They're expecting 4,000 guests for dinner, and they've got three hours to feed them. But Annapolis Rotary Club members refuse to panic.
After 45 years, club members have gotten the crab feast they bill as the world's largest down to a science.
It's all in the major committees: 10 people on corn husking, 12 on beer, 23 on setup, and 24 on takedown. Club leaders have assigned about 150 of the 174 members some sort of job.
When 3,500 to 4,000 people descend on the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis Friday night for the annual fund-raiser, the club will be ready with 300 bushels of crabs, more than a hundred gallons of crab soup, a couple thousand ears of corn and lots of beer.
The crab feast, which pours thousands of dollars into the community each year, was made famous by National Geographic photographer Kevin Fleming, whose overhead shot oflong tables of crab pickers sitting elbow to elbow appeared in the magazine's August 1988 feature on Annapolis.
For the city, the crabfeast has become the "who's who" social event of the year, said Rotarian Al Boswell, president of Market Design International in Annapolis, which handles publicity.
"You are side by side with everybody and anybody, from city, state and county officials to your next-door neighbor," said Boswell, who has publicized the crab feast for the past five years. "It lowers defenses. There's something safe about eating crabs. It's such an easy way to get to know people."
This year, some 82 tables will fill 27,000 square feet of the stadium, Boswell said.
Chesapeake Seafood Caterers of St. Michaels will supply the large crabs, all caught by trot line, a method that keeps crabs from losing their claws.
The crabs come from the Choptank, Tred Avon andMiles rivers.
Besides a social event, the crab feast has raised more and more money each year for area schools, hospitals, shelters and clubs.
Last year, the Rotarians raised $35,000. Of that amount, $10,000 went to Anne Arundel Medical Center for a portable heart monitor; $7,500 to the Lighthouse Homeless Shelter for building renovations; $5,000 to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for equipment; and $3,500to the Live Free Council Inc. of Anne Arundel County for the drug abuse program.
Since 1986, the Rotary Club has raised $94,470 for variouscharitable causes and community needs.
The club staged its earliest crab feasts in the gymnasium of St. John's College, said member Donald S. Taylor, director of Taylor Funeral Chapel in Annapolis.
Rotarian Richard D. Lazenby, a 70-year-old past president and retired Navy captain, remembers the feasts of the early 1930s, when his father served as president. In those days, the club ran the feast in the National Guard Armory on Hudson Street.
When Lazenby became president in the early 1980s, the feast drew a record attendance of 1,680people and raised a record $7,000.
"It's remarkable that it has kept on and made this much of a contribution to the city," Lazenby said.
For tickets to the 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. feast, available for $25 for adults and $10 for children under 12, call Walter Childs at 280-9324 during the day and 263-6330 in the evening. A limited number of tickets will be available at the gate.