Governor's crab feast goes west Hagerstown site instead of Shore

June 24, 1993|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Staff Writer

At the honoree's request, the William Donald Schaefer Crab Feast will move this year from its traditional site on the Eastern Shore to a golf course in Western Maryland.

The crab feast, which last year drew 2,800 people at $50 a ticket, began in 1987 as a modest money-raising affair to pay for furniture and other interior decorations for the Governor's Mansion in Annapolis.

It has since grown into an almost obligatory gathering for anyone wishing to be seen with -- and by -- the governor and for those who want to curry favor with the state's political hierarchy. For the past four years, profits have been earmarked for grants to community organizations in the governor's name.

This year's feast is scheduled for Sept. 11 at the Black Rock Golf Course in Hagerstown. It is being relocated from a park on the banks of the Chester River in Chestertown "because the governor just wanted to move it around," said Lou Grasmick, a friend of Governor Schaefer and chairman of the Maryland Communities and Citizens Fund Inc., the group formed to put on the last six crab feasts.

Sponsorship of the feast will also change this year. The William Donald Schaefer Civic Fund, a nonprofit charitable organization Mr. Schaefer established with unused campaign money when he was mayor of Baltimore, will oversee the Hagerstown event.

Civic Fund president Tom Marudas said yesterday that the governor changed sponsorship "to give us an opportunity to get some funds in our coffers."

The Civic Fund initially gave grants to neighborhood organizations only in Baltimore. When Mr. Schaefer was elected governor, the Civic Fund began spreading its largess around the state.

Mr. Marudas said the fund has distributed about $250,000 in mostly small grants to homeless shelters and soup kitchens and to groups needing such items as playground equipment or baseball uniforms.

Schaefer friend and Chestertown Mayor Elmer E. Horsey, who helped organize the six Eastern Shore crab feasts, said he and Mr. Grasmick will be involved in the Hagerstown event.

At times, Mayor Horsey's leading role in the crab feast was a political liability for him locally. Some local residents are distrustful of his close relationship to the governor, who once likened the Eastern Shore to an outhouse.

And the mayor's friendship with Mr. Grasmick has brought him criticism, too. Mr. Grasmick is associated with a plan to build a Wal-Mart department store on the outskirts of town. The Wal-Mart proposal has deeply divided the community over what role development should have in the rural county.

Conceding that many Chestertown residents viewed the annual feast as an annoying invasion of outsiders, Mr. Horsey said he had hoped the event would be an economic boost to downtown merchants.

"I wonder if the community appreciates it," he said. "I guess they will when they don't have it."

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