Advertisement
Share

Surf on turf: Crawfish Festival debuts at Fountain Valley Sports Park

Troy Hassett, left, and Isaiah Dotson, center, help transfer freshly cooked crawfish into a wagon at the Crawfish Festival.
Troy Hassett, left, and Isaiah Dotson, center, along with several other people transfer 250 pounds of freshly cooked crawfish into a wagon during the Crawfish Festival at Fountain Valley Sports Park on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Fans of New Orleans culture, seafood and Cajun spices did much more than pass through Fountain Valley this past weekend, indulging to their heart’s content during the three-day Crawfish Festival at Fountain Valley Sports Park.

The festival debuted at its new location after operating for 26 years out of Rainbow Lagoon in Long Beach. It last took place in 2019, not occurring for the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands showed up to try offerings not seen every day, including alligator bites, catfish, crawfish, frog legs, lobster macaroni and cheese and seafood hush puppies. Attendance neared 12,000 for the weekend, Tracy Wintori, an event coordinator for the Crawfish Festival, said.

Samantha and Christine Yarina get beads from a giant crawfish mascot during the Crawfish Festival.
Samantha and Christine Yarina get beads from a giant crawfish mascot during the Crawfish Festival.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Fountain Valley Mayor Patrick Harper said he attended the event on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. Among the people he met at the festival, he said were some who had come from as far as Temecula.

“The crawfish was very good,” Harper said. “Sometimes, you go to a place, and they put a lot of seasonings on the crawfish. This was pretty much just steamed, I think, maybe a little salt, and as fresh as they are, it’s really delicious.

“The only thing I have trouble with is peeling them, so I burn more calories peeling them than I do eating them.”

Jeff Holt, of Laguna Niguel, eats a crawfish during the Crawfish Festival.
Jeff Holt, of Laguna Niguel, eats a crawfish during the Crawfish Festival at Fountain Valley Sports Park on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Seeing that visitors were willing to travel to the festival was a promising sign for Wintori, too, who said the festival still managed to retain some attendees familiar with it when it was held in Los Angeles County.

“I think what was really strong for this event is we actually are being that uniting force between the two counties,” Wintori said.

Wintori added the new venue provided more space for social distancing, and the festival was able to reach a new audience.

Members of the Zydeco Mudbugs play during the Crawfish Festival at Mile Square Park on Friday.
Members of the Zydeco Mudbugs play during the Crawfish Festival at Mile Square Park on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Free parking offered at Fountain Valley Sports Park proved to be a plus for families, allowing the patrons to enjoy an additional dish within their budget or partake in the other surrounding attractions.

The carnival games and rides largely mirrored those one might see at the Orange County Fair, providing some thrills for the active attendees.

If visitors did not go home with a giant stuffed animal, they left the festival with memories. Live music ranged from blues to Zydeco and even a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band.

Peter Caide, left, and Cheryl Sletta dance to the music of the Zydeco Mudbugs during the Crawfish Festival.
Peter Caide, left, and Cheryl Sletta dance to the music of the Zydeco Mudbugs during the Crawfish Festival.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

People took to the dance floor, some dressed the part for a Mardi Gras party. A stilt performer in a masquerade costume tossed Mardi Gras beads to all they came across.

A magic show provided another interactive experience, and some guests went all in for the festival experience in bringing home crawfish headwear.

The BBQ Music Fest (Aug. 19 through 21) and the Original Lobster Festival (Sept. 9 through 11) will be coming to Fountain Valley Sports Park in the summer.

“The four things that I wanted to do when I’m mayor is keep the city safe, clean, efficient and together,” Harper said. “These kinds of festivals sort of hit on the togetherness, so we can bring people together, have them enjoy the community. That’s part of what makes Fountain Valley a nice place to live.”

Noel Laeno wears a crawfish hat during the Crawfish Festival at Mile Square Park on Friday.
Noel Laeno wears a crawfish hat during the Crawfish Festival at Mile Square Park on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.


Advertisement