St. Clare Seafood Festival
- story by Ana Balka, photos by Ellis Anderson
scroll down to bottom of article for schedule of events!
The tranquil, beachside grounds of St. Clare Catholic Church will transform into a celebration of summer this Memorial Day weekend as Bay-Waveland residents greet the season with the 6th annual St. Clare Seafood Festival. It's an old-fashioned good time that includes rides, vendors, a car show, a 5k run, silent auction, raffle, bands, and naturally lots of great seafood from Friday through Sunday evening.
The festival brings summer fair memories back for many residents who remember attending the St. Clare Parish Fair. According to church administration the Summer Fair was held each year in midsummer from 1952 until around 1997 and benefitted the St. Clare Catholic School.
Talk of the Town
Life-long St. Clare parishioner Ernie Zimmerman's parents and grandparents were in charge of the food booths at the fair when he was growing up in the ’60s. When he and his four siblings weren't helping out with the food —which took up most of their time — they were running around the carnival, having fun. Carnival rides were always a big part of the fair.
Ernie noted that one sign of the times is that in the past, local gaming was a bigger fundraiser for churches. “We used to have hi-lo games. The gambling laws changed all that,” he says, and chuckles. “We still have a good time!”
What has not changed over the years, he notes, is the combination of food, music, and fun. Zimmerman recalls bands always having been part of the fair, and all types of vendors, and whole families taking part.
Mikelle Williamson began running in 2009, so when the festival started up again in 2011 she thought a 5k would be a good addition to the weekend's fundraising lineup. The race has become a successful regular event for which she expects between 100-150 participants, and which has raised between three and four thousand dollars for the church each year for the last four years.
This is the 5th annual running of the 5k Run/Walk and 1-mile Fun Run (note that walkers are welcome as well, in case you were thinking a run isn't for you!). “We encourage walkers,” Williamson says. “It’s not all about running, just getting moving and raising money for the cause.” According to registration info, the route is an “out and back” along the boardwalk.
Registration for the cars starts at 8. A special addition this year is a blessing of the cars around noon by Father Michael Marascalco, and awards are at 3 p.m.
An array of vendors rent spots and set up for the weekend under the church (“So you’re not sitting out in the heat,” points out Mikelle Williamson). Businesses from throughout the area also donate a variety of items for silent auction and raffle, both of which take place Sunday night. Items up for bid can be anything from fishing trips to gift cards, artwork and gift baskets.
One thing there will be a lot of, naturally, is food. “There’s obviously beer and Cokes and hotdogs and hamburgers,” says Williamson. “But then there’s the seafood: the boiled crawfish, various shrimp, done several different ways... red beans and rice, crab stuffed potatoes...”
And then there are the bands; live entertainment will take place throughout the weekend. Dance team Studio Classique performs Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12, and starting Friday night, the weekend is packed with live musical entertainment including Brandon Tingstrom and Exit 13, Redline, Kerbside Band, and D Play.
According to Ernie Zimmerman, you absolutely must not miss the fireworks display that caps the weekend’s festivities on Sunday night at 10. It’s a spectacle that will close out this long-standing Waveland tradition, and welcome another summer with a bang!
Check out the St. Clare Seafood Festival on Facebook for information on registration for the 5k, for vendors, and for the car show, as well as calls for business participation for the silent auction and the raffle.