While many people like to say there is an art to eating crawfish, most Southerners will tell you there is really only one rule: Dig in and don’t be shy.
There is nothing more delicious than the snapping of reddened crawfish shells and the slurping of the meat from their tiny tails.
This is Southern eating at its finest.
Celebrating its ninth year, Mudbugabeaux-N-Brew Crawfish Festival will once again bring the combination of a New Orleans-style crawfish boil and craft beers alongside live music to the middle of downtown at the Augusta Common on Saturday, June 3.
French Market Grille West owner Jim Beck, who first got the idea for putting on a crawfish boil back in the 1990s, will fill downtown’s air with the savory aroma of the cooked crustaceans and Cajun spices.
“This is the ninth year, but we are doing things a little different this year,” Beck said, adding that he has teamed up with Beasley Media Group to bring the the country duo, LOCASH, to the outdoor crawfish celebration.
“It is not going to be exactly like the crawfish festivals we’ve had in the past. This year, the festival is starting later because we have LOCASH coming, so it has really turned into more of an outdoor concert this year. But, of course, we are still going to have the crawfish boil and other food available, as well as domestic and craft beers.”
However, unlike previous years, Mudbugabeaux-N-Brew will not have its annual crawfish eating contest or the children rides or inflatables since the festival is starting in the evening.
This year, the gates of the festival open at 5 p.m. with a live DJ entertaining the crowd.
Country singer and South Carolina-native Cody Webb is scheduled to get the live music started around 6:30 p.m., followed by country artist Trent Tomlinson around 7:30 p.m.
Singers Preston Brust and Chris Lucas make up LOCASH and the group is celebrating its first CMT Music Awards nomination in the “Duo Video of the Year’ category for the hit single, “I Know Somebody.”
Previously known as The LoCash Cowboys, the duo recently signed with Reviver Records and shortened the band’s name to LOCASH.
“We haven’t felt an energy like this since the day we began our journey,” Brust said, according to the band’s website. “This feels like it has all come together — the right label head, the right promo team, it finally feels like we’ve got all of our ducks in a row for the first time in our lives. We’ve been out there doing the grass roots thing for so long, and to feel it all come together, is so encouraging.”
While the band has a new, shortened name, Brust said the music is the same style their fans have come to know and love.
“We’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and I sort of feel like we have grown up a little bit in the business,” he stated. “We’ve matured in the business, and learned how it all works.”
“We just wanted to simplify things and get down to the roots of what we are all about. That’s what LOCASH means anyway is remembering where you come from, and your roots. Because of that, we decided to go with LOCASH and just keep it real simple.”
The show will go on rain or shine and guests are encouraged to bring their own chairs. Also, unlike previous years, pets are not allowed during the festival this year.
“Before we used to start the festival around 3 p.m., so it was more kid and dog friendly,” Beck said. “So, this year, the crowd might be a little different because the music is starting at 6 p.m.”
The festival will also not be giving out free T-shirts at the door to the first 1,000 guests like in prior years, Beck said.
“It will be different than the norm but we are expecting a good crowd,” Beck said. “When I started this festival nine years ago, I remember the first year, we had about 1,500 to 1,800 to 2,000 people. And it has grown every year. Some years we sell more crawfish than others. It just depends. Of course, it’s the first weekend in June, so it will be hot and there is always a chance of rain, but, I mean, we are in the South. What do you expect? But the festival goes on, rain or shine.”
For crawfish lovers, you can’t get much better than Beck’s 3,000 pounds of crawfish that he will be bringing to the festival.
“Yep. I’ll have 3,000 pounds of crawfish,” Beck said, chuckling. “I am still going to go with what we plan every year. If the crowd is larger, we’ll deal with it. But, just in my experience with festivals, usually if it’s a concert, you don’t sell as much food. You sell more beer, so that’s what I’m anticipating happening. But I am still taking 3,000 pounds of crawfish.”
In season from late February through the end of June, crawfish are a beloved food in the Deep South.
Nowadays, it’s normal to see a bunch of people sitting around newspaper-covered plastic tables with a keg of beer, peeling and eating their weight in the small shellfish.
Crawfish experts also enjoy swapping strategies on the best technique for eating crawdads.
“Pinch the tail and suck the head,” or “Twist the tail and don’t crack it,” are some of the most common advice from experienced crawfish eaters.
Beck said he is always amused by some people’s reaction to crawfish.
“For some people, it’s their first time trying crawfish, but a lot of people that come to the festival aren’t aware that there are crawfish offered here in town,” Beck said.
“There’s a handful of places that offer crawfish. I’m not the only one at French Market Grille West. There are others. You can even buy them frozen in the grocery store. So this festival often introduces people to crawfish and what’s available here in town.”
But if you are not a huge fan of crawfish, Beck will also offer other food options such as boiled shrimp, hamburgers and hotdogs, along with soft drinks, bottled water and Powerade.
And, of course, the festival will have several domestic and craft beers available to purchase courtesy of A.B. Beverage.
While this year’s Mudbugabeaux-N-Brew Crawfish Festival might be a little different from previous years, Beck insists that guests are guaranteed to have a great time.
“We are not trying to change the dynamics of the crawfish festival,” Beck said. “Just this year, it is later in the day and we have a bigger band. Next year, we probably won’t have a bigger band and it will probably go right back to what it was for the 10-year anniversary next year. But I’m looking forward to this year. I hope everybody has a good time and comes out to listen to some great music and eat some delicious crawfish.”
The Ninth Annual Mudbugabeaux-N-Brew Crawfish Festival
The Augusta Common
Saturday, June 3
General admission tickets are $10 in advance and $20 the day of the event