The J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake, a quintessentially Maryland event and a fixture on the state’s political calendar, is being postponed until early autumn, festival organizers told Maryland Matters on Thursday.
The event, originally scheduled for July 15, is being moved due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. An executive order issued by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) in March placed banned large gatherings, to thwart the spread of the deadly virus.
Thousands attend the event in Crisfield each year, with crowds swelling dramatically in election years.
“Who knows when we’ll be able to get that many people together?” said Carrie Heffington, executive assistant for the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce, the official sponsor of the gathering.
Heffington said the chamber hopes to hold the event in late September or early October. She stressed that the crab feast will only occur if it’s safe to hold it.
An exact date will be chosen soon, she said.
The year’s crab feast will be the 44th time the event been held, according to lobbyist Bruce Bereano, the gregarious schmoozer whose large VIP tent has become an event-within-the-event.
“I’m allergic to shellfish, so I’ve never eaten a crab in my life,” said Bereano. “But I’m told that at that time of the season the crabs are bigger and better. So that will be wonderful. And no one will be sweating or dealing with humidity.
“It’s going to be jubilant.”
Tawes is always a sweaty affair, and even though it’s held right by the Little Annemessex River, off Tangier Bay, in the parking lot of a marina, there is often very little wind.
The crab feast isn’t the only summertime fixture to be impacted by the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Maryland Municipal League has had to move its annual summer conference to the web.
The MML board announced its decision to meet “virtually” in a letter to its members. The event was originally scheduled to run from June 28 to July 1.
“While we all will miss the opportunity to gather this June in Ocean City, we are working on putting together a program that is going to be exciting, informative, incredibly timely along with an Expo and lots of opportunities for interaction and take home value,” the organization said in an announcement.
MML Executive Director Scott Hancock said the conference will probably run two days instead of three.
The Maryland Association of Counties is scheduled to hold its summer conference from Aug. 19-22, also in Ocean City.
Executive Director Michael Sanderson said the MACo board will meet soon to make a decision about how to proceed, given the uncertain environment. He promised that conference attendees will get plenty of advance notice.
“We owe it to people who are planning to spend time and invest in the event to give them appropriate lead time,” he said.