evannichols (evannichols) wrote,

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An Hour At The Races

Once nourished, we were off to the Races! This time we brought TWO maps, although we didn't know exactly where the races were. Fortunately, you can stand in the center of Garibaldi and pretty much see the whole town, so we were confident. When we drove into town, we were delighted to see that there's at least one literate Garibaldi resident, because signs directed us right to the races! The only hard part was pressing through the crowd milling about the front door to get our admission button. That's right; admission not only allowed entry, but got us each a souvenir Crab Race button. Those locals may be sharper than you'd expect for people who race crabs.

After two nights of a quiet beach house, the commotion inside was brutal. There was serious thronging going on, but no races. We'd somehow arrived at intermission, and the multitude was standing around, talking, and eating (mostly crab). We considered parking ourselves at a table and waiting, but the schedule said the next event was at 12:00, a half-hour away. We decided to cross the highway and check out one of the local shops.

The shop was a charming example of how simple, small-town folks sell their wares to big-city folks who lose the ability to recognize fair-market value for overpriced crudités (that's French for "artsy knick-knacks"). We had fun browsing, but wisely escaped without buying. We returned to the Races about 11:45, and the next event was in full swing (lending credence to my suspicions about the local illiteracy rate).

If you've never been to a Crab Race, here's the quick 411: The track is a tilted panel with 2x6's nailed edge-on to make six slots across the width. The boards are notched to allow the starting gate (another notched board) to slide in about a foot from the top, making the starting boxes for the crabs. Entrants wrestle their crabs into the starting boxes and hold them in place until the starting gun. The gate is flung upward, and the crabs released to make their way down all five feet of track into the net below. It's simple (amazing how many times that word shows up when I talk about the local inhabitants and their ways), but entertaining in a Coastal Hillbilly way.

We watched as many races as we could take; about five, I think. After the first two or three, they all look about the same. Professional crab wranglers put the racers in the box. Unlike dog or horse races, crabs have no interest at all in racing, so the entrants have to hold the crab down to prevent them from wandering off before the race. Once the gate is lifted, the entrants aren't allowed to touch their crabs, so they pound the track in front of or behind the crab. I suspect that has absolutely no effect on the crabs, but it makes the person feel like they're participating. About half of the crabs promptly flip over on their backs, which is not really a winning strategy. Eventually, one or more crabs scuttle or slide far enough to fall into the net and someone is declared the winner.

The most exciting race was the most controversial. As the gate flew up, the #5 crab rocketed down the chute into the net on his belly; a flagrant violation of the "No Shoving Your Crab Down The Track" Rule. The judge threw a yellow flag, disqualifying Crab #5 and his racer from the semifinals; a crushing elimination for a championship hopeful. The crowd didn't react any differently, but one could imagine a wave of sympathy for the dedicated athlete's minutes of preparation for this event gone up in smoke. Not to worry; I'm sure by next year they'll all have forgotten this violation, and he'll be back in competition again.

Our yearning for Crab Races well sated, we left for the second-most-exciting Local Festival we would attend that day: The Taste of Tillamook!

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