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Tualatin Chamber plans its last Crawfish Festival

New organizer sought to continue 63-year-old tradition


by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - The longstanding Tualatin Crawfish Festival is calling it quits this year, unless a new backer will come forward to put on the 63-year-old event.After 63 years of cook-offs, contests and countless crustaceans consumed, Tualatin’s annual Crawfish Festival is a beloved citywide institution that outshines similar, smaller celebrations throughout the likes of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

But the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce feels the event has become so well-attended, and so steeped in tradition, that it has outgrown even them. The Crawfish Festival, in the city’s centennial year, will be the last the chamber plans itself. It announced today (Thursday) that it is seeking to “pass on the oven mitts and boiling pot” to a new organizing body, which has yet to be selected.

Tualatin Chamber Chief Executive Officer Linda Moholt compares the decision to watching your child grow up and go out into the world on his own — fitting, as the chamber has been in charge of (executing) the event for the past quarter-century.

“Of course, it’s hard to let the festival go,” Moholt said.

But Board Chairman Kevin O’Malley said the chamber no longer had the resources or staff bandwidth to properly organize and oversee the two days of festivities.

Despite the new development, the countdown to the 2013 Crawfish Festival is already on. This year's celebration, scheduled for Aug. 9 and 10, includes a Mystery Box Crawfish Cook Off, fireworks, a pancake breakfast, crawfish-eating contests for all ages, the "Evolution of Dance" demonstration, a 5K run, a centennial birthday cake and a concert by the popular area cover band Hit Machine.

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - A Tualatin Crawfish Festival attendee picks pieces of the delicacys shell out of her teeth.The chamber will pass the festival on in much better shape than it received it. In the late 1980s, the tradition was on the verge of cancellation due to dwindling funds.

"We're proud that we've been very good stewards of the Crawfish Festival,” O’Malley said. “When we originally took over the festival, it was in danger of going out of business.”

But in the past 25 years, the chamber has put the festival back on “sound financial footing,” he said, adding popular yearly attractions like Friday night concerts, a parade, a 5K and, of course, its immensely popular crawfish-eating contest. Equally legendary is the late Leonard “Cotton” Scheckla’s 43-year-old record for number of crawfish eaten in one sitting, which still stands: 170 in 15 minutes.

According to O’Malley, tradition is in the forefront of the chamber’s decision to hand planning duties to a new organizer.

“Since this year's Crawfish Festival is being held in tandem with Tualatin's 100th year anniversary, it was a natural time to make this transition," he said.

This year's festival is themed "Claws for Celebration" and will be presented by Columbia Bank. More information about the festival, including the nutritional information of crawfish, can be found at tualatincrawfishfestival.com.




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