Governor’s Cup the only crab race during Crab Derby

CRISFIELD — Just like professional athletes the blue crabs taking part in the 73rd National Hard Crab Derby will be sequestered and kept COVID-19 free in their bushel basket ready to appear Saturday in front of no spectators at Somers Cove Marina.

“There’s such a level of athleticism that they have to be controlled like everyone else,” said Buddy Ward, event chair and president of the Crisfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re going to put Crisfield’s crustaceans in a bubble just like the NBA and the NFL.”

That’s right. After months of planning and watching the coronavirus whittle away Crisfield’s most enduring annual festival, orders from the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) put the kibosh on the public watching not only the Crab Derby, but crab picking, crab cooking and the 10K race/5K walk.

“It’s part of the Secretary of Health’s orders,” stated Somerset County Health Department spokeswoman Sharon Lynch. Per the Health Officer, “[It] can’t draw spectators.”

Specifically, MDH Order No. 20-06-10-01 signed in June by Secretary Robert R. Neall says in part, “All adult sports gatherings, including professional, major and minor leagues, semi-professional, amateur, and recreational sports and events…may not open to spectators….”

Because everyone knows the National Hard Crab Derby falls in the category of “Major League Sporting Event” it’s clear why health officials are concerned.

Unfortunately, crabs that did the right thing this summer — stayed socially distant, wore a mask, avoided steroids or other muscle enhancers, etc. — will not get a chance to race in front of a crowd at the Crab Bowl.
Instead, Legionnaires and Sons of American Legion Post 16 along with chamber volunteers will conduct the Governor’s Cup Race only in the old-school format. That is, the crabs will be released at the center of a circle of flour with the winner the first one to cross outside the line.

All 50 state governors will have crabs entered, plus Puerto Rico, with an additional crab name Trump for Washington, D.C. Last year’s champion was Washington Walleye, representing the Evergreen State.
Started in 1960 by Crisfield’s own Gov. J. Millard Tawes, Maryland has never won.

“We’re going to put the Governor’s Cup in a bubble,” Mr. Ward said.
It had been discussed previously to have a Crab Derby in the traditional format, even if it was just a demonstration race. But this year it just made sense to not setup the track for the single run.

“The crabs will be in the middle of a circle on the ground, we’ll cut ‘em loose and the first one out is done,” Mr. Ward said.
“It’ll be at the Crab Bowl, but we won’t have any spectators.”

As is the tradition with the Crab Derby, these crabs are running for their lives with the winner set free. The rest are sent to the steampot for dinner at the American Legion.

It was previously announced that the carnival wasn’t coming, the parade pulled out, and hopes for boat docking sank. The Sunday evening gospel concert fell silent but not the fireworks which are still on for Sunday at sundown.

The changes are all thanks to executive orders and fears over spreading the coronavirus — something committee leaders fretted over at meetings. As Mr. Ward said, the last thing Crisfield needed was to be on the national news because the Chamber of Commerce did not take COVID-19 seriously.
As a consolation the chamber is making plans to have activities livestreamed on the Crab Derby and chamber website and Facebook pages so they can be enjoyed remotely.

For the record, the 73rd Crab Derby like so many other events in 2020 will be forever marked with an asterisk stating “no race that year.”
Crab Derby events scheduled

Up first is the Little Miss & Mr. Crustacean set for 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Crab Bowl. The Miss Crustacean Pageant follows on Friday night. Tickets for both are available at the chamber office.

Crab cooking will take place Friday morning, this year at Somerset County Technical High School, but without the public watching or being able to taste the leftovers after judging.

The Mike Sterling 10K Race/5K Walk are being held in heats Saturday with no mass start or awards presentation to keep everyone socially distant. The annual swim meet for kids is being held by the Lions Club at the marina pool at 9 a.m.

The virtual crab picking contest is at noon Saturday, with the Governor’s Cup Race at 12:30. Look to the chamber and Crab Derby sites for viewing this, Mr. Ward said.

Smith Island crab skiff races will take place as usual, but the time is now 2:30 p.m. Saturday. That takes place off Wellington Beach.

Fireworks on Sunday night will be visible from just about every location downtown.