The Blue Crab Festival keeps its grasp on Little River, returning for a 32nd edition 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Waterfront Drive along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Tracie Johnson, the festival’s executive director for a second straight year, said she has assisted with it for years.
The North Myrtle Beach native also voiced the honor of hearing from many vacationers who have made the Blue Crab Festival an annual tradition to herald summer’s arrival and for reunions.
“People actually make their plans to come to this area for this festival,” she said.
“Hundreds of people” help to make Blue Crab work out year after year, Johnson said, crediting many retirees who lend their hands and folks who even “take time off from work because they want to be part of this,” and cited one woman, a nurse, who helps staff the hospitality/VIP area.
“She makes sure she has this weekend off,” Johnson said.
Changes year after year are small, if at all, because festival coordinators use the precious amount of waterfront space to the max already, Johnson said. She also stressed how all the seafood – such as “homemade crab cakes and blue crab, individually or by the dozen” – is sold by Little River restaurateurs, along with the many other vendors serving up burgers, gyros and “festival food.”
Johnson said her children grew up with the festival and “now they work it.”
“It’s a family tradition,” she said, “not just for me, but my family and friends.”
She also loves how the variety of live entertainment brings music for every age group, including Top 40, rhythm and blues, beach music, the 1970s, and “a little bit of country.”
Chris “Silk” Terry is founder and drummer of the Carolina Soul Band ( www.carolinasoulband.com), based in High Point, N.C., which will play 3-6 p.m. Saturday, to close out the festival’s first day.
Terry said Monday, awakening to celebrate his birthday, that the Blue Crab Festival fits perfectly in between concerts Friday night in Pinehurst, N.C., and Sunday afternoon at Harold’s on the Ocean in North Myrtle Beach, and that summer marks the start of the peak season for the sextet.
Terry, who spent 12 years with the Drifters, as well as tenures with Herb Reed’s Platters and the Coasters, said festivals such as Blue Crab make the Carolina Soul Band mates feel right at home.
“It just feels good to see kids with the parents, and everybody enjoying themselves,” he said.
Among a repertoire of classic Motown, oldies and “whatever you people want to hear,” Terry said the group’s eager to play “Mad at Me,” which he said has “hit No. 1 twice down there.”
Jennifer Walters, executive director for the Little River Chamber of Commerce, said with the accent on locally prepared seafood, this festival showcases “an intregal part of our community.”
“It’s truly a local part of our culture,” she said. “You say, ‘Little River,’ and people say ‘Blue Crab Festival.’ ”