By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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Yes, the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival is a chance to eat. A lot. Tonight and through Sunday, there will be more food per square foot around City Pier than you can shake a claw at — but it's surrounded by a small sea of art and music.
This 11th annual CrabFest is a showcase — visual, aural, culinary — of what makes this place rich.
Let's start with the Community Crab Feed, today from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Crab Central, aka the Red Lion Hotel parking lot at 221 N. Lincoln St.
The event, sponsored by the Peninsula Daily News, lays out prodigious amounts of fresh shellfish — sold at the market price yet to be set — plus dessert: fruit pie from Friends of the Fields, Clallam County's farmland preservation group.
Then, as people get off work and start arriving in numbers, the homegrown band the Soulshakers joins the party, bringing some James Brown, some Aretha Franklin, some Koko Taylor — you get the idea.
“In previous years, CrabFest has featured mellow jazz groups at the Community Crab Feed, but this year, they decided to — pardon the bad pun — shake things up a bit and feature a more dance-oriented band,” said Soulshakers guitarist-singer Mike Pace.
“We're extremely honored to be the kickoff group,” he added.
From 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m., Pace and his mates — vocalist Cindy Lowder, keyboardist Jim Rosand, drummer Terry Smith, bassist Duane Wolfe — will help people dance off any calories they might pick up.
After this evening's community feed, CrabFest will be open from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Opening ceremonies go from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Saturday, and this year, the event brings together members of both the Lower Elwha Klallam and Jamestown S'Klallam tribes.
Elwha Klallam elder Ben Charles Sr. and Jamestown storyteller and historian Elaine Grinnell will share blessings for the celebration at 11 a.m. under The Gateway pavilion at Front and Lincoln streets.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Dancers and Singers, directed by Arlene Wheeler, will offer their music, and then Grinnell, Charles and Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd will officially open the festival.
“Saturday will be a very special day,” said Scott Nagel, producing director of CrabFest.
He added that the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe will set up a cultural exhibit replete with a vessel from the Canoe Journey, the long-distance paddle that takes place here each summer.
The exhibit will await visitors in front of The Gateway on Lincoln Street.
At noon Saturday, 15 minutes after opening ceremonies conclude, CrabFest's 12 free cooking demonstrations commence under The Gateway pavilion.
Arran Stark, Port Townsend chef and promoter of local produce, will step up first with causa, a Peruvian potato dish to be sampled along with fresh crab salad.
After Stark's demo Saturday, 10 other chefs from the Olympic Peninsula, Seattle, Shelton and Victoria, B.C., will cook and hand out samples at the top of every hour: at 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 p.m.
On Sunday, more cooking demonstrations will start at 11 a.m. with a surprise dish by Stark, continue every hour on the hour and end at 4 p.m. with Red Lion chef Craig Alexander's saffron and Dungeness crab risotto.
Adding to the cultural flavors at The Gateway, local and regional artists will set up on City Pier at the north end of Lincoln Street.
Inside the Crab Central tent in the Red Lion lot, CrabFesters will find food and drink as well as folk songs, Gypsy jazz, Brazilian jazz, bluegrass, country blues, country rock, classic rock and finally folk and gospel.
Local duos such as Blackbird and Standing on Shoulders, bands such as Tanga and Haywire, and Seattle hot-club outfit Pearl Django are all in the lineup.
As with the cooking demonstrations, all of the live music is free from 11 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday.
For the second consecutive year, CrabFest has spirituality. The Crab Revival began last year with a performance by the Peninsula Men's Gospel Singers and the duo of David Rivers and Abby Mae Latson.
This year, it's expanded: The men's gospel choir is coming back to sing under The Gateway pavilion, and then David Rivers and his father, singer-songwriter Michael Rivers, will make some more gospel music together.
The Crab Revival, to go from 9 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., is also a chance to hear Standing on Shoulders, a new duo featuring Latson and her singer-guitarist partner Dillan Witherow.
The pair will offer their songs and — like the rest of the morning's singers — invite the audience to join them in a singalong.
Sustenance for the body as well as the soul will be easy to locate Sunday morning: Crepes and other breakfast specialties are to be among the choices at The Gateway from 9 a.m. till 10:30 a.m.
And for those who have seen the weather forecast, a final point: This being the North Olympic Peninsula, the festival is, as always, held rain or shine.
More information is at www.crabfestival.org and 360-452-6300.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at email@example.com.