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Improvements promised for second SunWest Park Crab and Shrimp Festival

Racing hermit crabs will be among the featured activities at the second annual SunWest Park Crab and Shrimp Festival, which takes place Saturday and Sunday at SunWest Park in Hudson.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Racing hermit crabs will be among the featured activities at the second annual SunWest Park Crab and Shrimp Festival, which takes place Saturday and Sunday at SunWest Park in Hudson.

HUDSON — If crabs are your thing, you're in luck this weekend.

The SunWest Park Crab and Shrimp Festival kicks off Saturday with two days of live music, carnival rides, craft vendors, seafood and culinary offerings at the spring-fed water park in northwest Pasco County.

Add to that the thrill of watching hermit crabs toting their painted shells to the finish line.

A little bit of new and much improved is the motto for the second annual event, which admittedly got off to a rocky start in 2016.

Last year's festival drew about 3,000 people on a Friday night in March — an overwhelming showing that created a long traffic snarl and a 45- to 60-minute wait to park, event promoter Drew Cecere of Simply Events said.

"The line to get in was just crazy," Cecere said.

Then it rained for five hours on Saturday, though about 800 diehards braved the weather.

The parking problem has been addressed, Cecere said, adding that organizers are also responding to grumbling heard from patrons about the scant food offerings at the inaugural event.

This year's festival, presented by Barrett Harding Insurance, will be better, Cecere promised.

That means more parking, more food vendors — seafood and nonseafood — more seating, a carnival midway and a special appearance by the National Crab Racing Association.

"We'll be putting on numerous mini shows throughout the weekend," said Jim Morgan, the "self-appointed commissioner" of the association.

The painted shells come from Venezuela, and the crabs are imported from Haiti and race for about six months before being adopted out, said Morgan, who has been taking his crab show on the road for 38 years. When not racing, the crabs reside in a master suite in Morgan's beachfront condo in Melbourne.

"They're living the good life, and that makes them a little lazy — that's why I only race them for six months," he said.

Those who partake in the weekend festivities will be able to choose their own crab to race to the outskirts of a painted circle. The top two move on to elimination heats. Racers who place in the top three in the finals leave with a souvenir.

"They'll also get a picture of themselves posing with their crab that I'll post on our website so their friends from all over the world can see them and their winning crab," Morgan said.

Music performances will include the Roy Ellis Band (11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday), American Song (1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday), Time Bandits (4 to 6 p.m. Saturday) and the Surf Siders (2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday).

Also featured will be an autograph appearance by NASCAR's Cody Lane, a kids area with bounce houses and face painting, and a beer and wine area.

Regular features of the park include a wakeboard cable, paddleboards, volleyball nets and a mile-long beach hugging the spring-fed, freshwater lake.

Contact Michele Miller at mmiller@tampabay.com. Follow @MicheleMiller52.

>>if you go

Sun and shellfish

The SunWest Park Crab and Shrimp Festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at SunWest Park, 17362 Old Dixie Highway, Hudson. Admission is free. Parking is $5, which will help with the development of SunWest Park. Kids area: $7. Festival proceeds will benefit the Students Survival organization. Seating will be available, but attendees are welcome to bring lawn chairs. For information, go to Simplyeventsfl.com or call (727) 674-1464.

Improvements promised for second SunWest Park Crab and Shrimp Festival 02/21/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 22, 2017 4:02pm]
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