Ocracoke
Festival was discontinued.
Ten years later the
Ocracoke Music & Storytelling
Festival filled the gap. Oriented towards a mellower crowd, this
its name suggests, featured a variety of local, regional, and national
as well as popular storytellers, magicians, and jugglers.
After 15 years, the
more recent Music & Storytelling Festival continues to be a
weekend with dozens of arts and crafts booths, children’s
activities, an art
auction, and a local square dance, in addition to music and
following articles are reprints from newspapers
reporting on the earlier Crab Festival. First is a description of the
following that is a report about the Festival two years later.
(Photographs were added.)
From The Ocracoke
Island News (the Ocracoke school newspaper), 1984 Vol. 3 No. 7:
By Suzanne Lewis
Many people seemed to think that
Saturday, May 5 was the
prettiest spring day of the year. It was a beautiful sunny day for
first Crab Festival, which was sponsored by the Business committee of
Ocracoke Civic Club. Friday, the day before, was cool and breezy, while
after was rainy. The festival spread from the yard of the Berkley
[Berkley Manor] to the National Park Service docks. An estimated 1000
participated in the festival. Ferries from Swan Quarter and Cedar
unloaded several loads of cars and passengers throughout the day. The
was also supported by many local people. For $3.00you could eat all the
crabs you wanted plus coleslaw. Over 1,800 pounds of crabs and nine
beer were consumed.
The Crab Festival started with foot
races to raise money for
Brian Newell, a small child who recently had serious eye operations.
fee for the races was $7.00. There were 32 runners in the races….
At noon, there was a cook-off contest
for the best crab
food. The winners were first place, Francis Bessellieu, who made a crab
casserole; second place, Margie Loebsack, who made crab cakes; and
Philip Howard, who made a crab quiche. Honorable mention went to Annie
Styron, of the the Pony Island Restaurant, who made egg rolls.
Local musicians as well as a group
from Harker’s Island,
provided music throughout the day. Martin Garrish and Maurice Ballance
acoustic guitars, and Edgar Howard played banjo.
There were booths set up by different
organizations on the
island such as the boy scouts, girl scouts, ladies auxiliary, school
class, and businesses such as Noah’s [a deli where Oscar’s
House B&B is
today], Merchant Mariner [a gift shop near Captain’s Landing
Hotel], and Books
and Birds [a gift shop where the Island Ragpicker is now]; even
were set up by Stephen Wilson, Ralph and Jennifer Stetler, and Wayne
from the Marine Resources Center in Manteo. There were baked goods,
beer, hot dogs, t-shirts, and balloons for sale. There was also a
raffle for a
At 1:00 there was a children’s
hour. Philip Howard and his
son, Stefen, did juggling. Philip juggled fire. Robert Payton from
Virginia did a magic show. Betty-Sue Garrish was dressed as a clown.
taught kids to catch crabs with strings.
At 2:30 there was a crab picking
contest. The object of the
contest was to see who could pick the most crab meat….
At 3:00 there was the King and Queen
contest. The winning
couple was Donna and Dal Burrus. They were crowned by Miss Hyde County,
Fletcher, who is from Ocracoke. They will be treated to two nights at
Mariott in Raleigh, plus spending money at the Crabtree Valley Mall and
There also were crab races. Ryan
O’Neal won the children’s
event, and Lewis O’Neal won the main event and received $30.00.
As the sun went down the festival came
to an end. Most
people enjoyed themselves and those who had stayed all day went away
“We were overwhelmed over the
success of the festival,” said
David Senseney, chairman of the Ocracoke Civic Club Business Committee,
“I said from the beginning that
we would grant the festival
a success if only the people of Ocracoke came out and had a good time,
covered expenses. They did, of course, and much, much, more…. It
was a real joy
to watch the local kids at the crab races and the children’s
From The Winston-Salem
Journal, Sunday, May 11, 1986:
Celebrating the Tasty Blue
Ocracoke – the third annual
Ocacoke Crab Festival, held last
weekend by the docks of Silver Lake, attracted an enthusiastic crowd of
who know how to appreciate the qualities of Callinectes sapidus, the tasty blue
crab. And plenty of people came to learn how.
You break off the
legs, the sponge, the back; scoop out the lungs and organs. Break into
bending the meat outwards, and eat. Wipe your mouth on your sleeve,
shell into the harbor, and you take a sip of beer and start again.
Truckloads of steamed blue crab,
turned red from cooking,
provided an inexhaustible supply of the “ beautiful
swimmer.” Scooped by the
handful onto cardboard trays, the steamed crabs were accompanied by
cocktail sauce, slaw and beer. A worker sometimes paused to demonstrate
accepted technique for gutting and splitting crab and devouring the
…and you take a sip
beer and start again.
People sat with their cardboard trays
on the grass or on
docks, legs dangling over the side, and leisurely picked their way
generous pile of steamed crab.
…and you take a sip
beer and start again.
Local craftsmen set out their goods in
a small grassy park
across the street. Among the weaving, baskets and quaint island scenes
in pastels on canvas, weathered boards, and seashells, were long tables
cakes, pies, cookies, clams and hot dogs – after all, not
appreciate steamed crab.
A small stage was set up for singing,
ribbon-awarding and the crowning of a festival queen. A tent next to
was home for the crab-picking contest, and a few yards away was a
wooden track for the Hog Shoals Derby crab race.
But the favorite crab event was eating
the tasty meat.
… and you take a
of beer and start again.