Staff Blog: A day in an ancient city eating the cockroaches of the sea

Spinnaker

As hot as the Sahara, my sizzling flesh matched the brilliant red hues of over 20,000 pounds of crawfish –freshwater cockroaches, if you will – anticipating their consumption throughout the two-day event. Ironically, I thought the intent of the Ancient City Crawfish Boil that happened May 8 and 9 in St. Augustine was to eat these steaming, delicious, crawfish and not become one.

As I walked through the gates, the ticket-takers seemed to have a slight smirk on their faces, like they knew something I did not. My vision of a crawfish festival began as a mountain of crawfish in the center of a Coliseum-sized arena. The humans are then let loose, saliva trickling off their bottom lips, slipping down to their chins. Then the battle of man versus crawfish began.

Obviously the bottom-dwelling shellfish would not stand a chance. They were devoured violently by ravenous Homo sapiens whose sole purpose was to eat as many of these midget lobsters as possible. I envisioned claws flying, body cavities being slurped out and those luscious crawfish tails ripped to shreds, as if thrown through a wood chipper. 

In actuality, the festival was nowhere near as vicious as I pictured it would be. The crawfish did not even seem to be the main attraction, which confused me. There were plenty of food vendors serving a variety of cuisine, from corn dogs to gyros, alligator kabobs to mile-high funnel cakes. If it were my festival, I would have only allowed crawfish-related products. Every item from clothing merchandise to food – even alcoholic beverages – would have to contain some form of crawfish either in it or on it. Crawfish fermented beer, for example, is a delicacy somewhere I’m sure. But it is what is, so I embraced the fact that the crawfish festival was clearly not true to its name, and pressed forward.

Bands played throughout the course of the festival, most of which I despised. One band in particular stood out for its eardrum shattering chaos – Flyleaf – I would not recommend them. However G. Love’s set was interesting. The bassist actually played a full-blown wooden bass, thus bringing the funk.

But honestly, the highlight of this supposed crawfish event was Snoop Dogg. He performed the last set on Saturday, much to the audience’s approval. People of all ages, races and sexes were chanting the lyrics to just about every track he rapped, drawing me to an epiphany: if there’s one person that could unify society as a whole, it is Snoop Doggy Dogg. Something certainly drew together motley vendors.

All kinds of businesses tried to market their products at this event. Again, I felt attention usurped from the crawfish and pushed towards jet-ski salesmen, chewing tobacco reps and my favorite, off-road suspension dealers. They lured people in by offering the opportunity of manning the sticks of this silly remote control car.

Overall, the enthusiasm towards eating and cuddling with crawfish was near nil. It could be because people had to pay anywhere from $30 and upward to get into the festival and then an additional $12 for a plate full of crawfish – not to mention $6 beers. I feel like these superfluous price tags could have been avoided.

A solution for future crawfish festivals might be a giant 18-wheeler tanker keg-truck posted up as a centerpiece with $1all-you-can-drink cups. Then once everyone is nice and wasted, 20,000 live crawfish would be released. The festival-goers that want to eat these critters have to catch them themselves, barehanded. Everyone would be drunk, so the pain of being pinched is reduced to a minimum. This way, the crawfish literally have a fighting chance to escape the wrath of a steaming, boiling, spiced death. Then all human participates are pumped up to catch their meal because they would be hungry with the drunk munchies. Now that would be what I consider a true crawfish festival. Well, there is always next year.