A Riverfront Feast

Photo by Patrick Loughery.

Rotary Club’s Crabs to Go Raises Thousands for the Community 

By Meg Walburn Viviano 

When we parked in the gravel lot at the community beach, my 5-year-old announced, “Smells like stink fish!” 

“Actually,” I told him, “You’re smelling the underwater grasses washed up on the sand. It’s a good thing: a sign of a healthy Severn River. And just look at this view!” Round Bay and the wide-open Severn lay before us, with all manner of interesting boats passing by in the distance. 

We joined other members of the CBM Bay Weekly team and their families at paper-covered picnic tables under the pavilion, where another classic Chesapeake Bay smell greeted us: the spice of steamed crabs. It was the famous Rotary Club of Annapolis Crab Feast, held in a “crabs to-go” drive-thru format. 

This year marked the 76th year for the popular crab feast, but coronavirus concerns prevented the Rotary Club from holding the traditional seated, 2,000-person event at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. So, for the second year, Rotarians and volunteers prepared and loaded up 175 bushels’ worth of crabs (plus corn!) into cars so that folks could enjoy their crab feast at home. Between crab purchases and raffle ticket sales, the club netted $13,500 for community nonprofits. The Rotary Club will take grant applications from organizations (annapolisrotary.org) to distribute the funds. 

Bay Weekly is a proud longtime sponsor of the crab feast, and we were happy to gather our team to crack crabs together in a beautiful Bay setting. Picking crabs on the water, I’m in my happy place. Settled in with a beer and a paper towel handy, I love the simple rhythm of picking and chatting, punctuated by a group laugh when someone inevitably sends a piece of shell or squirt of mustard flying across the table. 

While in college on the Eastern Shore, I taught a friend from New York how to pick crabs, and she’s now a devotee: having settled in Chesapeake Country, she hosts her own 20-plus-person crab feast each summer. 

This time, I attempted to teach my 5-year-old the art of picking. I was thrilled to see that my notoriously picky eater gobbled up all the chunks of crab I piled up for him, and when given his own claws to work on, he was quick to grab a mallet. Despite his over-enthusiastic whacks, he managed to get a little of the nutty claw meat. At the end of the day everybody still had their fingers intact, and I think I just may have recruited a lifelong crab-eating companion. 

Long after you’ve read each issue of Bay Weekly, I recommend you hang on to it to cover your tables for your crab dinners on these last long days of summer. Tag us on social media if you do—we just launched a new Instagram page (@CBM Bay Weekly) and would love to see your photos (#BayWeeklyGetsCrabby). 

I wondered how other crab feast customers were enjoying their own crabs to go: with friends in the backyard? On the porch with Grandma and Grandpa? Even though the pandemic didn’t allow for a stadium-sized crab party, the Rotary Club’s creative drive-through approach allowed families—including the Bay Weekly family—to make their own Chesapeake memories.  

The Rotary Club of Annapolis, which is celebrating its centennial in 2021 at 142 members strong, has already announced an Aug. 5, 2022, date for the crab feast’s return to the stadium for all-you-can-eat crabs, corn, crab soup, and all the other trimmings of a Maryland feast.