The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Gary Grossman

July 26, 2013

Always leave 'em wanting more

SUNBURY — By the mid to late ‘90s, the contest for “Miss Crustcean” had acquired a retro feel.

It was mildly uncomfortable to see teens parade self-consciously in high heels and scant swim attire through the school auditorium on the eve of the annul Crab Derby in Crisfield — Maryland’s southernmost city on the Eastern Shore.

It seemed like a ritual from bygone days because it was.

Originally, the pageant selected Miss Crisfield, to reign over the three-day Chesapeake Bay Fishing Fair, which had achieved statewide status in 1950.  But Egbert L. Queen, editor of the Chrisfield Times, had insisted upon referring to the winner as “Miss Crustacean”, a title the editor thought better personified the derby.

The power of the press being what it was in Howdy Doody times, the title stuck. It became official in 1951.

At first, a few watermen had entered their swiftest hard shell crabs in a more or less sideways race on the street in front of the post office. Now, on Labor Day weekends, visitors can see some 400 blue crabs compete in heats on a slick flat trap at the Somers Cove Marina.

Elsewhere during the festival, the shore’s fastest crab pickers, who seemed to be mainly female, go womano-a-womano in the center of the arena in side-by-side chairs, tearing, scraping and tossing buckets of crabs at a furious pace to see who can stack the heaviest pile of crabmeat (judged to be sufficiently shell free) in a timed event.

In the category of entertainment without electricity, the Crab Derby was a standout. Other featured events at assorted festivals on the Eastern Shore included high speed boat docking on Taylors Island, dog diving in Nanticoke, the Great North American Turtle Race in Bivalve and an annual Skip Jack race that looked more like a drift on the bay.

Wander the world of community newspapers long enough and you will see people worship berries, dance for onions, fiddle through an afternoon, paddle a cardboard boat or lollygag near pup tents wearing woolen uniforms in July.

This festival season, we have covered people running uphill in Mifflinburg, bed races in Beaver Springs, patriots on parade in Lewisburg, the celebration of Danville’s iron Heritage, libations of grape and barley in Selinsgrove and fireworks in Sunbury. River Festival is coming up Aug. 15-17.  A Red Cross Hangar Dance follows Sept. 20.

Further down the calendar, the authentic and fascinating Warrior Run/Fort Freeland Heritage Days in October promises, “Three hundred costumed crafters, tradesmen and instructors demonstrating our colonial history.”  

The newspaper’s heavy-duty promotion for the River Festival is already underway as we partner with Sunbury Broadcasting and Sunbury Revitalization, Inc. for that event. Slade Shreck from the newspaper, Mark Lawrence from the radio and Mel Purdy and Meghan Beck of SRI are driving the event.

SRI tries to freshen River Fest’s offerings every year. In addition to great entertainment and food, this year will feature the ever-popular train rides, the cardboard regatta and another round of the Valley’s Got Talent. A pair of former American Idol contestants have been booked for the event.

One common goal for all events is to raise enough interest and money to retire expenses, support some worthy cause and be encouraged a repeat the performance next year.

There are a few home runs in the Valley — events and festivals that accommodate a limited audience with hot tickets that are pricey enough to cover the essentials. Selinsgrove’s wine and brew event has achieved that status in recent years.

Without naming names, however, some other community events from the treasury of the familiar might benefit from a fresh look and different spin.

From a person who hasn’t seen it all, but has been a witness to more than most . . .

All in all, the scatter shot approach with a lot of little, unrelated diversions seems to wear out sooner than the festival that has a signature focus. Try for a theme that is reliably good on its own because the overarching idea is engaging, and, yet, different people can participate year after year for generations and maybe walk away with a nifty prize.

n Gary Grossman is the publisher of The Daily Item and The Danville News.

Text Only
Gary Grossman
  • Tom Corbett's 700 club

    The news department has been researching those 700 jobs for Snyder County, much the way we went looking for the 300-job employer who was floated anonymously for public consumption before the last election in Northumberland County.

    April 7, 2014

  • Not a witness for the prosecution

    Northumberland County District Attorney Anthony Rosini decided Friday, in an emergency hearing before Judge Charles Saylor, not to put reporter Francis Scarcella on the witness stand in the role of a witness for the state after all.

    March 30, 2014

  • Where bad ideas are born

    When Line Mountain School Board members secreted themselves behind closed doors and decided to fight for boys-only wrestling teams, you wonder if anyone asked, “What will it cost us to lose?”

    March 23, 2014

  • Not going to give up

    During a community service function in late February, someone passing me in a hallway asked if the newspaper would ever get the list of charges behind the sudden departure of the Midd-West School District superintendent.

    March 9, 2014

  • A future with Heisenberg

    March 2, 2014

  • There will be cookies

    Every now and then, thoughtful readers come to the newspaper with points of view that are well researched, fully formed, very impressive and probably would not have occurred to us, or at least to me.

    February 16, 2014

  • When do-gooders don't

    Stories, homilies, plays, lessons, literature, court dockets and graveyards are filled with tragic people who started off like Pretty Pamela Brown, educated, well-intentioned, good girl from our town (Tom T. Hall, 1995, performed by Bobby Bare and Leo Kottke), but who wound up in disgrace.

    February 9, 2014

  • A debate worth having

    During the past week, Lewisburg’s school leadership took another turn in the spotlight for wanting to build a new high school some place other than the claustrophobic seven acres it now occupies downtown, next to busy Route 15.

    January 26, 2014

  • Doing the hokey pokey

    In the newspaper business, we occasionally receive visitors who want to give us a piece of their mind even when they do not seem to have extra amounts to surrender.

    January 19, 2014

  • Into the black hole

    January 12, 2014