Wooden basket full of steamed blue crabs in Maryland seafood festival
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A Taste of Annapolis Cuisine and Culture: Crab Feast and the Maryland Seafood Festival

The Annapolis Crab Feast and Maryland Seafood Festival are vibrant celebrations of our local heritage, embodied in the delicious flavors of the Chesapeake Bay and a family-friendly, community-minded spirit. Both events take place just minutes from our downtown Annapolis bed and breakfast, perfect for attending the legendary annual crab banquet, enjoying a lively atmosphere with thousands of other attendees, and indulging in some of the world’s best seafood on the beautiful shores of the Chesapeake.

Steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs covered in seasoning sitting in paper bowl with mallet- Maryland seafood festival

Crab, Oyster, and Seafood in Annapolis – Treasured Delicacies, Their Once-Troubled Decline, and a More Promising Future

Blue crabs and oysters, two delicacies deeply rooted in Annapolis, have a fascinating history and cultural relevance. Initially harvested by Native Americans and later by Colonial settlers, their cultivation evolved into a thriving industry, contributing significantly to Maryland’s economy and culinary landscape. By the late 1800s, the Chesapeake Bay was supplying more than half of the country’s crab and oyster, a feat made possible by the advent of canning and refrigeration. This innovation introduced the bountiful offerings of the bay to millions of people across the US. The adoption of the crab pot by the 1940s, large-scale dredging for oysters, and improved fishing methods led to a drastic decline in populations, posing a severe threat to the long-term sustainability of Chesapeake crabs, oysters, and fish species like menhaden and striped bass.

However, due to the action of groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in conjunction with the EPA throughout the last few decades, crab, oyster, and fish numbers have improved dramatically, allowing for a lighter conscience when having a crab feast or seafood celebration, knowing the catch was sustainable. The Conservation teams at The Cheapeake Bay Program have restored 1,500 acres of oyster beds, the blue crab population increased by over 40% between 2022 and 2023, and fish such as striped bass have rebounded since their low point, creating a more balanced ecosystem as we move further into the 21st century.

Annapolis Crab Feast – A Local Tradition and Mouthwatering Blue Crab Bonanza

Steeped in tradition and celebrated every August, the Annapolis Crab Feast is a dream smorgasbord for seafood lovers. The event, which first took place in 1946 and organized by the Rotary Club, is not just any crab party—it’s famously the “world’s largest crab feast” and certainly the most renowned crab Fest in Maryland, a significant part of Annapolis’ cultural legacy.

When you enter the grounds at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium – the same venue for commencement if you attend USNA commissioning week – you’ll immediately be greeted with long tables wrapped in paper, setting the stage for a delectably messy and flavorful feast to rival any. Gather up trays of fresh crab and sweet summer corn on the cob (the event serves over 300 bushels of crab and more than 3,000 ears of corn, an astonishing feat of teamwork from the all-volunteer Rotary Club staff) and grab a seat at one of the tables, which are shared seating and turn into a boisterous mingling of families, friends, locals, and out-of-towners all sharing in the decadent crab-fueled merriment. If crabs don’t suit your palate, you can choose from classic summer foods like BBQ, hot dogs, and refreshing watermelon.

For over a decade, the Crab Feast has partnered with local environmental group, Annapolis Green, who lives up to its motto of “treading lightly on the Earth” by making the feast entirely waste-free. The event’s thousands of plates, cups, and utensils are compostable, joining the compost pile with the mountains of discarded crab shells and watermelon rinds, all converted into reusable compost. Annapolis Green’s efforts set a laudable example of conservation in action, which you’ll also see in its ongoing work around town to reduce cigarette butts in the bay and plastic bottle use – look for its “Naptown Tap” stands at the big Annapolis sailboat shows and events, where you can fill up your reusable water bottle and avoid plastic.

The Crab Feast, held on Friday, August 2nd, 2024, is always a busy weekend in Annapolis (over 2,500 people attended in 2023, and it’s been more popular than ever post-pandemic), so get your Annapolis lodging squared away early. Also, event tickets must be purchased online and in advance by July 29th, and early-bird prices include a $5-10 discount if purchased before July 14th.

Fantastic Food, Flavors, and Festivities on the Bay at the Maryland Seafood Festival

A month after the Crab Feast, the Chesapeake culinary revelry continues with the Maryland Seafood Festival on September 14-15, 2024. After moving downtown in 2023, the fest returns to its original location in 2024 at Sandy Point State Park, just across the Severn River and one of our favorite spots for a local beach day. Although only 15 minutes from downtown Annapolis, Sandy Point feels like an oasis, with long stretches of sand for relaxing and swimming, protected ponds and nature trails, and unobstructed views of the impressive four-mile-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Enjoy the breathtaking scenery during the all-day celebration, which starts at 11 a.m. and runs until 7 p.m. On Saturday, things get started with the crab soup cook-off, where you can sample three varieties of this quintessential Annapolis treat, its flavor-packed broth loaded with veggies and lump crab meat and seasoned exquisitely. The main stage features local bands playing throughout the day, interspersed with unique events like a crab cake-eating competition and a tent where you can sample local oysters and microbrews, always a winning combo. Hot dogs and chicken tenders are available for those who don’t want seafood, and activities like a bounce tent will keep the kids in your group entertained. Between indulging your taste buds, browse the Chesapeake Arts Village, where over 30 local artists and vendors set up tents – bring home some handmade jewelry, boutique beachwear, or specialty seasoning for when you host a crab feast back home.

Don’t miss two exceptional opportunities at the Maryland Seafood Festival, each offering an affordable and tasty sampling of some of the best traditional Annapolis dishes. Jimmy’s Famous Seafood brings their legendary steamed crabs, which you can pre-order by the half dozen before the fest. Steamed crabs are the perfect introduction—soaked in seasoning and the most tender, their shells softened by beer or vinegar, make for delicious, easy eating. Meanwhile, the Naptown Seafood Sampler includes a drink plus eight samples from local restaurants, an ideal way to try out our local seafood scene’s many nuances and delights.

Stay at the Annapolis Inn and join the fun-filled festivities at the Maryland Seafood Festival and Crab Feast, where you’ll discover firsthand what makes Annapolis cuisine world-famous!