Members of the Great Falls Lions Club hope their neighbors and friends have their appetites ready: It's time for the annual Crab Feast.
This year, 35 bushels of the shelled specialty will be served to hungry, anxious patrons, said Jay Furick, a member of the Lions Club known as the "King Crab."
"We typically have about 300 people sitting at newspaper-lined tables, ready to go," Furick said. "It's an all-you-can-eat event, so you just come in and sit down and we keep bringing you boxes of crabs."
"This is something the Lions Club does every year to help charitable organizations, usually in Great Falls," said Heidi Hommel, a spokeswoman for the event. "We'll also be selling Great Falls Christmas ornaments and blankets. They both feature different scenes from around Great Falls," she said.
The proceeds from the event usually go to charitable organizations that help the hearing and visually impaired in the community, Hommel said, but this year, the club has decided to do something different.
"Every penny we make this year will go to the relief effort in Louisiana and Mississippi," Furick said. The money will be sent to the Mississippi State Lions Club organization for distribution throughout the state as it continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina, which devastated much of the coastal area last week.
"Last year, between the Crab Feast and the citrus sale, which takes place in the fall, we raised between $8,000 and $10,000," he said. The proceeds last year went to hurricane relief in Florida, which had been struck by three consecutive hurricanes.
IN ADDITION TO the proceeds from the ticket sales of the Crab Feast, Furick said "we'll pass the hat, so to speak, so if people want to donate they'll be able to," adding that the same practice last year raised over $1,200 last year for the Florida hurricane victims.
The crabs will come from Shoreline Seafood from Deale, Md., Furick said, and each bushel will contain about seven dozen crabs. "We'll also be cooking about 40 dozen ears of corn," Furick said. "It's like feeling a small army."
And the mess cook for this small army is Earl Kennemer, a Lions Club member and volunteer with the Great Falls Fire Department, where the Crab Feast will be held.
"I cook the hot dogs and the corn," Kennemer said. "The crabs are cooked by the company that brings then.
The inclusion of side dishes are for those who are too young to appreciate the crabs or not quite patient enough to work for their food.
"Crabs are a labor intensive food, so we have lots of other food for people who don't want to wait," Kennemer said.
He likes working at the Crab Feast because "it's a real community event where you can sit down with your neighbors," he said. "People will come together as a family and stay here all day. We used to have door prizes for people but they were so busy eating, they couldn't pay attention."
He admits that there's another reason he likes the Crab Feast so much.
"I like it because I'm the center of attention all day," he said, laughing.