Everyone at the Petaluma 7-11 Lions Club crab feed has their own special way of eating the delicious crustaceans.
Some start by cracking the claw and scattering the rich meat all over their hands and bibs. Others go right for the body, hunting for the sweet meat between pockets and crevices.
Most prefer to devour the Dungeness crab like a sea lion, gobbling the meat just as fast as they can remove it from the shell.
North Coast Crab Feeds
Cherie Gervais of Petaluma, though, likes to delay the gratification. She painstakingly cracks a whole crab on top of a salad before tucking in.
“I see everyone cracking and eating,” said Gervais, who brought her own tools — a pair of pliers and some kind of lancing device. “I prefer to wait and eat it all at once.”
With an abundance of North Coast crab feeds to choose from, most of the seafood lovers at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds are no strangers to these events and are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and make a mess of the plastic-lined communal tables.
Crab feed fundraisers have become a ubiquitous North Coast tradition each winter when crabbers haul in thousands of tons of Dungeness from San Francisco to Eureka.
In Sonoma County, community groups will host at least 50 crab feeds this season from December to March. Rotary clubs, service groups, high schools and churches all vie for hungry crab connoisseurs.
Prices range from $40 to $100 per person, which usually includes bread, salad, pasta and, of course, all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab. Some fundraisers include wine tasting, entertainment, raffles and auctions.
The Sonoma County Farm Bureau's crab feed has evolved into the largest such event on the North Coast. Now in its 25th year, the crab feed fills Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds with business leaders, politicians and philanthropists and raises $50,000 for agricultural education.