It wasn’t an election year and the temperature was high, but the heartiest of Maryland politicos abidingly trekked to Crisfield on Wednesday for the 43rd annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake.
“For a non-election year, it’s spectacular,” lobbyist Bruce Bereano said, over the whir of large fans blowing over the masses in the circus-sized tent he hosts each year.
About 980 people were expected to be in the tent this year, including the majority of county executives in the state, the comptroller, governor and dozens of members of the General Assembly. That figure’s down from the 1,300 or so who jockeyed for space, a cold beer and perhaps a crab during the heat of election season last year.
It took Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) almost two hours to weave through the crowd at the Somers Cove Marina to a feast laid out in Bereano’s tent by caterer Billie Chandler. She said 40 bushels of crabs, 3,500 clams, 20 bushels of corn, 500 pounds of potatoes and “lots of beer,” were prepared for the tent on Wednesday.
Oodles more were served outside.
As the crowds thinned out in the afternoon, Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s) and Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Harford, Baltimore) caught up in a clearing under the tent.
Asked whether the lawmakers planned their complementary pale-yellow short-sleeve ensembles, Jennings laughed.
“Everyday,” he joked.
Jennings said he likes the crab feast tradition as a way to break up the summer – and bring lawmakers back into one space, especially since the last day of the legislative session is often filled with contentious issues.
There were also new relationships forged on Wednesday. Del. Wanika Fisher (D-Prince George’s) excitedly introduced Del. Nick Charles (D-Prince George’s) to her best friend’s mother, Lawanda Dockins-Mills, under the mid-afternoon sun.
Dockins-Mills, associate dean of students at Salisbury University, comes to the feast regularly.
“The one thing you can always count on: it’s going to be hot,” she said. “And it’s always a fun time.”
Sen. Adelaide “Addie” Eckardt (R-Middle Shore) was among the dedicated crowd Wednesday.
“I’ve been doing this for … oh my, even before I was a legislator,” Eckardt said.
Now that she’s been in the General Assembly for 24 years, Eckardt said she appreciates the annual feast as an opportunity to catch up with fellow lawmakers and discuss issues in a more relaxed setting.
“As long as you get to people early in the day,” she said. Before the crabs and heat – and perhaps some beers – take a toll on energy levels.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters’ title.