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Annapolis Rotary adapts crab feast to coronavirus pandemic

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Life section of the Annapolis Capital, Sunday July 26, 2020

Adaptation.  That’s a specialty of human beings.  Most do it really well.

The idea of adaptation is at the center of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s often-quoted “Serenity Prayer” – which says, “Accept the things you cannot change; change the things you can; and have the wisdom to know the difference”.

Using that wisdom certainly applies to individuals in the nation’s emerging longevity culture, where close to four out of five people who reach age 65 will live to age 75; two out of five will reach 90; and one out of five will celebrate age 95.

Life at age 85 or 90 will not be the same as life at 45, but we learn to adapt.  Perhaps we can’t jog, but we can walk or swim.  Maybe we can’t climb the stairs to get into the theater, but we can take the elevator, and if the dialogue is hard to hear, we get a hearing aid. When the steak gets too tough to chew, then we eat crabs!  And life goes on!

We humans – especially those of us in the developed world – are control freaks: We don’t like admitting there are things we cannot change.  After all, we broke the law of gravity and went to the moon, so why should we have to abide by the law of a coronavirus pandemic?

Still, adjusting to impositions is not something we are usually comfortable doing.  Even with the coronavirus, we have pulled out all the stops to get a vaccine so that “we can change the things we don’t want to accept”.

In the meantime, most of us practice the three Ws – Wear a mask, Watch your distance, and Wash or disinfect your hands, often – as we adapt to the real dangers of coronavirus infection, especially those in their bonus years, where more than 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the US are attributed to people over age 65, with most of those over age 80.

But adaptation is not only an inborn quality of human beings; adaptation is also a hallmark of human organizations.

I thought of this last week when my email contained the notice of the Annapolis Rotary Club’s annual crab feast, held the first Friday of August every year since 1946, and recognized by many as the “world’s largest crab feast”.

Rotary Volunteers prepare crabs in years past.

In years past, 2,000 or more fans of Maryland crabs – along with supporters of the noteworthy philanthropic work of Annapolis Rotary – would make their way to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink community shindig organized by Annapolis Rotary to raise charitable donations for local community and cultural organizations.

Last year’s feast featured over 300 bushels of #1 male crabs (the big ones) plus 100 gallons or more of Maryland vegetable crab soup, more than 3,400 ears of sweet Maryland corn on the cob, 150 pounds of beef barbeque sandwiches, 1,800 all-American hot dogs, watermelon, hundreds of gallons of assorted sodas and beer – all to be finished off with sweets from a bake sale and cake raffle.

This year, however, with all the restrictions on large gatherings, there was no way Rotary could hope to gather 2,000 plus crab-pickin’ enthusiasts at the Navy-Marine Corps stadium for the annual crab feast.

While many assumed the event would be cancelled, the Annapolis Rotary Club decided to reimagine the crab feast. 

“At a time when community-based groups are serving more and more people while experiencing budget cuts and being forced to cancel their own fundraising events, we felt a strong need to generate proceeds from the crab feast so our assistance to non-profits is not interrupted, according to Rotary president, Frank Andracchi. “That meant we had to find a way to make the crab feast work.”

That’s when the Crab Feast committee, headed by Rotarian Leigh Rand, came up with the idea of a “drive-by crab feast”.

Called “Rotary Crabs to Go!”, the drive-by crab feast will use an online, pre-order process coupled with a drive-thru pick-up beginning at 4:30 pm on Friday, August 7, at the Navy-Marine Corps stadium on Taylor Avenue at Rowe Blvd.

Rotary “Crabs to Go” announcement for 2020 Crab feast

According to Rand, “This approach will permit Rotary to provide crabs and raise funds in the safest manner possible. Crabs will be steamed onsite at the stadium and packaged for travel. Rotarians (with PPE) will direct traffic and provide customers with their orders as they drive through designated lanes in the stadium parking lot.”

Ordering options range from a dozen crabs to a bushel of 64 crabs (with other choices in between) – and all options include corn on the cob!  Orders are placed online at where drive-by crabbers can also specify their preferred pick-up time in half hour increments, from 4:30 pm through 7:00 pm.

These adaptation initiatives and the ongoing support of crab feast fans will enable Annapolis Rotary to continue to provide support to area non-profits.

In fact, over the past five years, Annapolis Rotary has distributed $268,000 to Anne Arundel County Food Bank, Backpack Buddies, Hospice of the Chesapeake, Light House Shelter, The Arc, Meals on Wheels, Seeds 4 Success, and Wellness House, among others.

Having once been a member of Annapolis Rotary, I know how much work is involved in planning, organizing, and executing the annual Crab Feast.  Indeed, the determination of Rotary to rework the crab feast to adapt to the coronavirus restrictions – giving us “Rotary Crabs to Go!” – is a reminder of Coretta Scott King’s observation that “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

By the Coretta Scott King measure, the Annapolis area is halfway to greatness.  The rest of the way will be measured by the volume of online orders placed by those who will adapt to the drive-thru pick-up crab feast on Friday, August 7. 

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  1. Ron Harper on July 29, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    ‘…change the things you can’. It’s fine to feel good about our community work but real change happens when we support good values and morals in government. That can happen in November. Hoping you’re going help rid the world of Trump, Phil.