Come to the coast and celebrate the generosity of our land and water. The 37th annual Crab Seafood and Wine Festival runs April 26-28th at Clatsop County Fairgrounds. From transportation, volunteers and music to food and artisans, the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce has perfected the art of throwing a party. And everyone in the area is a part of what makes it special. The festival calls on what the Chamber refers to as, “The bounty of the Pacific.”
The list of local wineries, breweries and local craftsman is nearly 200 long, with returning favorites and new products each year. “We live in a wonderful geographic area,” Kelsey Balensifer, Chamber Event coordinator explains “Oregon has so many great offerings, this is a celebration of the culture of the Pacific Northwest.” Which is why you will find the quintessential Astoria Clown bread with its secret cheesy sauce with a line around the corner. Willapa Harbor Chamber will be serving up oysters with options galore and Rotary Club of Astoria will be dishing out crab dinner along with their famous Whiskey Crab Soup. Or if your palette prefers, the Urban German Grill is offering brats, corn dogs and more.
Once your stomach is sated the options for drink are endless. If your go-to is wine, you’ve come to the right place. Each year, the Chamber hosts UnWined in March where nearly 150 wines are judged in a blind taste test by local experts. These same wines are then served at Crab Seafood and Wine Festival to streamline your taste tests. If beer is more your style, the Chamber Ambassador Committee will take care of it. Serving local craft beers as well as domestics, the group is raising money for local students attending any form of high education from a four year institution to trade school. So fill up and proceeds will benefit kids in the area.
Apart from indulging, shopping and music entertain festival-goers for hours. Bands will be hosted at two stages and sponsored by Lum’s Toyota. Visit the dealership at the main stage to enter for chance to walk away with a new car! But if you don’t turn out to be the lucky winner, attendees can always stock up on art, jewelry and local goodies including the infamous crab hat. With ten legs and two antennae adorning your head, you’re sure to have fun. Offered by Rogue Ales, this hat has become a staple of the festival, although it is not the only sea-faring animal to make the list, Kelsey explains, “It is a way of life, people love the experience.” From squids to sea monsters, she says, the Chamber photographer is always on the lookout for people having a blast.
With so much to offer, the festival couldn’t be situated at a better location in the county. “The fairgrounds allow you to enjoy a glass of wine and crab dinner without worrying about the weather,” Kelsey explains. With its previous venue on the Port of Astoria, high winds and rain often wiped out tents and made the event difficult to host. “The indoor space helps ensure the event is positive for everyone involved.” The only caveat is parking. Since the event is held on the “shoulder season”, Kelsey explains, the fairgrounds are wet and can’t accommodate many cars. To troubleshoot this issue, the Chamber has provided a shuttle system that picks up patrons at six locations around the county. With a three dollar fee round-trip, the cost is minimal to reduce headaches and maximize on safety.
Volunteers are what make this entire scene possible each year. With over 250 helpers serving in admissions, the information booth, monitoring exits and selling merchandise, the event runs seamlessly. “We are very thankful for each and every one of them,” Kelsey says, including the nonprofit groups who come out to fill a specific role at the event. Local groups like Kiwanis Club of Warrenton and Warrenton Warming Center run booths that make the event easier and more manageable for festival-goers, like the Wine Check. Here you can store your case of Cabernet while enjoying the festival until closing. These groups receive a donation from the Chamber for their time and management. All volunteers receive free admission to the event for the entire weekend. If interested visit the festival website.
These aren’t the only groups that benefit from the event though, “We hire only local and chamber businesses wherever possible,” Kelsey explains. From paramedics to portable bathrooms, the chamber calls on area businesses to help make the event viable. Plus, visitors from outside the county often head out on the town to enjoy other parts of the area, stay in hotels, enjoy local grub and perhaps make a trip to return. “The focus is for visitors to consider Astoria and Warrenton a year round place to visit.”