HUDSON — As thousands gather to enjoy grouper platters, clam chowder and Caribbean shrimp cocktail at this weekend's Hudson Seafest, they'll help provide turkey dinners for families in need.
Organizers of the 27th annual event plan to use donations to provide a full Thanksgiving dinner — complete with turkey and all the fixings — for 15 struggling families. The families were selected based on recommendations from three local schools.
"Our theme this year is giving back to the community," said Claudia Traywick, event chairwoman.
People coming to the festival, which runs from Friday through Sunday, are asked to bring nonperishable food items for the 15 families. Any remaining food will go to local churches for distribution to others in need.
Giving back has always been a component of the Hudson Seafest, started in 1984 by Al and Kathy Meyer, King and Beverly Helie, and Ron and Judy Vincent to support and raise funds for the Hudson community. Previous Seafests, which have drawn up to 40,000 people, have raised money to build sidewalks, install street lights and plant trees, as well as support scholarships and nonprofit organizations such as Sertoma Speech & Hearing and the Boys and Girls Clubs. This year, however, organizers saw an even more pressing need.
"The economy is getting worse and worse and there are so many people in need," Traywick said. "Everyone is struggling."
She said the 15 families that will be helped by this year's event are in dire need.
"Some of these families don't even have a ride to come pick up their food," said Traywick, "so we'll be delivering the meals to the schools for distribution."
Guests at Seafest can sample traditional tastes as well as new dishes that include shrimp and beef empanadas. Food vendors will provide lobsters, oysters, barbecue, various fish dishes, hot dogs and hamburgers, and fried candy bars,.
Live entertainment will include 14-year-old country artist Ashley Lynn — a top placer in recent Pasco's Got Talent and Pasco Idol competitions — the Shawn Paige Blues Band from New Port Richey, the Hudson Middle School Jazz Band, the Michigan Misfits, the Hot Rod Hornets, Donnie Simon and the Orbs.
"We'll have everything from bluegrass to country to folk at the Seafest," Traywick said.
The festival will also feature a full carnival, including traditional rides and new attractions like an elephant ride and an Aqua Bubbles attraction.
"People can run across the water in these bubbles, like hamsters on a wheel," Traywick said, laughing.
And as people enjoy food and fun at this year's Hudson Seafest, they'll be feeding needy families in their community.
"Giving has always been an important part of the Hudson Seafest," Traywick said. "Our hearts have always been in the right place. And that's why it works."