More than 16,000 people attended this year’s Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival put on by the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce April 26, 27 and 28.

With those people traveled their pocketbooks.

Meanwhile, the chamber hired local agencies and nonprofits to do anything from picking up trash and clowning around to cooking crab and playing the music, providing some of them with their biggest financial boon of the year.

“It’s part of our job, I guess,” said chamber Executive Director Skip Hauke about using so many local groups. “That’s what we’re supposed to do: increase the economic stature of our community.”

The event, he said, nets the chamber about $100,000 a year. It relies on 140 volunteers to keep the event moving. Alana Kujala, event coordinator of the chamber, said there were another 126 people volunteering for the 14 nonprofits being paid by the chamber to help with operations.

Preparation

The chamber contracted with Sundial Travel for transportation; Sundial in turn contracted with the Astoria and Warrenton-Hammond school districts, which provided about 25 buses running shuttle routes from the festival to locations all around the Astoria-Warrenton area.

“Out-of-towners think it’s the greatest thing since ice cream,” said Dan Arnoth, a chamber and Kiwanis member who organized the shuttles.

Hauke said the contract will end up earning the districts more than $30,000.

The chamber tried to contract with local nonprofits to run the entire event. The Astoria Downtown Historic District Association and Boy Scout Troupe 509 parents helped with parking. Kiwanis and the Clatsop County Roller Derby teams helped pick up trash.

Fifteen members of the Astoria Band Boosters earned more $1,000 loading guests onto the buses at the festival, getting an extra $200 because it rained. The Astoria High School JazzBand played a two-day gig at the festival for another $500.

“They get the idea of what it’s like to do a service for the community and an idea of what it’s like to do a gig as a musician,” said music instructor Scott Cuthbert, adding that the money they and the boosters earn goes toward repairing and buying new instruments and educational materials.

The chamber paid a total of $6,300 to local nonprofits for their services at the festival.

It hired local, off-duty police officers at $60 an hour to provide security.

“It’s far superior, as far as a security force for us,” he said. “That uniform does wonders.”

In addition to the nonprofits working for the chamber, 14 others set up booths at the festival and raised funds.

Food

For at least the last 17 years, said Rotary Club of Astoria member Mitch Mitchum, his group has been doing the crab feed at the event. Andrew Bornstein, a rotary member and owner of Bornstein Seafoods, supplies the crab – more than 1,000 pounds this year – from local fishermen.

“It pretty much takes our entire membership,” said Mitchum about Rotary doing the dinner each year. “It’s probably 50 percent of our total fundraising efforts.”

About 40 Rotary members took part this year, earning its group $8,000. Some of that money will go toward four scholarships for high school students in Astoria and another for a student in Knappa.

Bornstein also brings his family recipe for whiskey crab soup, which sold out this year. The money from its sale goes to fund micro loans for small businesses in the developing world.

The Chamber Ambassadors, a subgroup of the chamber, ran a beer garden at the festival, which Hauke said makes an average of about $20,000. They’ll soon announce the winners of six $1,000 scholarships – three to students in Astoria and another three to students in Warrenton-Hammond. The rest goes to fund activities throughout the year.

Kujala said the event had 32 food vendors and 60 beer and wine vendors. Some of the groups serving food and wine were the nonprofits themselves. Warrenton Sunrise Rotary did a wine and coat check.

Back in Astoria

The effects of the crab fest don’t stop at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds. Several hotels and motels, including the Astoria Riverwalk Inn, sold out during the event.

“It was very busy – a little chaotic,” said Seth Davis, co-owner of the inn. “It’s run of the mill of what I expect crab fest to be. It brings a little craziness to Astoria after the winter.”

Regina Willkie, marketing manager at the chamber, said chamber employees serve as a switchboard, directing attendees to the nearest hotel or motel with a room available.

“Silver Salmon, Baked Alaska – it is a huge night for them,” said Hauke about festival-goers eating out afterward, even with all the vendors at the fairgrounds.

“People leave the festival and still go out,” said Kujala. “Often they eat at our chamber members. Often they’re staying Friday and Saturday.”

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