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Another successful 'Shellabration' with the Tualatin Crawfish Festival

The 65th rendition of the event wrapped up last weekend under Mike Higgins' second year of direction


TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Crawfish eating contest winner Shane Marks competes at the Tualatin Crawfish Festival.It was barely 5:30 p.m. on Friday night, and already a crowd was forming on the Tualatin Commons. Children were splashing around in the lake, blankets were laid out on the lawn, and with the day's 90-plus-degree heat, shade was, well, a “hot” commodity.

Yet even with the heat blazing throughout the weekend, more than 17,000 visitors came to the Tualatin Crawfish Festival, beating last year's record, which just topped 16,000, said Executive Director Mike Higgins. And with a goal of selling 3,000 pounds of crawfish, those numbers were squashed, too, with 3,130 pounds sold.

As the festival just kicked into gear on Friday — it continued through Sunday — community members were excited from the get-go to enjoy the free entertainment of the night, along with a wide variety of food and each other's company.

“We come weekly to the concerts in the summer, and it so happens that there's a concert when the festival comes,” said David Mendy of Tigard. “The festival is like dessert. The concert is the main course.”TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Participants in Saturday's crawfish eating contest were all business.

Along with his wife Gloria, the couple sat in lawn chairs in the shade of a tree, waiting for the evening's music to begin. First, was the chef cook-off — the music and dancing would follow, but space on the lawn was quickly filling up.

“Tualatin is really doing a nice job of promoting the community. It's a nice family-friendly event,” said Mendy. “Our kids are all grown up, but it's nice to see families coming out with their kids and doing stuff, not with handheld devices — actually enjoying themselves.”

And across the lawn from the Mendys, one family was doing just that. Sitting with her three children, Sherwood resident Guadalupe Garcia explained that they'd been coming to the festival for 13 years, since she was pregnant with her daughter Mariana Navarro. Now, the festival is a staple every summer in her children's lives.

“They like it. They enjoy being here and having fun, tasting the food,” Garcia said. “They love the crawfish.”

Mariana nodded, along with her sister Alana. Drinking a slushie with a red crawfish hat on, Alana, 10, appeared to have the Crawfish Festival drill down.

“I like it 'cause it's fun. It's fun for kids because there's lot of activities,” she said. “Sometimes, we dance and stuff and listen to music. Then we do the watermelon contests.”

Over the years, Alana, Mariana, and their brother Jonathan Espindola, 18, have all participated in the annual kids watermelon-eating contests, with Espindola snagging a third place ribbon years ago. Garcia joked that when Mariana competed at age 5, her loss was met with tears — not everything can be as happy and relaxing as sitting on a blanket, listening to music, and eating crawfish on a Friday night.

In its 65th year, the Tualatin Crawfish Festival has grown into an event that spans beyond crawfish. It's a community event and the origin of many traditions new and old, and the staple of any Tualatin summer.TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The adorable crowd gets interviewed during the crawfish eating contest at the Tualatin Crawfish Festival.

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