Organizers of this year's annual Crab Fest in Bay St. Louis were worried that they'd spend more than they would make at this year's fundraiser for the city's parochial schools. They faced unprecedented challenges because of Katrina and had concerns about a poor turnout at this year's event.
"The concern was that the people wouldn't come, and the parking, and everything, but we just felt like it was so important to the community that we did this into our church, and we just had to believe that if you put it on, the people would come," says event organizer Pam Metzler.
Some say putting on the festival was a miracle in itself.
Mike Gibbens has been a cook at the Crab Fest since it began 22 years ago. Despite this year's unique challenges, the Crab Fest went on as usual and drew a record number of people.
"A lot of the pavillions were hurt, destroyed, lost a lot of the metal roofing and such. In fact, where I'm standing last Monday was a bare slab. None of this was here. Between all the volunteers and the parish, we've got everything back together so we can have the fair again this year," Gibbens says.
On Sunday alone, Gibbens and other volunteers cooked up 5,000 pounds of crabs and more than 2,000 pounds of boiled shrimp with each plate netting money for rebuilding the Our Lady of the Gulf's Catholic Church and its parochial schools which were all battered in the storm.
"It's just phenomenal. Go figure. We would have never thought we'd be bigger this year than last year, and raise more money this year than last year. It's just unbelieveable," Metzler says.