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Brothers made crawfish festival a tradition

The Crollard brothers did not grow up in Tualatin but called the city home one weekend a year
by: Jaime Valdez, TALES OF TRADITION — Dennis Crollard (left) of Vancouver, Wash., and his brother Steve Crollard, of Wapato, Wash., ate dozens of crawfish at last year’s Tualatin Crawfish Festival. Steve passed away Saturday, but brother Dennis says he still plans to carry on the family tradition of attending the annual crawfish festival. “I won’t leave until I’ve had 12 dozen crawfish,” Steve was quoted as saying last year.

Dennis Crollard, 43, isn't from Tualatin. In fact, if not for his brother Steve's happenstance of hearing about the city's annual Crawfish Festival 10 years ago, the two likely would never have given the town much thought.

Crollard, from Vancouver, Wash., and Steve, a resident of a small town in the Yakima Valley area of Washington, shared a passion for the expertly spiced crawdads that they gorged themselves on once a year over the course of a single weekend.

For 10 years, the two never missed a festival. Sprawled out on a patch of green grass in the middle of the Tualatin Community Park, they'd devour eight to 10 dozen crawdads in one sitting.

They never missed a year. They were intent on attending.

'We had plans to attend,' Crollard said. 'We always had plans.'

Steve, 54, passed away Saturday from liver cancer. This year Crollard and his family will be unable to attend the festival but when asked if he'll attend next year, Crollard doesn't even pause.

'Definitely.'

The first time the brothers attended the festival, Steve entered the crawfish-eating contest. Crollard laughed remembering that his brother did it just for the free crawfish.

They were somewhat belated staples to the 56-year-old festival.

'Well, how do you eat that?' Crollard recalled being asked over and over again as they sat on the ground enjoying the hot weather and the spicy food. He and his brother gladly demonstrated the techniques for cracking the tail's shell and picking out the meat.

He added that the two were 'pretty good salesmen for that festival,' as they stirred interest among the festival-goers who were hesitant to give the small crabby crustaceans a try.

The brothers themselves hadn't grown up eating crawfish, but an adventurous tendency to try new things when they traveled was a precursor to their gorging abilities with the deliciously seasoned crayfish.

'They never give out those recipes, though,' Crollard said noting that he and Steve tried many a time to coax the recipes out of the cooks.

The festival was and promises to be more than just a single-day event for the Crollard family. Family and friends gather for an entire weekend, eat their fill at the festival, stop off at Pacific Seafoods for a batch of crawfish and crabs, and head back to Crollard's home in Vancouver for a cookout. Then they'd return to the festival the next day for more food.

Though this year that tradition will be skipped, Crollard promises he'll be back next year.

'It's a family tradition that we'll try to keep going.'