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Blue Claw Crab Festival draws seafood fans to Mastic Beach

Kathy Pascale, of Mastic Beach, enjoys preparing a

Kathy Pascale, of Mastic Beach, enjoys preparing a crab for eating at the Blue Claw Crab Festival. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Mastic Beach’s Blue Claw Crab Festival is expected to draw thousands of seafood lovers to celebrate, crack open and savor one of Long Island’s beloved delicacies, at a waterfront event known almost as much for silly gear as serious eating.

Like cracked crab? Eat your fill of the savory shellfish caught fresh from local bays and boiled outdoors in big pots.

Goofy gear? Check. You can parade around in the souvenir T-shirts and crab hats for sale by vendors, joining the not-so-crabby spirit of the day with Maura Spery, a local resident and former mayor of Mastic Beach.

“I always wear some type of crab hat,” says Spery, 58, who has a collection of four to choose from. She’ll probably wear one with claws sticking out the sides like ears, she says.

Last year, 2,000 people attended the festival organized by the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association, a volunteer civic group founded in 1928. This year’s festival will once again feature music, children’s games and vendors hawking silly merchandise. (You might want to think twice about wearing the “I got crabs in Mastic Beach” T-shirt.)

If roaming around in the salt air whets your appetite, you can slurp or crack open a snack from the local fishery. Half a dozen crabs will go for $10, as will six clams on the half shell. The sides include restaurant-made crabcakes ($8 each) and boiled corn on the cob ($2). A dozen picnic tables will be set up for dining by the Great South Bay.

SEA-TO-TABLE

Nino Locascio of Farmingville, owner of Mastic Seafood, is providing most of the shellfish. Locascio says he’ll deliver more than a dozen bushels of blue claw crabs and up to eight bushels of Little Neck clams. Seafood supplies will be replenished throughout the day, as needed, he says. The clams will be shucked and crabs boiled on site.

The uninitiated should know, however, that eating blue claws takes a lot of work — with lobster crackers and forks — for famously slim pickings.

“You are not eating to fill yourself up,” Locascio says. “You are eating them to enjoy that sweet flavor and the time together.”

A NOSTALGIC EVENT

Lynne DeBona, 68, the event’s chairwoman, says the festival is nostalgic for locals who grew up trapping blue claws in the bay and dining on their catch in local backyards, as she did in a house on the Mastic Beach waterfront.

The festival was founded by DeBona’s husband, Robert, a retired Navy chief warrant officer. He became a local activist after retiring in the 1980s to the community where he often spent summers. “He wanted to profile the beautiful waterfront and marina that we have,” Lynne DeBona says of her husband, who died in 2012 at age 66.

This year’s festival arrives as the incorporated village of Mastic Beach prepares to fade into the sunset. Residents recently voted to become an unincorporated area of the Town of Brookhaven.

Spery hopes the festival will attract more visitors to a community she calls “an unpolished, undiscovered gem.” Says Spery, “we have 6 1⁄2 miles of undeveloped, publicly accessible waterfront looking over at Fire Island.”

13th annual Blue Claw Crab Festival

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday Aug. 27 at The Mastic Beach Property Owners Association Marina 1, 96 Riviera Dr., Mastic Beach

INFO 631-399-6111, masticbeachpropertyownersassociation.org

ADMISSION Free

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